Receiving God’s Forgiveness In Parenting
We may never have award-winning memories of being the greatest of parents, but often the guilt and shame of our parenting mistakes can haunt us. How can we keep from being sidelined? Dave and Ann Wilson share wisdom about recognizing Satan's schemes and embracing God's forgiveness.
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The guilt and shame of our parenting mistakes can haunt us. Dave and Ann Wilson share wisdom about recognizing Satan’s schemes and embracing God’s forgiveness.
Receiving God’s Forgiveness In Parenting
Bob: When she was in the middle of raising her family, Ann Wilson remembers being loaded down/being burdened with mom guilt.
Ann: At night, especially in the silence, I would hear things like: “Oh, you failed today,” “Oh, you messed up. You shouldn’t have said this…” Then I would start to worry and project into the future: “They’re going to do this, and they’re going to hate our home,” and “They’re not going to like me.” Dave is over there fast asleep, thinking, “Man, I nailed it today”; and I’m thinking, “I was the ultimate failure today.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 7th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Can you relate? Have you felt that mom guilt/that sense that you’re failing; and as a result, your kids are going to wind up as juvenile delinquents? Ann Wilson understands that; we’re going to talk more about that today. Stay with us.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We are all celebrating this week because it’s always exciting when a new book comes out.
Ann: Are you celebrating with us?
Bob: I am celebrating with you.
Bob: This is really a great resource you guys have provided that, I think, gives moms and dads a jumpstart on the process and helps them think a little more realistically, a little more clearly, a little more purposefully on what parenting is all about and helps set the right expectations for what’s ahead in the parenting journey.
It’s not just, though, for new parents. This is a book—you had this in mind—parenting is a journey that kind of goes up mountains and down valleys, and it’s over and over again. You’re thinking that this is a book that parents of teens can benefit from, even though they/as a parent of a teenager, I kind of felt like, “Well, if I’ve messed up, at this point; I can’t fix it.”
Ann: Yes; “Now, it’s too late”; yes.
Bob: Right; but we can always make the course corrections and adjustments. We can always be growing in this area; can’t we?
Ann: Yes; I think that this, especially in teens—I feel like we have these two points a lot of times—one, when we’re about to have a family; and we’re kind of bombarded with these toddlers. Then we kind of get in this groove—at least, this was true for us—we got in this groove, like, “Okay, we’re kind of getting it down.”
But then we get into teen years; and we were asking again: “What are we doing? What’s our bullseye? What are we trying to do together?”
Bob: I’m wondering, if in your marriage, was one of the two of you more intently focused on the parenting responsibilities than the other one?
Dave: Yes; her name is Ann. [Laughter]
Bob: Do you think that’s—same thing in our marriage—Mary Ann was much more focused on what we need to be doing as parents. She was the one, who is saying: “You need to listen to this,” “You need to read this,” “You need to think about this.” She was kind of bringing me along in the process.
Ann: Yes, I felt like I kept pulling Dave in—
Ann: —because it is a hard thing. A lot of times, at this age with teenagers, we’re at the peak of our careers.
Ann: It takes a lot of time/a lot of energy. I think for both husband and wife, if both are working, to pour that energy back into our kids and our family is really important; and then, to not lose the goal of making Jesus the center.
Bob: Do you think there is something about maternal instinct here that causes most moms to gravitate in that direction?—to look more inside the family, while the dad is looking outside at the world around them? Do you think that’s—
Ann: I do. We would lay in bed at night; and I would say, “Hey, have you noticed this about one of our kids? I’m really kind of thinking this, and I feel like they’re going off a little bit.” He goes, “What?! I don’t/what are you talking about?” I think women, generally speaking, are a little more dialed in, emotionally.
Dave: I don’t know about you, Bob; but every time I said, “No, I don’t think that’s even happening,” I was wrong [Laughter] every time. I mean, 100 percent, she was right; and it would come around. I’m like, “Oh, she saw that before I did.” You have to learn/like, “Okay, I’m going to tune into that.”
Bob: I’m guessing, if there are a husband and wife, listening to our conversation right now together, the wife is thinking, “We absolutely have got to get a copy of Dave and Ann Wilson’s book, No Perfect Parents. The husband is going, “Okay, fine. If you want to get that and read it, I’ll—underline some parts and I’ll…"
Dave: Get the audio book if you don’t want to read it, dude; just do it!
