My Parent Fail and My Daughter’s Grace

Many years ago, I took a sabbatical from my work so I could finish writing my Ph.D. dissertation. My entire family picked up and moved to Hawaii for three months. I know you feel sorry for us, but somebody had to do it! Cathy is an educator by training and I made it through high school, so we decided to homeschool our children during our time away. Things were going pretty well until I realized I could get a Ph.D. more easily than I could help Christy with sixth-grade math. My definition of “hell” is a place where they do math word problems, and that is exactly what Christy was studying during our homeschooling experience in Hawaii.

One morning, there was a great deal of tension in our home. The younger girls wanted to ditch school and go to the beach. They were grumpy. Cathy was reacting to their grumpiness while Christy and I were struggling through the worst math word problem in the universe. I was anxious to get to my dissertation, and Christy was anxious to get away from me. In the middle of the word problem, she snapped at me, and I went crazy. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but the veins in my neck exploded with anger. I verbally slayed Christy right there in our living room, with Cathy, Rebecca and Heidi looking on in disbelief. Usually I’m the guy who is even-keeled, but not this time. “How dare you?” “Don’t you understand?” “How selfish can you get?” and “Furthermore . . .” were all things I said in that angry moment. Then I sent her to her room.

The house grew eerily quiet. My two younger girls had looks of fear, and Cathy’s look was somewhere between disgust and disbelief that I would go crazy over a math word problem and Christy’s bad attitude. I decided it was time to get out of the house; I slammed the door for added effect. Then I went to the water’s edge and sat down.

After about 15 minutes of blaming everyone but myself (including my own sixth-grade math teacher), I came to my senses and humbly walked back into the house. Cathy was working with the other girls, and Christy was in her room. Cathy glanced up for a moment, saw my contrite expression and pointed to Christy’s room. I gave a gentle knock—no answer. I opened the door. She was lying on her bed with tears in her big green eyes. I came alongside her bed, got down to her level and said, “Christy, I am so sorry. I hope you will forgive me. That was all about me and not about you.” With tears still in her eyes, she put her arms out around me and said, “I forgive you, Daddy, and I’m sorry, too.”

A few years later, Christy was being “hormonal and emotional” with her mother. The rest of the family stopped what each was doing to listen in on Christy and her mom having a big disagreement. Christy was being rude, so I stepped in and very calmly told her to go to her room and cool down. I told her that I would be up in a few minutes and we would talk. She sputtered all the way up the stairs to her bedroom and slammed the door. To me it was just nice to have some peace and quiet as the rest of the family went back to homework, chores and fixing dinner.

Almost an hour later, as dinner was about to be served, Cathy asked me how my talk with Christy had gone. Being the great father that I am, I had to admit to Cathy that I had enjoyed the peace so much that I had actually forgotten to go talk with her.

I hurried upstairs and tapped on her door. In a very quiet voice, she told me to come in. She was lying on her bed with tears in her eyes. She stood up, and before I could say a word, she blurted out, “Daddy, I am so sorry! That was all about me and not about you guys. Will you forgive me?”

“Of course I will, Christy. I love you and I’m proud of you. In fact, I think I’ve heard pretty much those same words before from someone else. Do you remember?”

“Of course I do, Daddy. And I love you and I’m proud of you, too.”

The moral of the story is, be an authentic parent who isn’t afraid to apologize when you see the need. Proverbs 10:9 says, “The man of integrity walks securely,” and the children of the man or woman of integrity will walk securely as well. (The other moral of the story is, don’t do sixth-grade math word problems if it’s not your specialty!)

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the President of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 30 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage and Closer. Jim and his wife, Cathy live Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca and Heidi.

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