You know what’s so difficult about this “character study series”—about teaching my girls to be brave and kind?
It forces me to live it.
Dragging both girls through the grocery store, running twenty minutes late, I search frantically for the elusive item I’m supposed to bring to the Christmas brunch, and Ellie pauses to notice (because that’s what she does; she notices).
“Mom, look at that balloon …”
I don’t even let her finish.
“We’re not here to look at balloons, Ellie,” I snap. “Will you please move more quickly and stay beside me. We are in a hurry, and this is a stupid grocery store, and I can’t find anything.”
Out of my periphery, I see her posture change—her head drops, her eyes no longer looking up in wonder but studying the tiles. She’s trying to focus so she doesn’t get distracted. She’s trying to be good.
I find the item, and we hurry to the checkout line. My heart rate slows, and I realize that my girl hasn’t spoken again; she’s retreated into herself.
Then comes that all-too-familiar wash of shame. I know it well.
So there, in the checkout line, I kneel down to her level, kiss her cheek, and pull her to me. I feel her strong, little body relax and slowly sink into my embrace. Then I look at her.
“Ellie, what I just did was unkind. Actually, it was mean. You did nothing wrong. Will you please forgive me?”
“Of course, Mom,” she smiles, “you’re just stressed out. I understand.”
And in that moment—like so many others before—I’m reminded. I am not just her mother and her teacher; I am also her student.
We’ve enjoyed four lovely days since then.
If there is any mantra I live by, it’s that grace is new with every sunrise. And when we’re trying to live and walk in grace—we get do-overs.
So yesterday afternoon I decided to load the girls up and return to that random grocery store. This time, there was no hurry, and we could linger. I even chatted with the kind lady who worked in the florist section as my girls played with balloons.
“Ellie, do you remember this grocery store?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” she scrunched her eyebrows together in a knowing expression. “This is where we came looking for fancy paper plates … when you got really stressed out.”
“Yep, that’s right.”
“Don’t worry, Mama.” She squeezed my hand reassuringly. “I still forgive you.”