Bob: But I do think, because moms are so dialed in on that, I think the other side of that can be that, when things are not going well in parenting, that can cause a mom to feel the wake of that more profoundly than dad does. You talk in the book about the day when you secured the title of: “The ultimate failure as a mom.”
Bob: You said the trademark is pending on that title. [Laughter] You think—what was the day that caused you to go, “I’m failing as a mom”?
Ann: Well, it’s interesting, as a mom—as our kids got a little bit older and when you get into that training stage—I found that I felt like I was continually failing. I have three little boys that had a ton of energy, and they’re running around, and I’m doing the best that I can; but I felt like I was continually failing and that I would lose my temper—that I wasn’t training the way I should. I had this bombardment, like: “Oh, Barbara Rainey probably wouldn’t do that,” and “The other pastor’s wife wouldn’t do that.” I was in this real comparison thing—and goodness, social media wasn’t even going on—I can’t imagine what it’s like today.
Every night I went to bed, I had this backpack and this burden of shame and guilt. I felt like it followed me everywhere. At night, especially in the silence, I would hear things like: “Oh, you failed today,” “Oh, you messed up; you shouldn’t have said this…” Then I would start to worry and project into the future: “They’re going to do this,” and “They’re going to hate our home,” and “They’re not going to like me.” Dave is over there, fast asleep, thinking, “Man, I nailed it today”; and I’m thinking, “I was the ultimate failure today.”
This really came to a head when our kids were younger. I think CJ was nine; and they were seven and four. Dave had a really long day, but I started the day off really well. I thought, “Okay, this is going to be a great day.” I always started really positive, like, “Okay, this is a good day.” I made breakfast for them, and I packed lunches. I’m like, “Okay, I am winning today.” We pray on the way to school. They get out—the two were in school—Cody was in preschool. I was working part-time, so I had to do some things; but ultimately, it was a great day. As a mom, you are kind of checking the list: “Oh, good job.” I’m patting myself on the back.
Ann: That burden and backpack of guilt—it’s nowhere to be seen—so things are really good. And then, Dave still wasn’t home. We were in a phase, then, of I’m thinking: “Why isn’t my husband home more?” “Why isn’t he more engaged with me?” “Why isn’t he participating with the kids?” This kept running through my head as he had missed dinner.
Two younger boys were playing in the family room. Like really, now, it’s escalating; and they’re throwing balls, and it’s crazy. I’m thinking I need to get these spelling words done with our oldest. I’m at the table with CJ; and the teacher had mentioned, “I think that he could have ADHD.” Which it’s so funny, as a teacher mentions that, as a mom, all you’re doing is carrying that around: “Is that true? What does that mean? What will the future look like?”—that’s going through my head. The kids are carousing; Dave’s late, and it’s just chaos/utter chaos.
CJ’s playing at the table, and he keeps knocking things over. I’m like/we’ve been on the same spelling word for 15 minutes, and he can’t lock in. The kitchen’s a mess. Somebody knocked something over in the family room, and I’m so frustrated. It comes to a head; I just kind of do this grunt, like, “Oh, my goodness! I do that; and as I do it, I kick the wall. My foot goes into the drywall with this eight-inch hole, and my foot is stuck in the drywall.
There’s complete pandemonium going on in the house until that moment; then there’s complete silence, and all the boys rush to the kitchen. They look at this hole, and they are astonished. Austin—I look at the middle son—and he looks at me like he’s worried.
Ann: He’s worried for me. Then Cody—our youngest, who’s only four—he has this look of admiration, like I am the coolest person that walks the earth. [Laughter] I didn’t even look at CJ.
Bob: “Mom kicked a hole in the wall!”
Ann: Yes! I didn’t even look at CJ, because I was humiliated. I’m automatically, as a mom, thinking, “What does this communicate to my son? What will he remember? He’s going to be on a therapist’s couch talking about this moment for the rest of his life. It will mess up his marriage.” That’s what we do, as moms; we now are jumping forward,
50 years into the future.
You guys, I’m so humiliated; and the boys are like, “Mom!” Cody says to me, “Mom, I had no idea that you were this strong.” I feel so much guilt, shame, remorse; and I’m thinking, “Oh no, the pastor is going to be home in five minutes. How am I going to tell my husband that his wife just kicked a major hole in the wall?”
