It all started when I cupped my hand around my Lego creation, denying my Plum access to the choice block he decided he needed. We had been building for at least 45 minutes, competing to see who could create the best flying machine. Word to the wise, Plum always wins because he poaches the best pieces from his competitors. As an only child he gets away with this most of the time, especially with his grandma. Sometimes I push back a little, make him tackle me a bit. The ensuing tickle fest is just part of the routine. This time though something was different. When I didn’t let him have access to the wing piece or the special gem, maybe the little piece of dynamite, I really can’t remember, he curled up in a ball and told me he hated me. Twice. I’m sure this must have happened with my own two, but not the words I wanted to hear from my grandson. Not after a really hard week. Not before coffee.
I pulled back a bit, told him that is a really big word that we don’t use in our home, that it hurts people. “Fine, I’m sorry.” But he wasn’t, not yet. I left him to grandpa, went to get some air, distance, and the healer of all things, donuts, at the store close by. I was gone only five minutes, maybe ten. When I returned, thoughts cleared and feelings in check, perspective in place, I found a crumpled little boy destroyed by the idea that he had hurt me. We talked about love instead of hate. We remembered that nothing he could ever do would stop my love, that my love goes with him everywhere. He knew that. We talked about anger, words coming out of our mouth that we don’t mean, our responsibility to fix it. We talked about forgiveness. We hugged much, he cried on my lap. He offered me all of his Lego pieces. We chose to eat donuts instead.
Later as we entered his room, he told me, “This is where I said it.” The scar, the memories were fresh for him. I told him I had already thrown it all away, I didn’t know what he was talking about. The relief on his face as he realized we could do this, I would do this for him, was surely worth any pain I had felt initially. He decided to throw it away too. Once later in the day the memories must have snuck up on him as he told me he was still throwing it away, didn’t even remember anymore. I told him I didn’t either.
What if we all gave each other such grace? What if there was so much love and trust, knowing anger was rooted in hunger, tiredness, fear, that we could see beyond hurtful words to the child within? What if we agreed to a fresh start and just ate donuts together? Forgiveness is like that, throwing away what has come before, choosing not to remember the pain, focusing on the joys. This is a tough political season, many angry words are hurled, hate is spewed like it is a patriotic duty. Divisions are created between groups deciding whose lives matter. Violence is erupting with ever frequency throughout the world, close to home. Somehow those messages seeped into the language of a sweet five year old whose empathic nature knows no limits. Maybe it is just age appropriate. Maybe it is just the ugliness of the world around. But in this home, we will practice grace, one incident at a time. We will forgive and forget, we will hug and eat donuts and share Lego. Maybe that is enough to change the world, one child at a time. I will start with my Plum, anew each day, and keep the donuts handy.