In a year of worsts, 2020 proved to be my worst parenting year yet. COVID-19 wreaked havoc in so many areas of life, but naively, I thought I could somehow insulate my home from the effects. When schools closed and went to virtual learning, I tried to tell myself that we would have more time as a family, that I would finally get to spend my time personally teaching my children. In the spirit of Pinterest-fails, the side-by-side comparison of my hopes to reality fell pathetically short. I ended up trying to escape from time with my kids because I was overwhelmed, and I think they learned more about my temperamental irritability than they did about math or reading.
My thoughts, or better yet, the shame attendant of my mind spoke to me, “You should be further along, you are ruining their lives, you should be enjoying this extra time with your kids.” As the year of never-ending challenges seemed to drag on, I proved to myself that irritability, selfishness and parenting out of anger all still made a happy home in my heart. I proved to myself how much I still need Jesus.
If my experience rings true for you, let me offer some encouragement; a year of failure also brings with it a huge opportunity to undo those failures with eternal truth. We have a saying at Citizens Church where I pastor: Your kids do not need you to be Jesus, they need you to need Jesus. And this truth is a gentle yoke Jesus offered me and continues to offer me as I look back at 2020. The most important thing you or I can do is to be honest about our failures with our children and then demonstrate what resting and relying on Jesus looks like.
God is “good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon him” (Psalm 86:5). He calls us to seek repentance, and His mercy is abundant.
This past year I spent a lot of time apologizing to my kids. “Hey guys, I’m sorry Dad was harsh. Will you forgive me?” Or “Guys, Dad was really grumpy today. You know who is never grumpy? Your perfect father in heaven. Dad needs Jesus’ forgiveness.”
In my own parenting, I still have much to learn; our kids are 7, 5 and 3. I think the older your kids are, the more honest and deep these conversations can be, but I have seen how taking the opportunity to share my own sinful struggles and inability to trust God in difficult times is already bearing fruit in my relationship with them.
As you show your children what it looks like to rely on Jesus for forgiveness, you teach them how to deal with their own failures, and you demonstrate that both you and God are safe places to receive grace and restoration. In a world that responds to failure with shunning, with canceling, with harsh expulsion, we get to demonstrate how God deals gently with those He calls his children. We get to show them there is always a pathway to grace and restoration, both with our earthly relationships and with God.
Adam Hawkins is a pastor at Citizens Church in Plano. His road to pastoring was circuitous, starting out on a path to become a philosophy professor, instead ending up an attorney and finally finding his call telling others about the love of Christ. He is married to Heather, and they have three wonderful children, Finn (1st), Winnie (Kindergarten) and Hayes (3 years old - starting PreK at TCA in the fall).