I have this brilliant idea.
Dave: Yes; tell them what you did, honey.
Ann: I run upstairs. I’m going through our closet, looking for the wallpaper that’s on that wall; and I find it. I run downstairs. I’m frantic, because Dave’s going to be home any minute. I cut the wallpaper, and I wet it. I put it up there, and it’s perfect. No one would ever know there is a hole in the wall until somebody, someday, removes that wallpaper.
You guys, I’m embarrassed to say that I almost told the boys, “Hey, let’s not tell Dad.” I almost said that; but I thought, “No, that’s really going overboard.” Soon as I get it done, Dave walks in the door. All the boys rush to him; they’re like, “Dad!” And you thought they were super excited to see you.
Dave: They were.
Ann: I’m thinking, “Maybe they won’t even mention it.”
Bob, do you think that they mentioned it?
Bob: [Laughter] They’re boys! Yes!
Ann: Yes; they’re like: “Dad, you won’t believe what happened tonight! Mom kicked a hole in the wall.” Cody is like, “Dad, we had no idea Mom was this strong.” [Laughter] I am so embarrassed. What did you think, Dave?
Dave: Oh, I mean, I’m like—I walk over; and I’m like, “There’s no hole.” I mean, she had it perfect; the wallpaper was lined right up. I was like, “There’s no hole.” They are like poking at it—like boomph—there’s—
Ann: I’m like, “Don’t touch the wallpaper.”
Dave: There’s a big hole in the drywall. I just thought it was hilarious; but I look over at Ann, and I can tell she is really feeling really bad/like this mom guilt is all over her face.
Of course, you’ve got to get the kids down to bed, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do; but I knew she’s carrying/she feels really bad; because I knew she’s carrying, “I think I shamed CJ”; because CJ knows her frustration with him and, maybe, his inability to have—
Ann: —to lock in.
Dave: —the attention to lock in, forced her to sort of lose her cool. I knew this was like a big deal.
Ann: So that night, as the boys were going to bed, I apologized to each of them. I told them this wasn’t about them. I was frustrated, and I shouldn’t have done that; it was sin. I actually prayed and confessed my sin in front of the boys to God. Yet, I went to bed that night—and here’s Dave—he’s sound asleep again, and I’m wide awake; I can’t sleep for hours. I’m so embarrassed to say this, even though I had apologized to CJ, I get up—I don’t know if any other moms have done this—I go down the hall; I wake CJ up; and I shake him, and say, “CJ, I’m so, so sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. Will you forgive me?” He’s like “Mom, it’s fine”; he’s irritated.
This was a pattern for me; I would wake my kids up. Then, as they got older, I would get up; and I would write them apology letters. They each have stacks of apology letters that I wrote! I think that that can be common place—for moms, at least—I’m not talking for dads. But there’s this sense of guilt, and failure, and shame. It’s funny—guilt is you feel remorse, and you feel bad about it or guilty—but shame is: “I’m broken,” and that’s where it turned: “I’m broken.” I’m telling you: “We have an enemy of our soul.”
In John 10:10, when Jesus says, “The thief”—or Satan, our enemy—“comes only to steal, kill, and destroy,” that’s for real. He wants to come into every household and kill, steal, and destroy; and who is a target?—not just our kids—but moms and dads. That, for me, to feel remorse and guilt, that’s crippling as a mom. I love that Jesus, right after that, says, “but I have come to give life and give life to the full.”
Bob: Is mom guilt and mom shame—you said there are lots of letters of apology that you wrote.
Bob: Did this cycle through your motherhood? Or was it a theme that was kind of always the undercurrent of being a mom, that you were feeling: “I’m failing at this,” “I’m no good at this”? Or did you go/did you have some days, where [you] go: “I’m winning; we’re doing great,” and then another day comes along, and you go, “I guess I’m not winning.”
Ann: Yes; no, I had days that I thought, “I’m getting this done; I’m doing a good job.” But other days that I was just bombarded with that shame again. Guilt is like: “I did this wrong.” Shame is: “I am wrong; there’s something wrong with me.”
Bob: And the days when you feel like, “This is working well,” for whatever reason, those days don’t stick with us as profoundly.
