***This post has religious undertones... reader beware***
Yesterday we were out and about getting a few things and a thought occurred to me: How do I help my child forgive? I don't know if you have noticed this or not but I can hold a grudge. Shocking, I know!
It's no secret that we have been slacking in the church going department. I know my kids are missing out on something important and I am partially to blame. I'd like to think that I am teaching my kids the fundamentals of life.
But am I?
Regardless of faith and denomination, there are some things that I think parents should teach their children. But this is all my opinion, so cut me a little slack... m'kay? ;)
IMHO, one of the things that parents should teach their children is the concept forgiveness. This is where things get a little sticky for me. I have been burned so many times in my life that I am slow to forgive. It takes me a while. SOMETIMES years. So what exactly should I tell my kids?
*** From a Biblical standpoint, though love is mentioned a lot and is considered a top priority, forgiveness is crucial to having a relationship with God and man. ***
As a child I was brought up to believe that my feelings, thoughts and opinions didn't matter or amount to much. I want so much more for my children, so how can I possibly tell them that they HAVE to forgive? Right now. This very minute.
My brain understands the fundamentals of forgiveness, but my heart aches when my children have been hurt and wronged. How can I explain to my kids that they need to forgive when I struggle on a daily basis? And when my words are so poisoned with anger?
Most recently, the MIL threw a sand pail of water- full force- in the face of her 6 year old granddaughter, without Anna even knowing that she was behind her, and without warning. As you can imagine, Anna has lost all faith and trust in her grandmother.
John's mother obviously was very upset when she learned that she wouldn't be watching the kids while I was gone on my recent trip. The Saturday before my trip (and after the water incident), John and his mother just happened to be working at the hospital they bother work at. The MIL called John at his desk and asked him what time she needed to be at the house on Friday. John told her that he was going to take both days off, and that she wouldn't be needed to stay home with the kids. When she asked him why, he replied that Anna said she wanted her dad home those days.
"I guess she is still mad at me, " she said.
"Yes, "John said, "She IS only 6 years old." Then he told her that he had to go, he had a lot of work to do.
It wouldn't surprise me at all if she thought that her actions were minor and that she couldn't possibly understand why Anna would be so upset. In fact this is exactly what has happened in the past when she left Anna in a locked car on a 90+ degree day, or the time she let Anna walk on a 10 foot incline of jagged rocks at the river front, or the time I came home to find Emma wrapping a cord from the blinds around her neck for almost a whole minute while the MIL watched TV in my living room... completely oblivious. In each instance she either couldn't understand why I was so upset or lied about what happened to save face.
However, what is most shocking? The MIL- the only grandparent my kids have left since my mother has been eliminated for reasons of insanity- has not bothered to call, visit, or reassure her grandchildren in almost 3 weeks (3 weeks tomorrow). No contact of any sort, nothing. This is doing nothing to boost Anna's fallen faith. In fact, it is only fostering her sense of hurt and complacency.
What struck me about this whole incident is that by continuing to discuss our anger and frustration- over the fact that the MIL is so childish that she cannot possibly see why Anna would be so upset, and the fact that she has decided that her typical response of avoidance in hopes that the situation will mend itself is at all appropriate here- is [possibly] making things worse for Anna.
Gah, I guess that means I have to change. Lead by example right? I have to start taming my tongue and letting anger go. Which is very difficult in this particular circumstance... since we traveled a similar road with John's dad.
I don't want to ever give my kids the idea or feeling that their ideas and opinions don't matter.
But there has to be a transition between feeling the hurt and mending, and this is where forgiveness comes in. I think Anna is old and smart enough to understand that forgiveness means showing mercy for others, but it also means allowing yourself to heal. You can't heal if you let the battery acid of bitterness continue to pour over open wounds.
John and I had a short a cryptic talk in the car, where I told him my opinion... and he agreed.
So, yesterday after we got home, I had a brief talk with Anna. I explained that when she was ready to see her nana again to let me know and I would call the MIL and tell her that Anna wanted to see her. I skipped the part where Anna "should forgive" because I didn't want her to feel like I was demanding her to do so, I know my sweet girl will eventually forgive. Also, I want my daughter to know that she is every bit entitled to feel anger, pain and hurt, and that her opinions and feelings DO matter. But, last night I did ask her at bedtime if she has forgiven her grandmother at all, and she said a little. I told her that if she wanted, she could pray that God help her... and she did. :)
Forgiveness begins inside one's self, so it is no wonder that forgiveness heals the wounded and the forgiven alike.
I hope that my girl can grasp what has taken her momma so many years to figure out.
I also hope that when the time comes that the MIL will be ready with an open heart and will want to see Anna (supervised visits only), even though she has made it perfectly clear that Emma (my youngest)is her favorite grandchild. Actually, I hope that the MIL comes to accept her responsibility in this whole mess because Anna did nothing wrong, and that she attempts to reconcile with Anna soon.
If the MIL tries to place the blame on Anna or is indignant or angry when Anna is ready to see her, I am afraid that the bear in me will come out ... in order to protect my cub. If the MIL keeps on this self centered/ self destructive path, her grandchildren will one day be too busy for HER. I don't want that at all.
We'll see... I am hoping and praying for the best, though my faith in my child's remaining grandparent is scraping the bottom of the barrel.
EDIT TO ADD: (As written to a good friend just minutes ago) I will still be guarded in that I will protect my daughter , no matter what it takes. We already decided that she will no longer watch our kids for us, or take them any where... we were willing to overlook some very dangerous behaviors on her part... for what? To not rock the boat and make her upset? At what cost, our children?
We realize now- actually John mostly because with each of those instances I told John he needed to talk to his mother because I didn't want to be the bitch, but I always ended up doing it anyway not him- that that was wrong. Going to a movie is not more important than our kid's safety.
Yes, the rule is she can visit but never alone... the visits will be supervised. If she starts to act stupid and take stuff out on Anna then she can't see them anymore. If she isn't willing to get over herself- meaning accept responsibility for what happened recently- then she can't come over.
The point I want to make to Anna is that I accept that she has feelings, and that forgiving is not really for her grandmother... it's to help Anna to move on with her life despite it's ups and downs. Sure, her grandmother will need to know that Anna forgives her, when Anna is ready.
The MIL has threatened to move back to Texas... but I think she is realizing that it isn't a threat to me and John... I think she knows now that we couldn't care less.
I don't know if having her in their lives will be good for them... the jury is still out... it kind of depends on how she acts in the near future.
Also, quite frankly... I would like to know that I did everything in MY power to make things better in the event the MIL does decide to move back to Texas... then she can't blame us for moving. It'll all be on HER. I'm not saying at all that I am going to throw my kids to the wolf to make things "all better". Nope. Supervised visits only, and only if the MIL behaves herself. If she can't do that then she can't visit.
The whole point of this post though is this: I want to help ANNA heal. If she can heal by forgiving the MIL, great. I want to teach my kids to move on to bigger and better things, not to sit in the dark depressed because people can and will hurt you.
This is all exclusive of the fact that Anna may or may not feel comfortable around the MIL ever again. If Anna doesn't want to see the MIL, I will respect that. I'll just have to hope that when Anna is ready (if ever) to resume a relationship with her grandmother, that the MIL will be adult enough to accept full responsibility for what happened, and can change... and that they can both move on from there. I doubt it though, the MIL is pretty set in her ways. And that makes me sad for my kids... but maybe they are better off without her.