disappointing our children

I know it wasn't the first time, but it's the first time that I've felt so guilty and broken over it. And definitely the first time I've been called out on it BY MY CHILD. Yesterday, I disappointed Lily in a big way, and she was devastated. And so was I.

I'm a firm believer in being very real about our shortcomings, especially with people we're hoping to shape and influence and love. If my kids look back on their childhood and think I was the perfect mom, either the have contracted amnesia or I was lying to them. I want my kids to recall me failing them, repenting to God and to them often, asking for forgiveness, and starting over a lot - because that's what we do. And we don't do it perfectly either. But yesterday, I wished I could have just been the perfect mom in that moment.

It was no epic event - just a broken promise that made my girl incredibly sad and hurt. I had been in Toronto for 24 hours, missing all of Saturday with her. She missed me and I promised both when I left for Toronto, and when I returned, that Sunday we'd go to the park and play on the swings. She might have reminded me of the promise 150 times, so there was no thinking she'd forget. I arrived home completely exhausted after two nights in a row of no more than 5 hours sleep and a whole lot of socializing. Some days I just don't know if I'm an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert but either way, I had a blast with tons of people and then I was wasted by having that blast. I was feeling physically sick and emotionally drained. And my herbs were dying because they needed more soil. I promise, that last part is relevant ;)

So holding true to my promise, I started out to the park, pushing the double stroller (including 50lbs of kids), feeling very pregnant, in some really serious heat. I had to get to the store first to buy soil, or I'd loose my herb plants and I'd just spent a good amount of time and money on them. I'm still not actually sure if that was a poor decision - in the grand scheme of things, Lily is infinitely more important than plants, but in the moment would it have been better to waste that time and money? I don't actually know. I definitely know making a promise I didn't know I could keep was a poor decision and that's what happened. The walk was long and the weather was hot and my body felt like it was failing me. It was already 5 o'clock (they're usually eating dinner by then) when we were walking home, about to pass the park. I didn't feel like I could handle keeping my promise - physically and emotionally I was dead and I needed to get home. The kids needed dinner and baths, and our group de quartier (small group of people from church who come over weekly) was due to arrive at 6:30pm.

So I broke the news to her that my two-day-long promise of the park and the swings wasn't happening. I can handle tantrums and tears and a fussy toddler, but it's hard when it's YOUR FAULT and you sense genuine disappointment, not just toddler-style-crankiness. She looked so hurt and confused and just kept crying and pointing towards the park, out the stroller as we walked in the direction of home. She even said at one point "Mama said PARK!?" and what could I say?

I know I said park. I know I promised swings.

Mommy made a promise that she couldn't keep, and she is so sorry.

I know you're sad, Lily. I understand and I'm so sorry. Mommy was wrong and made a big mistake.

Will you forgive me, Lily? I told you something that wasn't true. We can't go today. We'll have to go tomorrow.

Understandably, she was hurt by my mistake, and understandably she was mad at me for hurting her. I hated every minute of that long hour or so it took her to get over the disappointment. And that only made me more aware of the stakes with parenting. It only gets harder and more serious. As our kids age and mature, they won't forget these things in an hour. We'll continue to let our kids down and hurt them, and the fall out will only ever increase. Brad and I are not perfect people or parents. We disappoint each other and naturally we'll disappoint our kids. And as hard as it was disappointing my toddler daughter yesterday, some day it will be even harder disappointing my adolescent and teenaged and adult children. And it will happen.

We are incorporating elements of grace and forgiveness to our discipline style, our prayer style, and our parenting style now, trying to teach them how much we all need it. They need it and we need it. We'll disappoint each other and we have disappointed a holy God who loves us in so many multifaceted ways. My prayer is they'll get it one day, in full. That they need to extend grace to themselves, each other, even us, and that they have been given grace in the person of Jesus, and by each other, and by us. But boy this thing isn't easy.


  1. aban6.5.13

    I cried as i read this.

    You both are doing great jobs! Love to you and the fam jam.

    mrs. shaker

  2. aww :( thank you for sharing this! You are balancing a lot and there is tons on your plate right now - you're doing the best you can. We all make mistakes. Lately I have been convicted too as I realized I don't keep my top 3 my priorities all the time (God, Marriage, Motherhood). It's so hard because sometimes we lose ourselves a bit and are grasping at straws just to find US in our day. And then I can get selfish and feel like I deserve X amount of "me" time.

  3. Anonymous7.5.13

    Emi - glad I wasn't the only one that cried when I read this, and the fact you shared it makes you even more amazing.
    You are an incredible Mom, I tell you that all the time. I'm sure I disappointed you as a Mom as well. We are all human.
    Love you to bits !!