Ann: You’re right.
Bob: They don’t mark us. Well, like we don’t walk away, going, “Okay, I really am doing well.” But the days we have the shame and the guilt, that takes us under sometimes.
Ann: It really takes us under. As I’ve talked to moms, it’s interesting, too; because as you’re with moms, I remember telling this one mom, like, “I yell at my kids sometimes.” I don’t call them names—I don’t go over to that area—but I would yell at them in frustration. This mom said, “I have never yelled at my child in my life,”—where I’m like, “See! What does that do?”—it just/now, it’s even heavier.
I think what I didn’t realize was that shame and that guilt—I wish that I would have remembered what God says about me—“This is who I am: I am a child of God; I’m forgiven; we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, but we are also forgiven; Jesus doesn’t hold it against me; why am I still holding it against myself?”
Bob: Shame and guilt are gospel moments; these are the moments, where we have to remember what’s true.
Bob: I always come back to—and I think I’ve quoted this on FamilyLife Today a couple dozen times over the years—but a hymn that we sing at church, Before the Throne of God Above; the second verse says:
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there,
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
It doesn’t mean that, in those moments of failure, that we should just go, “Oh well, everybody messes up; no big deal”; but it does mean that, in those moments of failure, what the enemy wants you to do/he wants to sideline you. He wants you to get under the pile from that and never recover.
But we have to come back and say, “I did mess up; and by God’s grace, I’m going to live to find another day. I’m going to do better next time. I’m not going to let the shame and the guilt of the experience that I’ve gone through take me out of the game,”—because that’s what the enemy wants.
Ann: Exactly; in Romans 8: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” So instead of going to bed, and going back over my day of failures, I wish I would have repeated that: “There is now no condemnation for me. Jesus has died; He’s taken care of that.” I’ve already confessed to Him/to the kids; I wish then I would have taken my thoughts captive and not let the enemy take me on this carousel; it’s really a roller coaster of emotions. Because Jesus is good, I’m good. He sees me as good, and I’ve done my best.
Bob: I had something happen a number of years ago that was—it’s always been a great illustration for me—we were driving from Little Rock to Indianapolis. We were just outside Louisville; we were south of Indianapolis. We had about an hour-and-a-half left to go on the trip. It was late at night; we’d been in the car all day. It was a long day; everybody was tired. I had to pull off the interstate to go to the bathroom, and so we stopped. I went to the bathroom, and then I got back on the highway.
It was one of these—it wasn’t one of those easy-off/easy-on intersections—I picked. When we got back on the highway, I’d driven a couple of miles before I go, “I got on the wrong highway. I am not on the road to Indianapolis anymore. I’m on the road to Paducah, [Laughter] and we’re not going to Paducah.” I’m thinking, “Okay, we’ve got to turn this car around and get back on the right road.” Well, the next turnaround was
13 miles down the road.
Ann: Oh, no!
Bob: There’s nowhere to turn. I now have to drive 13 miles in the wrong direction and, then, 15 miles back in the other direction. It’s late at night; the kids are in the car. I’m going, “Do I even tell them we’re on the wrong road, or do I just…”—but here’s the thought I had—my temptation, at that moment, was just to wallow in the fact: “How stupid was I that I got us on the wrong highway, and we’re going in the wrong direction?” I wanted to pull the car over to the side of the road, and just bang my head against the steering wheel, and go, “You idiot! Why?” That would have done nothing—
Bob: —to help.
Ann: It would have hurt more than anything.
Bob: Right; I didn’t need to pull over to the side of the road and bang my head. I needed to turn it around and get on the right road.
That’s the difference between shame—that leads us to condemnation—and the kind of awareness of guilt that says, “Okay, I’ve got to turn it around and get back in the right direction.” Jesus is not standing there, saying, “Pull over and live in shame for a while.” He’s saying, “Just get on the right road.”
Ann: We don’t have to do penitence.
Bob: Right; so a mom, who’s had a bad day/a dad, who’s had a bad day—those, who are caught up in the shame and wallowing of this—the message from Jesus is: “Okay, I know/I know you messed up. Turn it around; get back on the right road. You’re still My child; I still love you.”
