I’ve always wondered how a double dose of Mama Bear would feel and I just found out. He might as well have had a gun pointed at her head for the strength of how it felt as I saw him wind up to throw the old cell phone (now a toy) at her face. I’d set her on his bed so I could change his diaper before nap time and in an instant I saw that phone up in the air. What I also saw was a complete absence of malice. Just pure foolish curiosity. I yelled “No!” as big and important and fast as I could but it was already too late.
They both screamed for five minutes. Meredith from pain, Jacob from guilt, and both of them from shock. I held Meredith, told her Jacob had been only foolish and not mean, and let Jacob feel the lonely weight of his actions. He started signing “Sorry” and I tried to offer Meredith’s forgiveness loud enough for him to hear it and then they were both on my lap, having a crying contest, setting each other off in waves.
Jacob didn’t get any discipline from me on top of all that trauma. It was clear he’d learned his lesson and I’d had enough crying anyway. Gradually they wound down and Jacob valiantly kept it together, his little lip trying not to explode out into another wail each time Meredith cried again.
Five minutes later Meredith is calm and playing and Jacob’s diaper is changed but he is still huffing and puffing and his lip and his eyelids are still droopy. He keeps going back to the phone, afflicted by guilt in his little baby way. I take advantage of his soft heart and keep speaking to him gravely about how foolish he’d been, since I don’t exactly relish the thought of this ever happening again. He clearly understands and it is eating him up inside.
I pulled him onto my lap. “Jacob, is your sin making you feel sad? The thing is, when we sin and feel guilty we have to tell Jesus about it and if we tell him then he takes it away.” I helped him sign what he could. “Jesus…Sorry…” as I “told” Jesus from his perspective what he’d done, and then my heart overflowed as I found myself telling Jacob “Jesus says it’s all done now.” I pushed the phone away for dramatic effect. I quoted 1 John to him for the hundredth time, second nature from all my earliest childhood memories: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “Jesus says you don’t have to be sad anymore. You can be happy now because when He takes away our sins He gives us His Holy Spirit in our hearts to make us happy.”
We are learning the sign for happy lately and it came in handy. I told Jacob to go tell Meredith it was all done and he was happy now and I signed “happy” on Meredith, pointing out to Jacob that she was happy now, too. Then I remembered the concept of teaching them to be in fellowship through worship. I grabbed Meredith and he knew what was happening before I could even tell him and we did the Doxology Dance. The look on his face betrayed his glee at getting to act out this ritual a second time in one day. Like I’d just given him candy or something.
Is there anything more worthwhile than getting to teach your child how to deal with sin and guilt and be done with it? Getting to help them name their sin for what it was and getting to be Jesus’ voice and heart to them, telling them all is healed now and it’s all gone away?
(And the funny thing about the Double Mama Bear effect is that it cancels itself out. I loved them both too much to feel anything but nurture after that dramatic instant when I saw it about to unfold.)