May 24, 2012

“Please, Mom? Pleeeease?”

My daughter pleaded as she climbed into her car seat. Since buying our minivan, I’d come to appreciate all its amenities but one—the built-in DVD player. This thing was a thorn in my seatbelt, an object of constant battle with my children. Every time we boarded the van, they asked to watch a movie. And every time I replied, no. Because good parents don’t let their children watch television in the car.

My Perfect Parent Handbook has lots of rules like that.

Good parents don’t buy sugary cereal.

Good parents don’t let their children wear pajamas to the playground.

Good parents have a system for rotating toys.

Good parents tame cowlicks before Sunday school.

Sometimes I get tired. Sometimes whining erodes my resistance. Sometimes I just want to see my children’s faces light up. So I rebel and do crazy things like toss a box of Cocoa Puffs in my shopping cart. But then guilt buzzes in both ears—good parents don’t do that.

You must be a bad mom.

Isn’t it sad? I’ve become a slave to my own rules.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery,” (Galatians 5:1).

When I found the Lord nine years ago, I embraced the simplicity of his gospel. God’s favor cannot be earned; it is freely given. Grace takes charge, so that the Christian life is not so much a series of do’s and don’ts, but rather a gift to unwrap and enjoy.

Parenting falls under the umbrella of the Christian life, does it not? Why, then, do I build superfluous rules around it, as though motherhood is exempt from God’s grace?

Yikes. If any part of me is in most desperate need of grace, it’s my parenting skills.

“Mom, why can’t we watch a movie? Just this one time, please?” My daughter’s begging persisted, and circumstances caved in around me. The hubby man was gone hunting. It was my second day of mommy overtime, and the girls were full of energy I couldn’t match. We had a 20-minute drive ahead of us. I just needed a little break.

What the heck.

I flipped on the DVD player and let the video roll. Greg, Anthony, Murray and Jeff waved hello to my girls from the 10-inch suspended screen—yes, a Wiggles movie, Santa’s Rockin’, no less—in April! Imagine what my Perfect Parent Handbook says about that.

But then something amazing happened. My daughters settled tranquilly into their cushions. Whining and bickering ceased. There was no tension. Just smiles. Giggles. And singing. “This little baby is born again, been reborn in the hearts of men. Every Christmas, this child is born again. . . .”

My guilt was silent.

Unfamiliar peace washed over me.

God’s grace filled the van.

That day, I discovered my rules don’t make me a good parent. Perhaps, knowing when to bend them does. As I wheeled into our destination parking lot and my daughters hopped out of their seats happier than they’d been all morning, God spoke to my heart.

I never called you a bad mom.

Thanks, Lord. Only you could use a Wiggles video to teach me something lasting. Tomorrow, I just might take my girls on a picnic to the playground—in their pajamas, with Cocoa Puffs.

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