Our faith teaches us that God provides for do-overs. Rachel Watkins discusses the importance of teaching this lesson to our children by our actions.
My childhood was pretty idyllic. I grew up in a small town in the Finger Lakes region of New York State riding my bike around town from dawn to dusk. In the late '70s and early '80s, parents could still kiss their kids good-bye at breakfast and not worry about them until dinner time or past. Without any cell phones, my circle of friends included loving parents who fed whoever showed up at the table once the phone was dialed to check with the mom at home. While not perfect, my town looked more like a Norman Rockwell illustration than not.
Long into most summer evenings, neighborhood kids of all ages gathered in my family’s large backyard to play kickball. We followed the rules of this simple baseball-like game but with two very important additions. A kick into either the grapevines that grew in my yard on the left or over the fence of our neighbor to the right were immediate do-overs. It didn’t matter how long or how clearly foul the kick might be, you were given another chance. This do-over rule prevented kids from careening into the vines or leaping the fence trying to prevent a run. As a result of this rule, no dads got angry—but better yet, you got a chance to do better a second time.
Now, as a parent, teaching my kids about the power of a do-over is even more important. In today’s culture of perfection and judgment through social media, our children feel the pressure to do everything right, every time and mistakes are never allowed. The risk of public embarrassment and error can overwhelm our kids of all ages. They need to be reassured that both mistakes and sins can be forgiven and forgotten. And our faith teaches this very lesson. Within the gift of the Mass and especially during Confession, God is working His own kind of do-over. Our sins are thrown into the sea, as Micah 7:18-19 teaches us.
Throughout the centuries we have saints whose own lives were perfect examples of this. St. Ignatius tells us he committed every sin but murder, and St. Margaret of Cortona left the life as a mistress to do life over, and better, as a forgiven Catholic. In more recent years, we have the witness of Dorothy Day and Matthew Talbot to remind us that God grants every penitent sinner a do-over, even the woman who had an abortion and the man who was a public drunkard.
We need to remember this generosity of mercy and grace with our own children when they falter. But, how often are we guilty of heaping screaming, shouting and shame on our kids, regardless of actual sin or mistake; large or small? There was a time when I wasn’t allowing my kids the do-overs they deserved and needed: the same do-overs God so generously grants me, time and again.
A recent mishap with a new driver and a garage door gave me another chance to test my resolve to be a Mom who gives do-overs. As she cried in my arms, she was convinced I was furious and could not possible forgive her error in judgement. As she processed how her feet could possibly have slipped off the brake and the resulting damage, she declared she would never drive again, she couldn’t be trusted with car keys.
I took a deep breath, sought God’s help in my response and told her it was a just a mistake. There was no real damage; the car had a scratch and the garage door could be fixed. And, yes, she would drive again. She needed to think of it as a do-over. And, later that same week, she had her chance to drive again doing better and regaining some confidence. I was encouraged when she told me my calm response at the time of the accident helped give her courage to try again.
From Peter to Jonah and the Veggie Tales, we know our God is a God of second chances. Learning to parent with our feet firmly on forgiveness and mercy and not on angry retribution allows us to be more like God than not.
Copyright 2022 Rachel Watkins
Images: Canva Pro
About the Author
Wife of Matt for 36 years and mom to 11, Rachel is the creator/developer of The Little Flowers Girls' Club. She is a weekly contributor to Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak's radio program, More2Life on EWTN radio. She has also been a homeschooler for over 25 years and has dealt with multiple sclerosis as a chronic illness for a bit longer.