My daughter was expelled from Mother’s Morning Out.
When she was two.
“I cannot believe that Sandy King’s daughter bites.”
Talk about a slap in my perfect parent facade. I was an older mom (at 38) and supposedly wiser. But I was raising a biter.
It all started at a Gymboree open house. Abby and some little boy had gotten into the same tire, and he wanted to love on her. He closed in for a hug, but she’d have none of that. She could not repel his advances, so she did what she had to do. She bit him. And drew blood.
I was mortified.
We never signed up for Gymboree.
My husband worked long hours then, and Abby and I spent hours alone hundreds of miles from family. Often I would sit with her on the floor while she played, and I’d fall asleep. I could not stay awake. I feared something horrible was wrong with me, so I went to see my doctor.
“You’re depressed,” he told me. And prescribed medicine.
I felt guilty about that. Not only was I parentally flawed, but I was also now proven flakey.
The adoption people must have preapproved us in error.
A local church opened a Mother’s Morning Out program. I signed my girl up right away. I needed a break, and we figured the Gymboree incident was just a fluke. She’d been fine in the church nursery.
But then I got the call. She’d bitten a little boy in the middle of his back. Out of nowhere.
I couldn’t believe it. “Come in next week,” the teacher told me, “and just observe.”
I cried right there in the office, and the next week I watched as the teacher sat on the floor reading out loud to Abby and two other children seated close. I saw Abby lean over and take a chunk out of a kid’s arm before either the teacher or I could stop her. For no reason. (Though years later she told me she just liked the feel of skin between her teeth.)
We were fired from Mother’s Morning Out.
And, of course, it was all my fault.
My fault the children got bit. My fault my mother-in-law died because the nurse-me didn’t pay attention to the symptoms. My fault when we ran into financial struggles because I quit working. My fault when my children made bad choices. My fault, of course, when I made bad parenting decisions.
Then there’s guilt for the broken lamp I lied about. For stealing my brother’s money to order a first bra from the Aldens catalogue. I didn’t go to my own sister’s wedding. (Yeah, that one still reduces me to rubble.)
There’s guilt because I spend more time with words than with Windex.
And by the way, it’s also my fault when the sun shines too hot and when the wind blows too strong and when the rain falls too hard.
I’m more than eager to take responsibility for everything. Especially the bad stuff.
Because guilt is my idol, but I’m giving it up. I’m not going to grovel under it no more, no more, no more, no more.
So hit the road, Jack. And don’t you come back no more.
I’m not going to give you the time of day or any more of my attention.
Because you, guilt, are not the god of me.
And contrary to my belief, I cannot control life. I cannot control how others respond to life.
I can’t even control the weather.
Because… newsflash… I’m. Not. God.
But I’ve been preapproved by God.
Preapproved before I was a promise in my mama’s pouch.
Preapproved to be a parent to two particular kids.
Preapproved to live a guilt-free life because Jesus took my certificate of debt and stamped it with His love.
Tetelestai! Finished! Paid in full.
Just as I am.
So goodbye, guilt. And I hope the door hits you hard on the way out.
In the stillness,
If you’re still enough, you’ll hear it. It’s an idol smackdown. Can you feel the shaking? There’s a movement afoot based on a new book written by my dear friend, Jennifer Dukes Lee. It’s called Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval–and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. It releases on April Fool’s Day. In it, Jennifer “invites us to make peace with our imperfections and to stop working overtime for a love that is already ours.” She’s asking us this Lent to let go of those things that take up space in our heart meant for God alone. To let them go forever. Will you join The Love Idol Movement? Let’s be fools for God together and give our idols the boot.