“You’re in your room for the rest of the summer!” My husband shouted to our five-year-old. “And you’re never coming out!” He slammed the door to the garage and shoved the car keys on the nearby hook.
It had all started as a regular, sunny Saturday. My husband suggested going to the pool for the afternoon. Our seven-year-old grabbed her towel and cover up. Our five-year-old flopped on the floor squealing something about the wrong pair of shoes.
And everyone came undone.
My husband had given the get-ready-for-the-pool directions, so I tried really hard to let him stay the parent in charge. But the louder the squeals, the harder and harder it got to not intervene with parenting advice and discipline directives.
You should know that our life changed a year ago. We moved across the country to be close to the medical care our daughter needs. Which meant my husband left his successful—yet demanding—dream career of high school coaching.
For the past 12 years, he spent most of his time instructing other people’s teenaged boys. He’s proficient in building a baseball program. Taking a team to regionals. Throwing his hat to argue the winning call. Teaching boys to become men. He is even the multi-named 5A Coach of the Year.
Consequently, until this past year, he hasn’t had a lot of experience in the kicking over shoes and puffy hair complaints from our two young girls.
Until this past year, our girls ate popcorn and played in the dirt behind the bleachers to cheer on their “Daddy Coach” at all the home games. Then I hurried them home to tuck them in at dusk, hours before Daddy was home from cleaning up the field.
But now, he is home with us on Saturdays. Now at bedtimes, he is reading the stories and saying the prayers. Now at dinnertime, he spoons veggies onto pink plastic plates and cuts meat into kid-sized bites.
So in the past year, my husband had a steep learning curve in getting acclimated to our home life. And I had a steep learning curve at letting him be involved, even though I’d always wanted him to be.
To put it bluntly, he wasn’t so sure he knew what to do in parenting our kids, simply because of lack of practice. And most days, I was sure his amateur hope in their cooperation was sorely overestimated.
Back to our sobbing five-year-old locked in her room for the summer. Our frustrated seven-year-old had goggles still perched on her head. My husband was across the living room, huffing that kids are hard and we never have fun and it always ends like this. I was trying to silence the “know-it-all” voice in my head and, instead, turn up the compassionate voice listening to my well-meaning husband discouraged over a tough parenting fail.
I had been there. Many, many times over the past seven years. This looked like his first rodeo. But I recognized the desire and the defeat in his eyes.
I wanted to fix it for our girls. I didn’t think what my husband had done was fair. Still, I didn’t think I should swoop in behind him to undermine his parental authority in our home.
I wanted to fix it for him, too. Give him the long list of ways I knew the girls would’ve responded differently from the first “grab your towels” request. Or ways he could’ve expected obedience starting at 8 a.m. Ways I’d proven it with our kids over the hours, days, years I’d spent parenting them. But I remembered I learned those from trial and error, too.
We all felt stuck when we’d set out for some fun.
Then he said it
In his resettled voice, he called everyone to the kitchen. Three sets of eyes stared at him, waiting. I could tell he was nervous. I’m sure the girls could, too.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said. “Mommy, I’m sorry. Annie, I’m sorry. Audrey, I’m sorry. I let my anger get to me.”
The stares continued because we weren’t expecting his admission.
“Just like I’ve been teaching you girls about repentance this week, sometimes Daddy has to admit he is wrong too. Then admit it to God, repent, and ask for forgiveness. So will you forgive me?”
The girls looked at me. I started nodding. Their little blonde heads followed.
“Is anyone still up for the pool? Can we start over and still have a fun afternoon together?”
Our girls didn’t need me to lead the nodding on that one.
Later that night as we cleaned up from dinner and brought the now-dried pool towels in from the patio chairs, I told my husband thank you. “What you did this afternoon changed our whole day. Thanks for saying what you said and doing what you did.”
His admission and apology definitely changed that Saturday for the four of us. But more than that, his humility and courage proved to both of us that he does in fact have the chops for this parenting stuff.
And I have to admit that while I might have logged more hours in the day-to-day duties, he just set the new standard for open communication, healthy confession, and apology in our home. That’s a great way to lead a family.
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Tracy Lane is a writer for FamilyLife. She is the author of numerous articles, coauthor of Passport2Identity, and guest on multiple FamilyLife Today broadcasts. Tracy and her husband Matt have two daughters. Follow her special needs motherhood journey at HeartForAnnie.wordpress.com. Find her on instagram @HeartForAnnie.