One dewy morning in late summer, I awoke and noticed dozens of perfectly spun spider webs on the rails of our backyard deck.
My husband, three sons, and I spent fifteen minutes outside examining them, in awe of the intricacies of each web.
When I went back into the sunroom, my four-year-old son, Reed, was poking a web with a stick. I reminded him that the spiders wove those webs in order to trap insects to eat, and told him to leave the webs alone.
A few minutes later when I looked out the window, I noticed the webs were gone. I called my boys into the sunroom and asked what happened to the webs. No one answered.
“The spiders put time and effort into making those webs, then someone came along and destroyed them just to be mean,” I said, giving Reed the eye.
This may seem dramatic, but my Boy Scout father raised me to experience nature without disrupting it, and my husband and I encourage our kids to do the same. If it’s not harming you, leave it alone.
The boys stood quietly.
“We respect nature, not destroy it,” I scolded, then sent them back to the living room.
At least an hour later, Reed approached me. “Mommy,” he began timidly, “if the spiders catch all the flies, the toads won’t have anything to eat.”
“What?” I asked.
“If the spiders catch all the flies in their spider webs, the toads won’t have anything to eat.”
“Ohhhh,” I said, instantly feeling horrible. “That’s why you destroyed the webs. Come here,” I said, opening my arms.
I squeezed that little boy so hard – that little boy who loves toads more than anything else in nature.
That little boy who catches them with his hands and makes habitats for them in buckets and bins, making sure they have grass and moisture and a carefully-chosen piece of bark to sit on.
“I’m sorry I scolded you, Buddy,” I said, pulling back and looking him in the eyes. “Mommy didn’t understand your heart. But now I do. Thank for for telling me this.”
He hugged me again.
“I love you, Mommy. You’re pretty.” Then he bounced back to his race track.
I sat with tears in my eyes, regretting that I’d had it all wrong — that my scolding didn’t leave any room for explanation, any space for grace.
Just a few weeks earlier, someone had been wrong about me. Someone I cared for deeply jumped to a far-off conclusion, then dug her heels in on it, refusing to hear the words of my heart.
There was no forgiveness or reconciliation. No open arms. No grace.
It was awful.
Yet, how easily I made my own child feel the same way.
How often, I wonder, do we hurt one another by…
Jumping to false conclusions.
Taking offense over things that have nothing to do with us.
Concerning ourselves more with rightness than reconciliation.
And each time, we become more hardened. Less forgiving. Stuck in the webs we’ve woven around ourselves.
I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be like that. I want to remember my son’s face as he approached me with the knowledge that I’d already made my mind up about him. Even a four-year-old knew I had it all wrong — that I was so far off about his heart. Thank goodness he had the courage to approach me. Thank goodness we’ve reconciled ourselves to one another enough times that he knew he could count on it.
I hope that the next time (and I’m sure there will be many next times), I remember to assume the best in others. To stop talking, stop scolding, and listen to the why. To realize yet again that it’s simply not about me.
And to always leave room for grace.