The other night our now 4-year-old was frustrated by his little brother’s unwillingness to give him the Lightning McQueen Car that he was riding. And so, being the bigger and stronger of the two, he simply pushed his little brother off and took it for himself. The younger one sat crying on the floor, frustrated and physically injured from the fall. That’s when I sprang into action as the defender of the downtrodden. I took hold of the 4-year-old and demanded an explanation, knowing full well why he did what he did, but wanting him to admit his wrongdoing.
Now, one thing I will say for our 4-year-old, he has learned to own up to his inappropriate behavior. He confessed that he pushed his little brother off the car because he wanted to ride it and wasn’t willing to wait for his turn. While I was still enraged, his honest response softened me and instead of inflicting a severe punishment I exiled him to the family room, away from Lightning McQueen, his brother and the rest of the family. Little did I know that this punishment would be more impactful than a typical time out or the loss of some privilege.
So after consoling our youngest son, telling him to ‘suck it up’ (but in more age appropriate terms), and placing him back on Lightning, I headed upstairs to change into some sweat pants and gather up some laundry (yes, even I do laundry when I am desperate for clean underwear). I then heard my wife Carolyn calling, “Daddy.” This wasn’t some affectionate use of the term, but a call on behalf of a needy child. I emerged from the bedroom at the top of the staircase to see her standing with our 4-year-old. He was sobbing and distraught. I looked at him with eyes of compassion and asked, “What’s the matter?” Carolyn responded, “He needs your forgiveness.” I invited him to come up the stairs where I was waiting with open arms. Forgiveness was already his without even asking, but I realized that he still needed to ask for it; and so, between sobs he whimpered, “I’m sorry, Daddy.” I wrapped my arms around him, began to kiss him on the cheek and told him, “I forgive you and I love you soooo much!” His sobbing ceased and relief came over his face. He then went back downstairs, restored and at peace because he knew the love and forgiveness of his father.
This was a great reminder and lesson for me. Our children need to know that they are loved unconditionally and forgiven when they mess up. They need to learn the humility that is required to ask for forgiveness. This will serve them well throughout their lives in whatever arena they find themselves. It also reveals an innate need for reconciliation with God and man. So let this be a reminder to us as parents and people that while ‘Lightning’ is powerful, it lasts only for a moment; but forgiveness is more powerful and lasts for eternity!