Months ago, as my husband and I talked AGAIN about our older daughter’s behavior, I confessed something I’d realized about the situation. “I can’t start fresh,” I whispered. “My frustrations just keep building and building, and there’s no break, no relief, no blank slate.”
The conversations about our daughter’s disobedience and disrespect had begun bringing other issues to the table – namely, our tempers. We realized that our short fuses were contributing to the problem, but we didn’t know how to fix it. And I knew that this fresh start thing was part of it.
Without a fresh start, there’s no forgiveness. I couldn’t find my way out of the garbage heap of anger. I couldn’t see the light of grace.
Of course, everyone says that admitting your problem is the first step – and it is. But even though this realization – and the courage to describe it, out loud, to my husband – felt huge, it wasn’t enough. I needed to make a change for our family. I needed to do something different.
I wish I could say that difference happened naturally, on its own. That somehow I magically learned how to forgive and forget, and shower my child and myself with grace. (I imagine an Oprah scenario here. YOU get some grace! And YOU get some grace! EV-ER-Y-BODY gets grace!)
But that wouldn’t be true.
What happened instead is that I kept feeling angry and frustrated, and I kept losing my temper with my disobedient, disrespectful little girl. And I kept remembering that I am part of the problem. I would put her to bed, so mad at the latest argument and so glad to be finished with the day . . . and then I would cry because I didn’t know how to stop feeling that way.
But then! Then, as I lamented our struggle to her first-grade teacher, something DID change. My daughter’s teacher suggested we use the same color-coded behavior chart at home that they use in the classroom. I knew, several months into this school year, how important the color chart was to my daughter. Every afternoon, her response to my question, “How was your day?” was what color she was on.
A green day was good, average, normal, nothing to see here.
A yellow (or even red) day meant she was crying before she even got in the car.
A blue or pink day, though, was cause for celebration! High fives and hugs all around!
Okay, fine. We’d made a half-hearted attempt to use a color chart at home before and it didn’t help at all. But at this point, I was not just angry and frustrated, I was disappointed in myself and a little desperate for help.
And it worked. It worked! But not for the reasons I expected.
See, at school, the colors come with consequences – and the good colors come with prizes at times. Plus, there’s the added incentive of your classmates knowing where you stand each day. But none of that was in play at home. I wasn’t about to give out prizes for simple obedience, and her one-year-old sister didn’t care what color my daughter was on.
What made the difference was that at the end of the day, no matter how ugly or difficult or RED it was, I moved my daughter’s pin back to green. Every day starts at green. Every day starts fresh, blank, clean. It has the potential to be better or worse, but it starts on green.
Something about physically moving that clothespin back to the green spot on our laminated color chart reset my heart, too. Even after the worst days, that simple gesture lifted a burden from my heart. Moving my daughter’s pin back to green let me breathe again. It let me love her, better, again.
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.
I’m so thankful His mercies never cease and begin fresh every morning. And now, as I continue learning what my word of the year [grace] really means, I can finally offer the same gift to my daughter.
Do you ever struggle to offer fresh mercies to your daughter?
What can you do today to get “back to green,” to begin new?