Berries in the snow

Why do we always remember the things we’d most like to forget?

My husband and son were still sleeping while my pre-teen daughter, Lilly, and I busied ourselves getting ready for a day of sightseeing. Our first family vacation in ages. You know we were pumped.

I’d forgotten my curling iron, so made do with a round brush Bill found at the local drugstore. A Swirly Curly. A Twirly Whirly. Something.

I stretched out a handful of hair and pulled the round brush through it, then smoothed the ends around the bristles and rolled the slender brush all the way to my scalp. Simple enough. Like a curling iron, right?

After a minute or two, I turned my wrist to unwind my hair. Nothing happened. I gripped harder and turned the brush with more authority. Zip. I slid my fingers between bristles and scalp and tugged. It still didn’t budge. A small knot of apprehension growing inside me, I yanked a bit harder. Ouch.

Tears sprang to my eyes. “Lilly,” I called out faintly, “I’m in trouble here.”

My daughter bounded into our shared bath and quickly assessed the problem.

“Help.” I grimaced as I pulled on the plastic handle. “It’s stuck.”

Even with Lilly’s nimble fingers and my trembling ones, the brush didn’t move. Frustration soon gave way to desperation. “Never mind!” I shrieked. “I’ll do it myself.”

What I did was make it worse, twisting and turning the brush until it was hopelessly tangled in my fine hair. “It won’t come out!” I wailed. “It will never come out!”

(When I told my hairdresser this story a week later, she shook her head. “Liz, you’re lucky you didn’t walk in here with the thing still dangling from your head. Those round brushes are strictly for people who know what they’re doing.”)

I definitely did not know what I was doing.


Since the sight of a grown woman with a bright pink brush permanently attached to her scalp had to be funny, I should have been howling with laughter. Instead I was howling, period. Screaming like a banshee. Stamping around the hotel room, waving my arms, hollering for Lilly to run down to the front desk and get me a pair of &%$#@ scissors.

I’m sorry, sisters. Just the ugly truth of it.

Minutes later, clearly frightened by her hysterical mother, Lilly handed me the scissors and watched in horror as I hacked away at my hair with tears and gnashing of teeth.

The brush went in the trash. Sadly, our family vacation nearly landed there too.

It took an hour for me to calm down, and even longer for poor Lilly. My husband felt guilty all day, thinking he’d picked the wrong brush (or the wrong wife). And our teenage son walked ten paces behind us, pretending he didn’t know the woman with the red-rimmed eyes and the punk haircut.

A delightful day ruined for . . . what? A clump of hair that nobody missed but me. And a $4 brush that was history.

Rather than teaching my kids how a mature adult handles life’s tiny challenges, I’d showed them how a grown woman can behave like a toddler. Arrggh.

Even worse, my daughter can still describe that scene, word for horrible word, fifteen years later. If children learn from our example — and they do — I’d taught mine the worst kind of lesson.

What’s a bad mother to do? As soon as I’d swallowed my pride, I confessed my sins to my family. Then I confessed to God that I needed His forgiveness. Again. Still. Always.

The Bible assures us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” {1 John 1:9}.

Being forgiven is gift enough. Being washed clean? Priceless.

So, were my children scarred for life? Considering how easily we laugh about it now, I’m thinking they survived. Their faith is stronger than ever. And they definitely learned something: what not to do.

I learned a few things too.

Laugh in the moment, not just at the memory.
Let go of the stress, before you make a mess.
Make sure your last words are, “I’m sorry.”
When you tell the story, give God the glory.

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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I had one of those brushes too…mine ended up where yours ended up…in the trash lol. Oh how I need to “let go of the stress, before I make a mess!” I get frustrated and stressed out easily. I know over the years, God has been continually stretching my patience muscles. I am so thankful, however, that when I do mess up (and I certainly still do and will do till the grave), that God is quick to forgive and faithful to wash me clean. What an awesome God we have who still wants to live in relationship with us- sinful mortals that we are!! Thank you for a great (and laughable) reminder!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs

      Thanks for the “me, too,” dear Bev. Our loving, forgiving God is indeed amazing!

  • Tammy S

    First email I read for the day, first laugh and recall of the day. Been there, done that. I have sons…they did laugh. Mine didn’t end up in the trash, I was bound and determined to win…finally did. My boys haven’t brought it up, but I think they have the memory stored for a better moment except my oldest, who is autistic, who breaks out in a laughter fit when he sees me styling my hair. My fear has always been the really bad stuff, the things I did before God’s grace saved me. Did I screw up my son’s? Then I remember that He promised to teach my children about Himself, Himself. They don’t bring up the past, they see the change Jesus did in their mother. They are being taught by God Himself who He really is and how He will and does forgive anything and everything period!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs

      Believe me, I’m right there with you, Tammy. And your conclusion is exactly right: God teaches our children about Himself by Himself! They learn from us too (as I said, often what NOT to do!), yet God in His grace uses it ALL to teach us about Him!

