Recently, my seven year-old son and I were sitting in Denver International Airport patiently waiting for our flight to the UK to begin boarding. We had just finished a game of Pass the Pigs when my son began to cry.  I asked him what was wrong and he says, “I am really going to miss Nana.” Now, if you know my son he plays a little hard to get and has been this way with my mom ever since he could talk. So, this was a huge stepping stone for my son. After we called Nana and shed some more tears we just sat there and cuddled. I looked at my son and all I could think is how blessed I am to have him in my life.

Shortly after takeoff a lady, who had been watching us, leans over and whispers, “You can tell you and your son share a very deep bond. It is a beautiful thing to see.” After a few minutes of small talk and a brief overview of our family history, this woman tells me how she is struggling after receiving recent news that her twenty-year-old daughter is pregnant from her emotionally abusive boyfriend. She and her husband had tried everything to help their daughter see that her boyfriend was wrong for her. She told me that she couldn’t understand why this was happening. She felt helpless, confused, and as though she had failed as a parent. After listening for some time I offered her my story.

At the age of 18, I thought I was smarter than my parents. I had been dating a guy for quite some time who I thought was “the one”.  None of my friends, parents, or siblings agreed. They were actually scared about our emotionally abusive relationship. They tried to tell me this on numerous occasions, but no one could change my mind. See, everyone around me saw what was truly going on, but I couldn’t.

My parents, fearful of me getting too involved with this guy, pulled me out of school after my freshman year in college. I was furious. I couldn’t believe they would do something like this to me. After talking to my parents I agreed to stay home for at least six months to decide if it was better for me to remain in Denver or go back. After six months, I made the decision my parents feared most. I decided to go back and I ran right back into the arms of the guy they were trying to protect me from.

As time passed, I slowly started to see what everyone was trying to tell me. I tried to walk away on numerous occasions but could never find the strength to just do it. The emotional abuse turned into physical abuse on one occasion and that is when it hit me; I needed to get out of this relationship but, I didn’t know how. 

A few months later I found out I was pregnant. I remember being so angry with myself for letting it get this far. I was about to walk away for good this time.

I got on the first flight to Denver to tell my parents the news.  My sisters picked me up from the airport and the tears didn’t stop flowing for the forty-five minute trip to my parents. As my parents opened the front door, they were completely surprised that I was home. Little did they know they were about to hear the most shocking, life-changing news from their twenty-year-old daughter.  Nothing could have prepared me for that conversation.

As I finished telling my parents I was pregnant the room grew awkwardly silent. My mom had tears in her eyes and I couldn’t tell what was going through my dad’s head, which absolutely terrified me. Moments later my dad turns to me and asks very simply, “So, what are you going to do? Are you going to marry him?” I looked at him with tears starting to roll down my cheeks and replied with a very hesitant, “Yes.” In my eyes, that was all I could do. I didn’t see any other option.

What happened next changed my life and the way I looked at my parents. My dad said, “Marrying him because you are pregnant would be the worst decision you could ever make, not just for you, but for your child. We love you and are here to support you in any way we can. We can’t make this decision for you. We just hope you make the right one.”

Relief radiated through my body. The idea that I could have a second chance was something I never thought possible. I never ended up marrying my son’s father but we remain friends to this day. If it weren’t for my family and their selfless act of love and forgiveness, things would be a lot different for me and my son.

Looking back, my family taught me one of the most important lessons of my life that day. They taught me that everyone deserves a second chance. Second chances are about unconditional love and forgiveness. In my case, those affected by my decision had to forgive me but I also had to learn to forgive myself. This forgiveness formed a new bond rooted in hope, love and trust.

As a daughter and sibling, I learned that I could rely on my family for anything. No matter what I did, I would be loved.  However, just because they love me unconditionally doesn’t mean I can go do whatever I want. It is quite the opposite. I can show my unconditional love and respect for my family by choosing to be a better person for them, as well as for myself, through the choices I make.  Each person in the family contributes to the whole. If one person falls, the entire family is there to catch them, pick them up and help them back on the right path, but we have to work together.

As a parent, my family’s unconditional love and forgiveness taught me many lessons to take into my own parenting. I have learned that being a parent constantly requires us to be merciful and gracious with our children. It is important that our children understand that we all wander off the path at some point or another and make bad decisions. It is what we do after we make those mistakes that truly matters. We have to let our children know that we love them unconditionally that none of us are perfect and we all fall. 

Additionally, we have to remember that just because our children make mistakes doesn’t mean we have failed as parents. It simply means we have done the best we can with what we have been given. The beautiful thing is we as parents have the opportunity for a second chance as well. All we have to do is continue to live our lives according to virtue. As a result our children will begin to see the positive effects of our actions and in time come to model their lives around virtue as well. 

Second chances provide people with hope, patience and gratefulness. Hope for a better future, patience while making the right decisions and gratefulness for the opportunity to be able to start over and learn from our mistakes.

Without my family and their virtuous example I wouldn’t be where I am today. It has been a long journey, but it has led me to my wonderful husband and children. I have my family to thank for giving me a second chance and for giving me hope.

When is a time when you have been given a second chance?

How does it make you feel when you are given a second chance?

When is a time you gave someone a second chance?

Why did you do it?

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