Ann: Yes; well, it’s interesting, Bob, as I was writing this—and I rewrote this whole story, and I’ve never written it out before—and as I was writing it, all of a sudden, I asked Jesus this question as I was writing; I said, “Lord, what did You see in that young 34-year-old that day?” I had this list of things; here’s what I wrote, that I felt like it’s from the Holy Spirit: “Look at these things, Ann; because Satan will never remind you of the good that happened that day.”
Ann: I said: “One, you were present with your kids today. Two, you prayed before you got up out of bed that God would help you be a good wife and mom,”—just a quick prayer. “Three, you fed your kids and you fed yourself,”—so let’s count the little things. “Four, you got yourself and everyone dressed,”—woo hoo! [Laughter] “Five, you put on makeup,”—and this is for Dave’s benefit—and to not—you know, just to help; and I’m going to celebrate that. “Six, you packed lunches. Seven, you drove your kids to school, and you prayed out loud with them,”—that’s discipleship. “Eight, you got a ton of work done, and you played with Cody. Nine, you made dinner and played fun music as the boys played. Ten, you helped with homework.”
This is where the bad part sneaks in; but: “Eleven, you apologized to your kids. You asked for forgiveness,”—which is teaching conflict resolution skills. “Twelve, you prayed and asked forgiveness from God, out loud, in front of your kids and asked Him to help you display self-control as a fruit of the Spirit,”—which is discipleship. “Thirteen, you kissed them goodnight. You laid your hand on them; you prayed for them. Fourteen, you cleaned up the house before going to bed. Fifteen, you read your Bible,”—well, maybe only a few verses; because you couldn’t concentrate—but still…
As I wrote that, I have never thought of the good things that happened that day. I feel like Jesus was complimenting; He was clapping for me, like, “Good job, Ann.” He sees those little blips/our mistakes. It’s like you confess them—you’re going to make those; you’ll continue to make those—but go to sleep and take those thoughts captive.
Bob: One of the things I love about your book is that you invited your sons to read the book and offer their analysis of the principles in here. CJ, and Austin, and Cody all chime in and say, “Here’s what we remember about growing up in the home.”
Dave: At the end of that chapter, “The Mom Guilt,” CJ makes a comment about the letters. It’s really cute what he says.
Bob: Here’s what he says; he says, “It was never obvious, when we were kids, that Mom was feeling guilt about her parenting at all.”
Ann: Isn’t that amazing?! That’s a miracle, people.
Bob: Because you were feeling it, like it’s the dominant theme.
Bob: He says: “I have much more vivid memories of her being fun and happy than her ever being sad and frustrated. There was a difference between when she was mad at us for being bad and when she was mad from just being frustrated. During the times when she was frustrated, like when she kicked the hole in the wall, it didn’t feel like she was taking anything out on us. That just seemed like a crazy story we could tell Dad and our friends. She was back to normal and fun the next day.”
And then he says, “Mom’s letters, which she would often write after waking up at two in the morning, usually felt unneeded to me. She always just reiterated things that were obvious from interacting with her every day. She was just saying what I already knew.”
Ann: Isn’t that miraculous?
Bob: Yes; and so, what we think is going to send our kids to the therapist, some of them go, “I don’t even remember that story”; right?
Dave: And it’s a reminder: “God’s got your kids.”
Dave: He really does; you can trust Him.
Bob: I hope a lot of our listeners have already preordered your book, No Perfect Parents. It releases next week, and we’re taking preorders now on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to preorder: 1-800-FL-TODAY. I am really excited about this book and about the impact it’s going to have in the lives of families and, really, generations to come. This is a great investment in the next generation.
The book is called No Perfect Parents: Ditch Expectations, Embrace Reality, and Discover the One Secret That Will Change Your Parenting. You can preorder your copy by going to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to preorder: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number; 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Get a copy of No Perfect Parents by Dave and Ann Wilson. We’ll send it to you as soon as it’s available to release.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about hospitality, which is a priority. We’re all told in the Bible to practice hospitality; but I know some of us think, “Yes, but that’s just not who I am; that’s not my gift.” Well, Morgan Tyree is going to join us tomorrow to say each one of us has a different hospitality personality. We’ll try to figure out what yours is and how you can follow the biblical command to be hospitable. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch. We got some extra help today from Bruce Goff and, of course, our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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