I have been handing out the consequences easily lately; mostly to my boys but in my head to anyone and everyone. I strangely like punishment to others and to myself but it also doesn't feel right or good. I am trying to better assess the ways I am trying to correct and teach my two boys. I know I could do better and am trying to figure out how. This has made me think of two stories from my past.
First story. In my first year of marriage, I got a parking ticket at college. I was ashamed and didn't tell Bryan. I paid the ticket and kept it to myself. I felt bad for the stupid action of running late to class and parking where I knowingly should not have parked but hoping I could get away with it for a little while. I was caught and had to pay the price, literally for my actions. I paid the $20 parking ticket and thought I could just forget about it. I knew that $20 was a big deal to us at the time but also that Bryan could easily never find out. The thing was that I couldn't just forget about it. I thought about it repeatedly. At my core I really like to be honest about everything. I am terrible at keeping secrets. Honesty comes easily to me and I have to work hard to hold back the truth sometimes, even when it will hurt others. About two weeks went by and I couldn't take it any more. I had to tell Bryan. I knew he would be disappointed in me. I was sure what he would say and expected it not to be nice. I planned on getting hurt and feeling worse but knowing that I could live more freely and get it off my mind. It seemed worth it to spill the truth and move on with life. So the day came and I told Bryan. His reaction blew me away. It wasn't at all what I expected. He listened calmly to my short confession. He said it was no big deal. I felt a huge weight from my actions and he was saying no big deal! What?! I couldn't figure out how to emotionally recover. This was such a big thing to me and mattered so little to him. I have went back to this story in my mind repeatedly. I felt like I kept a terrible secret from him and he had all the perspective I needed. He appreciated that I told him. I promised to never keep a secret from him. He downplayed the whole thing. I loved him more. I felt more accepted and more loved. Amazing and healing. Powerful and I want more of that.
Second story. I was in high school driving to meet my boyfriend and future husband who lived 100 miles away from me. My motherly older sister loaned me her car to drive to him. This was a first! I took advantage of her generosity. I was running later than I planned and later than I told Bryan so to make up for lost time, I drove fast. I drove very fast, faster than I'd ever driven. I got pulled over by a cop. This was not my first time getting pulled over for speeding, but the previous time, I was barely speeding and in town. This was significantly over the speed limit and on an interstate. I was irresponsible and reckless but still thought I was safe--teenage immaturity. I got a ticket for over $50, cheap by most state standards. I drove off later than ever to make it to see Bryan. He was just happy to see me and didn't care about the ticket. I had the money to pay for the ticket from working and paid it even though it was very painful. I was 17 years old and figured that my parents were likely to get something in the mail about my ticket even though I had the papers and paid the ticket and they never saw or heard about it. I checked the mail every day for a week. I figured maybe I'd get off easily and nothing would be sent to my house. Maybe my parents would never find out. I underestimated the time for a letter to get to my parents. About two weeks after my ticket, a letter came in the mail and my parents opened it. It had all the information about my ticket. I was caught! My parents gently confronted me about it. I told them I already paid it and apologized for not telling them. My grace-filled parents were done with their parenting but my sister was not done. My sister not-so-gently informed me that I would never be driving her car again and definitely, not ever, would be driving to visit my boyfriend again. Ouch! I screwed up. I didn't like this consequence. It hurt and I felt like I had already learned my lesson from the cop and the money I lost. This extra consequence stung and left a bad aftertaste.
These two stories have reminded me that I want to leave my boys learning a lesson but also make sure that I leave them with a good aftertaste. Lately I know I have been leaving my boys with a terrible taste in their mouths. They remind me that I already gave them a consequence or they negotiate for lesser punishment. I know I went too far and the lesson has been made foggy. I need more grace for each of my boys, my husband and for myself. Grace teaches and heals. Grace leaves us wanting more grace.