  • LaToya Brown

    Great life-lesson Liz. As a mother, too, I’d rather teach them in patience with the utmost excellence…but that is not always the case.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs

      Sigh. So, so true. That’s why I wanted to offer that word of comfort as a mother of grown children, they DO survive our foolishness…and so does their faith!

  • Mary Haynie

    Been there, done that. Especially when the hair dresser “shows you how”, you get the recommended brush, and it gets stuck. Lord, guide me in these times. Amen

    • Liz Curtis Higgs

      Now, you made ME laugh, Mary! I just steer clear of those brushes now. And yes, Lord, help us…in ALL things!

  • Cassie

    Thanks for the morning laugh! But what a great and true message. I’m often literally biting my tongue around my kids since Ive seen time and time again how they repeat and live out everything they see us do – the good, the bad and the ugly.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs

      Nothing is more humbling than chastising our kids for doing something, only to realize they saw US do it first. Sigh. How faithful is our heavenly Father, who puts up with us again and again…and forgives us, again and again!

  • MaryJean Blair

    I think the greatest gift we can give our children is the compassion we show ourselves when we screw up, because we will again and again. If they see our love for ourselves when we do, they will mirror this and be able to show compassion for themselves, just like Jesus does!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs

      Brilliant, MaryJean. So glad you added this wise perspective. Even now, as a mother of 20-somethings, I can apply that wisdom! THANKS!

  • Seeking Autumn

    I HAVE DONE THIS!! It took a whole bottle of conditioner to get it out and I tore out so much hair in the process! I might have tantrummed also. I loved this post. With my own pre-teen I’m finding myself acutely aware of how the aspects of her behaviour I find the most challenging most closely reflect my own worst behaviour. They are little mirrors. And you’re so right, it’s so important to be able to own up and say sorry when we do have our moments! Hopefully they’ll mirror that too!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs

      “Little mirrors”…so well said! I’m glad I’m not the only woman with round brush issues (smile) and even more grateful to know I have sisters who are looking in the same direction for help and hope. Bless you, Lord Jesus, for seeing us through!

  • Kristi Woods

    How did you know these words would “hit home” today? Oh my… Liz, your words brought a smile and laughter – both sorely needed. Parenting blues and runaway emotions touted their “giant” status this week. He spoke words of “don’t be so hard” directly to my heart while reading your post. Good medicine. Now, to pick up that sling shot…and show this to my teens…. Oh, and I’m so glad you’re no longer running around with a pink hairbrush in your hair. Those things are deadly. ;-)

  • Susan

    I’m sure I could write a small book on “what not to do.” And you know what? I think I used one of those blanket blank blank brushes years ago.

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Praise God for the resiliency he builds into our children. In spite of parenting mistakes and failures, they can still grow into sane, capable adults. Whew!

  • Karen Grant

    Liz, You have such a wonderful way with words! I enjoy reading all your stories and especially enjoy your humor and beautiful, colorful pictures. Loved your ending…
    Laugh in the moment, not just at the memory.Let go of the stress, before you make a mess.
    Make sure your last words are, “I’m sorry.”
    When you tell the story, give God the glory. AMEN! The Lord bless you and keep you dear Liz, and your family. PS: I smile and laugh every time I recall your ‘Pumpkin’ Testimony!!!

  • Nathana Clay

    I do hate those brushes! I love your point about asking for forgiveness. We will mess up as parents, but when we do that provides us the opportunity to be humble and model asking for forgiveness. Our daughter is 9 months, and her little eyes watch everything we do and her little ears little to every word and tone of voice. It is intimidating! I don’t know if she understands yet, but I am trying to always apologize and ask for her forgiveness when I speak harshly or get irritated.

  • Kristen W

    Although my story is a bit different (having three young boys!) this is just what I needed to hear as they are all napping and I’m replaying how I showed them how NOT to act when in the face of pure chaos, yelling, “Put down the d@$:$: axe!” It’s a plastic fireman’s axe. Not a knife. And once again, I needed to genuinely ask for forgiveness and yet praise the Lord at the same time that I can point to Him and assure (and SHOW!) them that God forgives our sins! Praise be!! Parenting is hard! And love covers a multitude of sins! Again, I will yet praise Him!!
    Thank you SO much for your post, Liz! It was honeycomb to my soul! Truly.