This evening we were watching the movie, We Bought A Zoo, when Tiana nearly lunged towards the edge of the bed while jumping on Titus’ back. With almost superhuman reflex, Edric bounced out of his chair to come to her rescue. But he did so with a little too much emotion. Smacking his hand on the bed several times and raising his voice, he said, “I told you not to go near the edge of the bed!”
The three boys had troubled looks on their faces as they tried to take in his response. Tiana had not meant to be so careless. She was playing. But Edric had panicked. And he lost his cool. Afterwards, He ordered all the kids to sit in a row beside me so they wouldn’t be anywhere near the end of the bed. They complied but I could sense that it was out of fear and slight confusion.
I was surprised by the agitation and drama of his posture. He tried to explain to Tiana why he got upset but by then she had already started to cry. As for me, I felt annoyed that he had been so reactive. First of all, it was unnecessary. He could have just whisked her into his arms and spoken calmly to her. Second, I thought it was a bad example to the kids. He did seem angry and he has taught them not to do things like this.
At some point I knew he would recognize this and apologize to everyone but I waited for a bit until he had calmed down himself. About ten minutes later, I nudged his leg, which was resting right beside mine. He looked at me and knew what I was attempting to say.
“Oh you think I should say sorry?” He said this aloud so the kids would hear him. And Edan was quick to use the opening as an opportunity to remark, “I think you got too angry with Tiana.” Edan, of all our kids, is the type of person who expects people to follow rules and principles. It is unsettling for him when people don’t.
Edric was humble enough to acknowledge his perspective. He asked for forgiveness from Tiana first and then from all of us. And that was it. No one held on to their troubling thoughts. Forgiveness was readily given. Tiana started chatting away like nothing happened and the boys continued watching the movie.
Perhaps the night could have continued without addressing Edric’s blow up and we would have all justified it in our minds. Upsetting as it was to see him lose his cool, I know he did so because he was concerned that Tiana could’ve gotten hurt. He imagined the possibility of her bumping her head on the floor (a trauma that he hasn’t forgotten since he left Elijah on the bed as an infant and he fell off, but that’s another story.) Like most parents, Edric meant well. However, his method of conveying protective instincts and care were not appropriate. It was still wrong for him to raise his voice and smack his hand on the bed for emphasis. So the kids needed to hear him say sorry. It mattered.
Everytime a father says sorry it matters. A father’s willingness to admit his wrong and be restored to his children is healing to the heart. It preserves the tenderness of their consciences and keeps them from growing hard.
I was blessed to have a father who knew how to say sorry for his mistakes and it certainly kept me from developing bitterness or anger. It also kept me from rejecting his teaching.
I pray Edric will continue to be sensitive in spirit as he leads our family. Our children, especially our sons, look up to him and deeply respect him. And that is not a unique phenomenon to our family. Children have a special admiration for their fathers. If that can be handled with the utmost care, a father will not only have their admiration, he will have their attention, giving him the blessed opportunity to influence them for good. Humility allows him to strengthen that chord of influence.
We are a bible-believing family. Edric knows he cannot afford to be a hypocrite. He cannot tell our kids to be Christ-like if he doesn’t model it himself. This evening, he knew that the Christ-like thing to do was say sorry. And I praise God that he did.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. (Colossians 3:21 NASB)