When I was in high school, I had a fender bender in my dad’s car. Dad drove a Nissan Pulsar NX, a very small and somewhat sporty little car that Dad really liked. When I say, “very small,” I mean that it was short and compact enough to fit nicely beneath the rear bumper of an eighteen-wheeler. In fact, that is exactly where I found myself late one night, after momentarily allowing my attention to drift while driving the car.
The driver of the truck drove away before I could even get out of the car to tell him that I’d collided with him. I don’t think he even noticed I’d hit him. However, I did manage to put a fairly nice-sized dent in the hood of Dad’s car.
Like any teenager in this situation, I was pretty scared how Dad would react. When he woke up the next morning, I went and told him what had happened.
“OK. Let’s go take a look,” he said.
We walked out to the driveway, and my heart was pounding the entire time.
Dad paused in front of the car and looked at carefully.
Then he simply said, “Well. It looked better before.” At that point he went back inside the house. I knew that was his way of telling me that he didn’t want me to worry about the dent. He chose to let it go.
Many years later, he told me that he prayed for wisdom while we were walking toward the car. He remembered a few things that informed his response:
(1) It was an accident, not a moral failure or a rebellious action.
(2) I already felt pretty terrible about it and I willingly admitted what I’d done.
(3) The car wasn’t worth that much, to be honest. Certainly not as much as his relationship with me. (If I remember correctly, he didn’t even bother to fix it – if he had, I’m sure he’d have made me help with the cost).
(4) It could’ve been much worse.
That moment has shaped my own parenting responses more than a lot of other things my father said or did. I think of it a lot, not only because it makes me laugh, but because it helps me to remember that some things aren’t worth getting angry about. Also that kids are worth more than cars. And that accidents are just that: accidents. They happen to everyone.
And also, I remember that everyone needs grace. Today it might be your kid, but tomorrow it’s likely going to be you. Extending grace creates an environment of grace. What sort of environment are you creating around you today?