When Your Kids See the Worst in You

It was supposed to be a fun survey. You ask your child ten questions about yourself and record his or her responses. All my friends were posting their adorable results online:

"What does Mommy always say?" "I love you!"
"What does Mommy like to do?" "Make pancakes!"
"What is Mommy good at?" "Making pancakes!"

You get the idea. So I sat my three-year-old daughter on my lap, with pen and paper poised to record the cuteness:

"Heidi, what does Mommy always say?" "Obey," she answered solemnly.

I called to her older sister in the kitchen, "Hey Aubrey! What's one thing Mommy always says?" "Because I said so!" she hollered back.

(Hmmm . . . off to a rocky start.)

I cleared my throat, "Heidi, what does Mommy like to do?" "Sleep!" she chirped.

"What makes Mommy sad?" "Playing with me."

(I'm just going to assume she misunderstood the question.)

"What is Mommy good at?" "Her computer."

(Fair enough.)

At that moment Aubrey came sauntering in from the kitchen. "Oh, I know!" she said brightly. "Yesterday, you were very good at fighting with Daddy."

The Painful Truth

I actually cried over that survey. Clint found me curled up in the playroom sobbing over my failures as a mother. Isn't it ironic that the most brutally honest people on the face of the planet are typically less than three feet tall? They'll tell you when you stink, what your food really tastes like, and who the weirdest person in the grocery store is. It's quite terrifying actually.

And that's not even the scariest part. Every now and then, in between their frank commentaries on your hairy arms or oddly-shaped moles, they'll reveal some staggering truth about the way they perceive you as a human being. Sometimes it's positive, and it feels like sunshine. It makes you stop in your tracks, squeeze them in your arms, and spin around the kitchen. But sometimes it's painfully negative, and it feels like an arrow aimed at your deepest insecurities.

Please! I want to whisper. Please don't view me that way.

But the reality is they are the patrons with a front-row ticket to our lives. They're so close to the action they get to see things everyone else misses. They don't just see us when we're energized and refreshed and ready to face the world. They see us when we're exhausted and depleted and trying very hard not to say bad words. They see the real us. The weak, sinful, broken us. Worse yet, they imitate us. Every parent knows nothing is more agonizing than watching your weaknesses spring to life in the children you love so much.

Please! My heart whispers. Please don't be like me.

That sentiment alone makes me want to curl up in the playroom for another long cry! It's the opposite of all I've ever hoped to be as a mother. I want to be like Paul who once said, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1, emphasis added). I want to be a worthy role model for my daughters, the kind of woman they can pattern their lives after.

The truth is I'm not.

And I am.

The Perfect Model

I'm not the perfect example of biblical womanhood, and there are many traits I pray my children don't inherit from me. But I am someone my kids can model their lives after, for one reason supremely. Jesus lives in me. Despite all my imperfections, the God of eternity has made His home in my heart, and every day I am standing in His grace (Rom. 5:2)! His truth is changing the way I think. His love is shaping who I become. His power is shining through my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

That's what you and I can model to our children. Our true, broken need for Christ and His powerful, never-failing grace. My children may not say I'm great at making pancakes or that my favorite thing to do is play dolls with them all day long. But if you ask those girls tomorrow, "Does your mommy need Jesus?", I promise they'll shout, "Yes!"

We cannot be perfect for our children, but we can point them to the One who is. We can apologize when we sin. We can confess our need for Jesus in front of them. We can use our failures as grounds for sharing the gospel again and again and again. It is never too late for this! Whether your children are five, fifteen, or fifty—it's not too late to speak the gospel of grace through the megaphone of your inadequacy. This is how we develop a heart like the disciple John, who once cried, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

Do you wrestle with shame over past or present failures as a parent? Are you terrified (or too proud) to admit your mistakes to your children? Dear sister, go ahead and admit it. There are areas where we have all failed. Our children have seen it, and sometimes even suffered because of it. But there is grace for that! In her book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, Gloria Furman writes:

Grace is the most important thing for us to keep in mind as we shape the expectations of our home. Our children need to grow up knowing, "We always trust God because he's willing and able to help us," and, "We always praise God because he is our most valuable treasure." And we need to get up every morning knowing, "I always trust God because he's willing and able to help me."

Do you know what lies on the other side of admitting our need for Christ's help? Freedom. It would be wonderful if God guaranteed that our children would respond to our failures with grace. It would be such a relief if He promised they would always forgive us. But regardless of their response, the Bible offers an even greater promise: "If we confess our sins, he [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

Precious mom, the grace is already there. Won't you get on your knees this morning and receive it?

About the Author

Jeanne Harrison

Jeanne Harrison

Jeanne Harrioson grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines. Today she is a frequent blogger and author passionate about sharing her experiences and wisdom with potential world changers. Jeanne and her pastor husband, Clint, live in Georgia with … read more …

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