Seeing him scrunch up his face and cry like he'd been wounded through the heart made we wish I had a medieval flaggellant on hand to smack across my back a hundred times.
I'm his mom. It's my job to keep calm and show him the type of mercy God has in store for all of us. If he doesn't come to recognize compassion in me, how will he ever come to recognize and emulate compassion in the world?
So I immediately pulled him close to me and apologized. I sat him on my lap and cuddled him to my chest saying, "Mommy was very wrong to be so mean. You are not a bad boy. You are a very good boy and I love you very, very much. I'm sorry for being mean and I am going to try really hard to be better for you."
Still crying, he nestled his head into my neck and said, "It's okay, Mommy. I still you're best friend."
I pulled him back to look at him. His little tears streaked down his face, so I wiped them away with my thumb. I kissed his cheek and said, "Mommy is not good enough for you, Vincent."
He looked back at me and he said, "Mommy, I love you. You a good girl. I still love you. You love me. I want to serve you. You serve me. That is love, right Mommy?"
I was stunned. Where did he get that from? I never compared service and love before. For a second, I wondered if he understood what the word "serve" meant and tried to figure out where he might've heard it before. It's just an odd turn of phrase for a 4 year old.
I laid him down on his bed and asked, "How'd you get so smart to say something like that?"
He just giggled and said, "I a smart cookie and you a smart cookie!"
I then laid down next to him and realized that he showed me exactly the sort of compassion I'd mentally chided myself for withholding from him. He was Jesus in that moment, showing me what true love looks like - forgiveness and an instant willingness to rejoin the circle of service that is indicative of care and compassion.
I'd made a mistake, I'd apologized, and I'd been forgiven - all in the span of 60 seconds. I failed as a parent, but God used my failing as a teachable moment. I learned something of what true mercy and love look like, and my son was able to exercise his mercy-muscles. I really don't deserve my son. He's such a good, wonderful little boy. I wonder sometimes how I got chosen to be his mother.
Then I realize the poor kid was sent precisely because I needed a teacher to guide me into becoming a better human being. I'm not molding him; he's molding me.
Again, the adage comes to mind: Adults do not make children; children make adults.