Looking back from eternity future to my life in the present, as each moment becomes the past, I feel every day more and more how fleeting my time on this earth is. And as my children become visibly bigger every day, and learn to do new things, learn new words, feel new feelings, time passes faster and faster.
I look at them wistfully, knowing that my time as a mother is getting shorter and shorter with each passing moment. My relationship with them as a mother will only be for a few more years. Then after that, for all eternity, my children will be my brothers.
In fact, they are already my baptized brothers in Christ and He has only put them into my care temporarily. They are God’s children first, as I am. They are my children second.
Don’t call me an egalitarian. If you know me, I am far from it. However, egalitarianism is an oversimplification and a misrepresentation of an eternal truth: each of us is equal before Him. And thinking of my children as being my baby brothers has partially changed the way I relate to them. (It also affects how husbands and wives relate to each other, but that is a whole different topic.)
Every finite human reflects the infinite Trinity. And though we are finite, there are more aspects to each of us than we know. I am the normal things: daughter, sister, wife, mother. And I am part of the Bride of Christ. The Bible also says I am a son and brother.
When I call my children my brothers, I am not downplaying or denying that I have been given authority and responsibility as a parent, I am mentioning an aspect of parenting that I do not hear as often, which I wish I could: parents and children as eternal brothers.
Confessing & Forgiving
Remembering it has helped me keep my attitude in check and it is something I have been thinking about a lot on and off for the past year. It has brought about two changes in the last few months in my daily interaction with my children that I never expected: I started confessing my sins against my children to them and asking for their forgiveness and after I started doing that they began to point out blatantly obvious shortcomings to me and to my husband when we are in the middle of committing them.
At first, it was not easy for me to get on my knees, look into their eyes, and ask for forgiveness. Not just say, “Hey, I’m sorry,” or “I’m not perfect, nobody is” or “Parents make mistakes sometimes, y’know,” but truly ask for forgiveness: “I sinned when I did that. Would you please forgive me?” But as I did it over and over, it became easier and easier.
When my older two (verbal) children suddenly started telling me when I was sinning and telling me to stop it, I was shocked! I was angry! How disrespectful! How dare they! I had clearly lacked teaching them the Fifth Commandment! But as I thought about it, I realized maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe it was even … right? Yes, I now believe it is. Because God’s law is above us all. And they are my brothers.
Last week, my husband and I were trying to figure out what we were going to pick up at Costco. I can’t even remember what we were saying exactly because we weren’t disagreeing about anything but decibels were getting higher because we were, y’know, so tired (2 teething babies), so hungry, and we both really hate talking about money.
My 3-year-old son walked into the kitchen and said calmly said to me in a very grown-up voice, “Mama, stop yelling at Daddy.” He turned to Ben, “Daddy, stop yelling at Mama.” Then he looked at both of us with his hands up, admonishing us, “OK? Talk nicely.” And he left the kitchen.
Every time I remember it, I end up laughing out loud at how he talked to us like a little adult when we were acting like children. I’m so thankful and happy that he was completely unafraid to approach us and talk to us that way even though he could tell we were upset.
Eventually, of course, we’ll have to have a talk about when it’s appropriate and inappropriate to confront people. But for now, I’m happy with him.
My children sin against God and against me every day. But I sin against God and against my children every day as well.
I believe that one of the most important things I can do as a parent is to make sure I acknowledge my sins to my children, especially my sins against them, and ask for their forgiveness. Not just say, “I shouldn’t have done that,” or “I’m sorry,” but “Please forgive me for [this specific sin] that I committed against you.” True repentance is very specific.
It is difficult for anyone to acknowledge sin but it is especially difficult for those in authority to acknowledge wrongdoing to those below them. Asking for forgiveness from my children when I have wronged them is not only the right thing for me to do and required of me, I am doing it in order to set an example of repentance for them to follow (as pitiful as my example may be).
Sometimes, my children try to apologize saying, “I’m sorry but I hit him because he took my toy.” I tell them that when they are asking for forgiveness, they need to say, “Please forgive me for hitting you,” without adding blame on the other child.
“I’m sorry but you made me do it” does not count.
And it doesn’t count when adults say it either. Repentance needs to needs to be a wholehearted without any blame on anyone else. To my dismay, I have found myself blaming my children when I am asking for their forgiveness. (I tend to do the same with my husband as well.)
- I lost my temper because you did not do what I said.
- If you would have obeyed me, than I would not have done such and such.
- I would have been more patient if you didn’t whine at me.
Children who hear this type of false “repentance” from parents often end up feeling responsible not only for their own sins but their parents’ sins as well … until they are old enough to recognize the hypocrisy. Then they lose respect for parents who “confess” this way.
Frankly, I think it’s worse to give a false apology assigning blame to someone else than not to apologize at all because it is easier to pretend you have done the right thing and pat yourself on the back for being “righteous” or “humble” for saying you’re sorry.
Our behaviour as parents is obviously related to how our children behave but for us to blame our children for our own shortcomings is utterly despicable and it teaches children to blame their own sins on others as Adam did in the Garden.
- “The woman, she made me do it.”
- “My kids, they made me do it.”
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
As a paedobaptist and paedocommunionist, I believe our children are our brothers in Christ and we are commanded to confess our sins to one another.
If parents are not willing to repent of the sins they commit against their children, and ask for forgiveness from their children, they are teaching their children that it is OK for those in authority to sin with impunity.
When parents ask for forgiveness from their children for sinning against them, they are setting an example of humility and contrition that their children will take with them to eternity. And I am always so astonished at how children forgive so quickly and wholeheartedly. I think that must be part of what Jesus meant when He commanded adults to be like little children.