Today was LLM’s preschool picnic. It did not go great, but we survived. His preschool is near our house and it is a nice day, so the kids biked. When we left the picnic to ride home (LLM and BabyGirl on bikes, me walking) LLM rode ahead…he rode waaayyy ahead. He actually rode all the way home…It is about 3/4 of a mile on a bike path…that crosses a busy road. And he crossed it. Alone.
When I arrived home, breathless with blistered feet from running in flip flops, he was in the house, completely calm, bike in the garage. I had been about 10 seconds from calling 911 and telling them my 6 year-old was missing.
I took my time calming myself before trying to talk to him about what had happened. I reminded him of our biking rules. I reminded him about cars and the busy road. I told him I was scared he could have wrecked and I wouldn’t have been there. When I said these things to him, he went into a rage. “There were no cars!” “I forgot the rules!” “I was thirsty.” “I didn’t crash!” And on and on and on. He was furious. Throwing things, stomping, screaming til he sweat.
His obvious shameful feelings are heartbreaking, yet I know they do nothing to deter him from making the same mistake again. Or doing something else, equally dangerous, and that I know good-and-well he knows better than to do.
Knowing better and doing better are so separate in his brain sometimes, we have learned. Actions and consequences are disconnected. Impulsivity often reigns. When he is calm, like when I first got home to him, I think reality hits him and he is overwhelmed with the shame of his actions. He can’t deal with it. Me talking about it with him only heightens his sense of shame so he rages to avoid me. It’s a vicious cycle.
And that’s not even the hardest part. The hardest part is that in about 15 minutes he is going to wake up from a nap and I will need to treat him like it never happened. Not to say we won’t have some new boundaries for biking, but the terror I experienced running home, the anger I felt towards him, the frustration welling up as I relive it…I will need to tuck all that away. I will need to sweetly greet him and make him a snack. I will rub his back and make sure to make eye contact with him. We will pretend like it never happened.
He needs a clean record to escape his overwhelming shame. He needs a loving big person providing for his needs, affirming that he is good and safe and precious. He needs boundaries that he can be successful keeping. He needs forgiveness when he hasn’t asked for it.
I do too. Loving him like I need to be loved reminds me of a God who extends mercy to me everyday.
I need this radical grace as much as he does because I’m every bit as much of a runway.
“Words can’t describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
The broke inside begins to heal
And grace returns what guilty stole
And in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear You call my name saying it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat so loud now
Drowning out the doubt
I’m down, but I’m not out
There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time
No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Grace wins every time”
–Grace Wins by Matthew West