I wish I could title this post the first and last time I threw shame at my son, but that would be a lie.

I can say I’ve tried. I can say I’ve worked hard to be a good mom, most of the time. I can say I’ve said sorry to my kids when I’ve done wrong. I can say I have amazing children, so there’s that.

But I remember the first time clearly, like you remember a scene in a movie.

He was little, toddling around my kitchen in that little trailer we lived in when he was born. I’m sure I was tired and maybe mad at my husband about something, or lonely because we’d moved into a community where it had been tough to make friends, or who knows? He was by the fridge, reaching for something I didn’t want him to have. I told him no and he grinned that baby grin that says I hear you but I’m doing this anyway, and then I yelled at him.

You know the expression, his face fell? I know exactly what that looks like, because his did. He looked confused and hurt and anxious, and he started to cry. And I cried, too. Because something changed that day. That day, I realized I would fail my children.

Of course I held him and kissed him and of course he loved me still, and I suppose he forgot about it.

But I haven’t. Nor have I forgotten the time I slapped a little boy’s hands at a group gathering, and heard the woman beside me gasp. Nor have I forgotten the time my little man came up to me with a mouth so full of candy he could hardly speak and I made him go make a slobbery confession and apology to my friend whose kitchen goodie drawer he’d raided.

There are other times, but these memories are enough to spit bad mommy at me when they come to mind.

Of all the things I wish I could change about raising my boys, shaming them is at the top of the list.

Shaming them was never about them. Shaming them, every single time I did it, was about me. It was always about my insecurity, my need to look like a good mom, my difficult relationship with someone else.

These have been the hardest mommy moments in which to find forgiveness. I’ve owned them. I’ve apologized for them. I’ve asked for forgiveness for them, but they linger at the edges of my memory. If I could have parenting do-overs, these would be the ones.

I don’t know how you get through the parenting years without mistakes. I guess you can’t.

I do know my kids have a shining example of an imperfect mom who, in spite of all her mistakes and mess, loves them to heaven and back.

Thank goodness for grace.