Friday 6th May 2016: Tolerate Mistakes!

In Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis, in the very beautiful first section of Chapter 4 says:

“We encounter problems whenever we think that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the centre and expect things to turn out our way. Then everything makes us impatient, everything makes us react aggressively. Unless we cultivate patience, we will always find excuses for responding angrily. We will end up incapable of living together, antisocial, unable to control our impulses, and our families will become battlegrounds. That is why the word of God tells us: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph 4:31). Patience takes root when I recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world, just as they are. It does not matter if they hold me back, if they unsettle my plans, or annoy me by the way they act or think, or if they are not everything I want them to be. Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like.”

Again this caused me to stop and reflect on my own parenting. I know I shouldn’t, but I often take it personally when my children make mistakes or have behaviour issues—as if they’ve done it to spite me. Is my 2 year old daughter’s continuous habit of throwing food and utensils on the kitchen floor whilst we are trying to eat because I failed to teach her self-control? Is my son’s habit of using every available surface in the house as a canvas for his permanent interest in hoarding things or being an inventor his way of getting revenge on me for making him attend Saturday afternoon French lessons?

Actually, that’s how children learn. I need to think about their mistakes differently: instead of seeing them as failures, they are actually opportunities to learn. “Toddlers test, and that’s exactly what they are supposed to do, ” says Janet Lansbury in her Guide to Respectful Parenting. “A toddler has failed if he makes life too easy for us.” And that’s something I must constantly remind myself about having one in the “terrible twos.”

I want so badly for my children to avoid “mistakes” or morally inculpable ‘naughtiness’ that I sometimes fail to see it’s simply an important part of their natural human growth. As the child development specialist would say; they are simply individuating and we have to encourage them to self-expression.Then I take a step back and consider how God must feel when I continually fail to live up to His simple message of love and service. Thank God for the confessional, which I have to say I have never experienced as a ‘torture chamber’ to coin a phrase of the Holy Father’s. Indeed at times I have felt tortured in my soul when the priest (all too often) fails to recite the full and complete words of absolution leaving me wondering if I have been sacramentally forgiven or not for my sins. We know all too well as parents how crucial it is to make plain to children when they have been forgiven. So let’s pray for patience. If He, the perfect parent does not have ‘perfectly behaved’ children, how can we, who are imperfect parents, be surprised when our children, especially the young ones still learning, fail to do right time and again?

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