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What My 10-Year-Old Taught Me About Grace


After an early, whirlwind of a morning/afternoon, I picked up my 10-year-old from school and we headed over to a local nursing home's memory care unit, where my daughter and the rest of her elementary school Student Council were scheduled for a holiday visit. We’d bought elf hats for all the residents in attendance, pre-decorated mini Christmas trees and painted ceramic snowflake ornaments to hand out to bingo winners, and packaged up all of our materials earlier in the week. I realized on the drive over there that I’d forgotten my daughter's StuCo shirt that she was supposed to wear, but no biggie. We had our prizes and our hats, and we were ready to play bingo and sing carols and bring some Christmas spirit to some cute old people in need of some joy.


So we arrived “10 minutes early,” expecting to help set up. We walked in to find the entire Council already in the middle of a game of bingo. “Harper, where have you been?!” friends asked. “You’re sooo late!” a few others proclaimed. I realized that I’d made an error regarding the start time. I’d thought the event started at 4:00 when we actually needed to be there at 3:30.


Showing up super late to something important, that I represent, and for which people are counting on me to be there, is a situation that would embarrass me greatly even as an adult, so I assumed it would be tenfold to my 10-year-old. I apologized profusely to her teachers, and to her, and though she put on a smile during the remainder of the event, I expected her to be pretty darn upset with me once we got back in the car.


Except...she wasn’t.


“Harper, I am so sorry I messed up here. I feel terrible that I dropped the ball,” I said.


“That’s OK, Mommy. At least we made it there for some of it and we got to give away our prizes,” she replied. “You’ve had a really busy week, and you do a lot for all of us. It’s OK. We can come back in the spring and get it right next time. We got to be there for part of it, and that’s what matters.”


My apologies continued, but every one was met with a response that extended so much grace.


She could’ve reacted emotionally. She could’ve let her own embarrassment and frustration take the lead. She could’ve cried or yelled or made me feel worse than I already did. But she didn’t. Instead, she accepted my apologies, focused on the positives, forgave me for my mistake, and tried to make me feel better—yep, the one who’d screwed up.


I thought about the last time she messed up. Was I as gracious and forgiving as she was to me? Did I make her feel worse or better after the mistake was already made and there was nothing but remorse on her end? I think I know the answers.


My 10-year-old taught me a lot yesterday. She taught me about the kind of person I want to work harder to be, one who handles others with empathy and grace and who sees the good when she could just as easily focus on the bad. I’ve said many times before that I’m so grateful God picked me to be her mom, but until yesterday, I never fully understood His reasoning for the choice.

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