Who made this mess? An apology sends a timid hand in the air, a slinking kind of admitting. Me.
I've become adept at the apologies. The only thing, quite honestly, that I'm good at in this whole parenting thing is the I'm sorry. The gigantic messes around here are undeniably my own.
I make her sit in the front seat, taking from her hands the book she intends to read in the car.
"I want to talk to you."
"But I don't want to talk to you."
"Then I guess I'll have to talk at you."
I begin with a question: "Where is all the anger coming from?"
Her answers are expert maneuvers of blame-shifting. She finds fault in others. She justifies her kicking, her hitting, her yelling by the extreme duress to which she's been subjected. They've irritated her.
I know the mechanics of this excuse-making. I might have written my own book on the subject. On anger, too.
The truth has to be told to this girl who's slid down further in her seat and stares angrily ahead. The truth has to be told to me.
You are 100% responsible for your own thoughts, words, and actions.
I can't make you change your heart, but I can give you the severest of warnings. If you let anger rule your life, you're destined to see all of your most important relationships suffer.
The person you are to be, you are now becoming. And if a kind, gentle and patient woman is who you want to become, you begin today in all of your small choices.
The first and most important of those choices is repentance. That means laying blame at your own feet and taking full responsibility. It's hating your sin and turning to Jesus. Without Him and the work of the Holy Spirit, change isn't possible.
The conversation continues, and her flinted face softens. This is gift, this is grace, that a child might hear, that any of us hears, water absorbing into stone, recalcitrance thudding to the ground. We turn.
"I'm sorry, Mom," I hear as we wait on the stairs for her lesson to begin.
Parenting bears a reflection I don't bear all that bravely. Mirror, mirror, on the wall.
"I'm sorry I haven't given you a better example."
The pure grace of the apologies. They fuse relationships and make it all possible for any of us to live together and be family.
"You know, if one thousand million daughters were for sale, I'd always choose you."
"No," she argues. "You'd find the perfect one. You'd choose her."
"Absolutely not. I don't expect you to be perfect."
And I absorb the words I speak next: "You don't have to be perfect, but you do need to be honest."
Honesty: the first wind of change? Admitting: a sure path freedom?
Apologies: the most important words we speak?