I don’t usually write about my life as a parent.  Mainly, because I want whatever I have to say, to be for ALL women… not just those that are called mom. But recently, this sliver of my life called motherhood, has been my greatest teacher.  Parenting certainly has a way of presenting opportunities for personal growth!

I believe that I can learn from whatever and whomever is right in front of me, whether it is my spouse, a friend, a coworker or one of the eight people in this life that call me mom. This week, my lesson was brought, courtesy of a teenager.

I had just gotten home from a run and was emptying the dishwasher (again), when I got a text from one of my children that stopped me in my tracks. It was one of those dreaded texts that went something like this… “Mom, I have to tell you something. Mom, I want you to know I messed up.  Like really messed up.  I made a big mistake. I don’t have any excuse for this. I am so, so sorry, Mom.  I really am. I NEED YOU to take away my phone, like at least for a week or something. I deserve any punishment you and Dad have for me, but I need you to know I am so sorry, Mom.”

Well, wow.  So many thoughts, but just for starters…

I don’t think I have ever gotten a text with my name used so many times!
A little more detail would be helpful.
No matter what you did, you are alive to write the text, so that is good.
Are you remorseful or are you sorry you got “caught”, doing whatever you did? (Again, a little more detail would be nice.)
You are so cute to think that you are going to come up with your own punishment, for unsaid crime.

And, 6) Don’t react. Take a deep breath, Elizabeth. Think.  Call David.  Dang it! (He didn’t answer.) Inhale.  Exhale. Respond, don’t react.

Well apparently, all that pausing and inhaling and exhaling was torturous to said child, because I received another text.  “Mom, I know you are probably very, very upset with me and I feel sick to my stomach right now and I feel like I am going to throw up. I really want to get checked out of school.”

Excuse me, what????? Remember, don’t react. But heck no!  No one is getting checked out!  And seriously Elizabeth, how are you going to respond? What are you going to say? Take your time and gather all the facts. I know what you WANT to say.  But don’t.

You see, not too long ago, I read about the difference between love and performance based parenting.  Although this really can apply to all relationships.

PERFORMANCE: “I messed up!  My Dad is going to kill me!”

LOVE:  “I messed up!  I need to call my Dad!”

And in that moment, I knew my child was scared to tell me the truth. I could sense it with each text. And it broke my heart. You see, I never want my kids to mess up and think, “I messed up; my mom is going to kill me!”  I want their first thought to be, “I messed up; I need to call my mom!”  I wish I could say that is  always the case.  I can’t. But I am learning.

Here is yet another opportunity for growth. Lessons are everywhere if we are self-aware enough to look for them. I found myself asking a multitude of questions. Am I a reactor or a responder? Do I exude fear or unconditional love when it comes to my people? Am I approachable?  Am I kind in my reply? Am I a safe place for others to vulnerably come?  Is my response one that I would want to receive in a moment like that? Or is my response naturally one that I quickly extend to others because of my emotions?

I thought about a time recently, when I made a poor choice.  Like stupid-move, expensive kind of bad choice.  I was working on a talk for The Exchange on my new lap top (given to me by my husband)… while in the bathtub.  And all was going quite well until I got up to get out and my foot slightly hit the edge of the laptop and it went tumbling into the water.  And it was instantly ruined.

When I called David on the phone to tell him what I had done, the first words out of his mouth were, “I could tell something was wrong in your voice. I am just so glad it was a laptop and not you that got hurt.”  Talk about grace!  Pure grace.  Talk about kindness and a safe place to land!  Talk about responding in love instead of reacting out of emotion! What an example of how I so desperately want to respond to others, but often fail to do.

Yes, my child made a bad decision. And will be learning a hard lesson.  But there is a lesson in this for me as well.  There always is. My words will have great impact.  Our words always do. So how will I respond? What will I say?  What words will my child first hear from me? Will it be an emotionally charged text gripped by fear of how this choice impacts the future? Will it be a text filled with words that spew disappointment over how this is a reflection on me? On our family?  No… not today.  Not this time. Instead, I choose a different response.  One that would encourage a child that says in the future… “I messed up; I need to call my mom.”

In this moment, there was only one text worthy of me hitting send.  One wrapped in compassion and kindness and grace. One that exudes unconditional love, no matter the offense.

One that I would want to receive.

“I love you.”

And P.S. Thank you for another opportunity to grow.