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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Lesson in Forgiveness from a Six Year Old Part I | Maris Ehlers Photography

“The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  ~ Mahatma Ghandi

A couple of weeks ago, I made a commitment to my daughter.  She wanted me to come to her math lab at school.  They have it every two weeks all year long, but because it’s on a day that I am typically downtown at work, I’ve not been able to attend.  Because it was the last month, she begged me to come as a volunteer.   I made a commitment to her that I would go and signed up several weeks in advance.

I had good intentions.  I made arrangements to take ½ day off of work. I put it on my calendar, excited to be arranging an entire day to be there for her for thirty short minutes.   After all, THIS is the type of mother I want to be.  You know, the one who rearranges everything to be there?  

So why didn’t I keep that commitment?

In my head, I had the time wrong. 

I didn’t make it.  I arrived at the school one minute after it was over.  I knew she’d be devastated and I felt about as low as I possibly could. 

I wrote an apology on a yellow post-it-note and put it on her backpack in her locker.  It said:


Mommy is so sorry that I got here late.  I  am very sorry.  I hope that you forgive me. 

Love, Mommy”

I felt like a complete schmuck for the rest of the afternoon.  I kept seeing her sad little face when they told her I wouldn’t make it in time.  Work is ½ hour away from their school. Once I realized I had the time wrong in my head, it was too late to get there before it started. 

All she would hear was that I broke my promise. 

So I made another promise that day. I promised myself (and therefore her as well) that I wouldn't justify, defend, or make excuses.  I would simply and sincerely apologize and accept her reaction. Without judgement.  For those of you who know me, it was a BIG commitment to make.  

At the end of the day I went to pick her up at school.  I saw her before she saw me.  I watched her walk down the hall.  Not upset, not happy. 

When she did see me, she paused.  OUCH. 

Her lip started to quiver, and she turned away.  UGH.  

That hurt, but I deserved it.  I waited for her to make her way to me. 

When she approached, I got down to her level and told her how sorry I was, that I had made a mistake on the time, and that I didn’t have a good excuse.  I was just so very sorry, and I hoped she could forgive me.  She started to cry and I just held on tight, caressing her hair. 

It was a long evening.  Once we were home, she got mad.  I told her it was okay to be mad, as long as she was respectful, and again, that I was truly sorry.  She wore herself out, and fell asleep on her daddy’s lap before dinner.  When she woke, it was still there, this wedge between us, but I could tell the anger at least had disappeared with her naptime dreams. 

We sort of tiptoed around each other for a bit, but a truce was coming. I could feel it.  Quietly, I marveled at her resolve.  

As I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, I turned to a counter I had just wiped off.  On it was my post-it-note apology.  It hadn’t been there a few seconds before.  With a bright red marker, she had circled my name and wrote “YES” by my comment that I hoped she could forgive me.

Looking at that note, I learned a lot about myself and my daughter.  She needed to process her disappointment and her anger, she needed to mull it over, and then in her own time and space, let it go.  I was so proud of her.  She had worked through her disappointment and made it to the other side, where forgiveness grows.

The act of giving forgiveness is as powerful (if not more so) than receiving it.  

Many of us would never formally accept an apology given hours before.  We’d just eventually quit being angry about it.  We'd pretend it never happened, but perhaps still harbor a tiny bit of disappointment or resentment inside like lingering heartburn.  

I picked up the note and walked around the corner, where my little sweet pea was waiting with the most loving, forgiving smile and hug a mother could ask for. 

Redemption in the arms of a six year old is a wonderful thing. 

Update:  Part II of this Post can be read here

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skye | photographer said...

So real and delicate and handled with such grace.

Anonymous said...

True love is not loving the perfect person. It's loving a person perfectly. Forgiveness is an expression of loving a person perfectly. How touching.

As mother's we hold ourselves up to standards that are rarely unachievable and we forgive everyone but ourselves.

I hope you have forgiven yourself for this mistake. You need the room for when you make more. LOL!

CinfulCinnamon said...

How wonderful. Cherish these times when she can get disappointed in you, and be mad, and then get over it. In a few years, she'll learn to hold out for something before she forgives you...LOL I'm just kidding, but I can remember the days and how it cut my heart in half when I knew I had disappointed my son. I feel for you, and think it's great - the growing you did with each other.

Stopping by from OPC

Maris Ehlers Photography said...

Thank you, Skye. :)

Maris Ehlers Photography said...

CinfulCinnamon, I believe you are right. :)

Kristin said...

What a fantastic lesson in grace. You have a wise daughter!