Grace, No Shows, and Forgetting Kids
Parallel process is a clinical term used to describe the common occurrence in therapy when the therapist’s own experience is reflected in the client’s. It is when a client comes in grieving over the loss of a loved one while the therapist has only just experienced his or her own loss as well. It is a therapist helping a client through feelings of anger and hurt that the therapist has also just recently confronted.
But, here’s the thing: we are all in parallel process. Too often in life it goes unsaid.
Here is where I say it.***
Grace is the middle name of my middle daughter. That’s pretty much what grace is for me: the center of everything.
For some grace is a definition memorized: “unmerited favor”. For others it is something you say before you eat while holding hands with your family. And, for some it is a personality or behavior characteristic that means you don’t trip very often. You are either born with it or you aren’t.
For me, grace is a sigh of relief…when someone extends it to me or, better yet, when I extend it to myself, I can relax. I do not have to be perfect. I can mess up and still be loved. I can have a bad day, be weird, have a dirty house, stumble over my words…and at the end of it all…still get a warm hug and an invitation to come back any time.
Grace has boundaries. It is loving and kind and firm. When a person makes a mistake, grace doesn’t necessarily say: “Its ok. Don’t worry about it,” because that comment isn’t very honest.
Responding with “Don’t worry about it” isn’t necessarily grace. It doesn’t own up to the mistake…
…but it doesn’t own up to the forgiveness either.
Grace says: “I appreciate the apology. I forgive you. “
That comment, like grace, can also be difficult to receive.
Grace gives a hug or a smile that says: “I know that this mistake is not who you are. I don’t expect it to happen again. I will love you and treat you as if it will never happen again.”
It is my desire that grace permeate my relationships…including my various professional ones.
As with most offices in some sort of health care, from time to time a person will forget to show up for an appointment. Is this frustrating? Sure. I would be lying to say that it isn’t. Good clinicians have good boundaries. One of my boundaries is a fairly typical one in that I still charge for missed appointments without a 24-hour notice. Why? I have saved that time, usually an hour, just for that client. I am only in the office a certain number of hours a week with a waiting list of other clients who would have loved to come in that hour. With a 24 hour notice I can offer that time to someone…no problem. A no show is impossible to fill.
I am blessed in that this situation rarely happens. I have amazing clients who are very respectful about time.
I also have another policy that I often employ: Grace. Here is what usually happens. The previous client has left, I write my notes for that session, and then I wait. At about five minutes past time I begin to suspect that the person has forgotten. I wait a little longer and when it is fifteen minutes past, I give them a call. Usually they have completely forgotten and are so embarrassed. They begin to apologize profusely.
What happens next usually stops them in their tracks.
I acknowledge their apology. I do not brush it off in an attempt to get them to stop feeling bad. “I appreciate your apology. AND, I know that these things happen. As you know, I usually charge if a person misses an appointment, but I like to extend grace the first time. Would you like to re-schedule for another time?”
Sometimes I am working with hard working perfectionists and the idea that they have made a mistake, that it is acknowledged, and they will still receive grace startles them. They might find it refreshing. They might resent it. They might stiffen. However they respond, it will be something we address in the next session.
If it happens again, I charge. And, that is extending grace, too. It is a boundary that is gracious and says: “I am not going to be ok with you doing this because deep down I know you are not ok with it either.”
My former supervisor said it so well: “Don’t forget. Scheduling and payment are therapy issues, too.”
Here is the thing about grace…you cannot give it to others in a healthy, meaningful way, unless you are able to receive it and allow it for yourself.
Giving grace to clients and helping them give grace to themselves has taught me so much about allowing God’s grace for me. I see people who are hard on others because they are so hard on themselves.
I carpool pick up with a friend and family member whose children attend the same elementary school. It was the last day of school and I was helping with the “end of the year” party. It was my day to take home my daughter and her cousin.
I walked into the party and said to another mom and friend: “I can’t forget to get Eloise’s cousin when we leave today.”
You guessed it.
Read on for the cringe worthy details.
I picked up all of the party material and told my daughter to gather her things. I told her teacher goodbye, which was a little emotional for us because this teacher had been very special to Eloise and to me. She had been MY first grade teacher, too. I was in her first first grade class and Eloise was in her last first grade class. She was retiring.
As I left the building I knew I was forgetting something. I could not figure out what it was.
Several minutes later I was home and got a phone call. As I saw the school’s number come up on my phone I remembered what, or rather WHOM, I had forgotten.
In a panic, I pushed all three of my kids, some half dressed, into the van and we quickly drove back to school to pick up a sweet little boy. On the way his mom called me.
Now, tell me how YOU would feel telling a mom that you had forgotten their child at school and that he was one of the very last children there waiting in the office wondering where his ride was?
I was mortified.
I took my friend’s son home and when he got out of the van, just like my clients, I started to apologize profusely. I was so embarrassed.
I don’t remember what the mother said to me. I was in such a state of humiliation. I do know that she forgave me.
I also know that I had to own up to the fact that I messed up. I goofed.
I drove home so very painful of that reality.
I am an imperfect human being.
It’s not that I just LIKE grace and think it is a nice thing to have around and it makes life a little neater and bearable.
I NEED grace. I NEED forgiveness.
I am desperate for it.
Sometimes I have to be ok saying: “I’m sorry. I messed up”
That is tough. Saying it that forthright.
No passing the blame.
And, sometimes I have to be ok with the other person being not ok with me for a little while until everything gets settled and some time has passed.
That is grace, too…giving them space to not be ok for a while.
That part is super tough.
It is these times, while we are waiting on the grace and forgiveness of others, that we have to rely on the grace and forgiveness of our God. We have to be able to accept it and make room for it for ourselves.
Now, someone please tell me they have forgotten a kid, too!