dog playfully rolling on its back

“The Dog Ate My Homework” and Other Dumb Excuses We Need to Dump NOW

After three years of marriage, my daughter and son-in-law found a little “fixer-upper” and asked me to help them fix it up. They know I’m all about DIY stuff, especially when I see the miraculous things people do when they flip houses on TV.

Those hour-long, “trash-to-treasure” shows appeal to my creative side. I couldn’t wait to jump in. We decided it would take two weekends—the first to clean, the next to move. Our plans were set.

But That Was Before I Saw the Place!

In spite of the house’s condition and with the enthusiasm of Chip and Joanna Gaines, my son Jon, Ashley, and I unloaded a mammoth amount of cleaning materials: chemicals that would kill about anything, power tools, and lawn equipment. We were on it!

About an hour into day one, all the glory and glamour of flipping a place flew out the dirt-covered, bug-laden window. I considered calling HGTV to ask if they did charity work.

As we wrapped up the weekend, we had accomplished only part of the yard and the kitchen. Our day of DIYing was nothing like the one-hour “trash-to-treasure” magic we see on TV.

On the drive home, I thought about having to return the next weekend. Every muscle was sore, and Jon was cranky. Perhaps our plans could be altered. I pondered how I would ask my daughter about changing the plans.

That’s a real nice way of saying, “I’m thinking more about my comfort than following through on my promise.”


I hate how selfish that sounds. Few things are as ugly as trying to justify selfishness—a character trait I have wrestled with all my life. Just toss in,

Oh, the dog ate my homework” in place of, “The truth is . . . I want __________ instead of the responsibility of keeping my word or completing the task assigned.

My older kids have had to be abundantly adaptable due to their brother’s special needs. I have yet to meet a family who hasn’t struggled with trying to balance life’s demands, including those constant, huge complications, like . . .

  • Being uprooted
  • Being bullied at school
  • Enduring domestic abuse
  • Experiencing divorce
  • Caring for one with special needs

For me, I’ve endured because of prayer, God’s grace, outstanding counselors, prayer, loads of forgiveness, prayer, family support, and the love of my husband. And did I mention prayer?

I’ve experienced incredible healing . . . but I’m still a work in progress.

Let God Step In

Believe me on this one: God can take the biggest disaster, our worst character flaws, seeming impossibilities . . . and do miracles. It’s a game changer when we are willing to face our flaws (and we all have them), accept responsibility, and stop making excuses.

When we allow God to take control, He steps in and healing can happen.

In all of a few minutes, I could tell my request to change weekends hurt Ashley in more ways than dates on a calendar. I heard tears in my daughter’s reply.

Clearly, there was more to our phone conversation than the words spoken. My desire to change plans tapped into her old feelings of being invisible, unimportant, forgotten, alone—the things parents often don’t address because they don’t want to, which leaves kids at a loss as to processing their feelings.

Often, they have no words for this because they haven’t been given words or the freedom to express their feelings in safety.

After hanging up, I thought about all the years she had lived in the shadows of Jon’s disabilities, those times I was absent because I was with Jon at a doctor’s office or when I was distracted by other family difficulties. Here we were again.

Candidly, my request to postpone our DIY project was more about being tired and sore. I hate how selfishness gets disguised as sore muscles, a weary body, not enough time . . . you name it.

What her tears were really saying was, “Mom, I’m longing for you to be present, be predictable, and provide the help you promised.”

The worst part happened the next day. She called, incredibly conflicted. On one side, she was apologizing for sounding like a “spoiled brat”; the other was her authentic way of saying, “I need you and want you to show up.” A one-two punch; I was being selfish, and my behavior has conditioned her to feel responsible for that.

Mom and Daughter
(Photo Courtesy of

My heart broke, remembering all the times I had reinforced her sorrow by being absent, unpredictable, and making excuses for not following through. We carry a lot of shame when our parents haven’t taken responsibility for their excuses.

It’s amazing how grossly creative we can be when our comfort or connection to others is steeped in selfishness. Often, we don’t even realize it until . . . until we finally hear the quiet broken sorrow that appears without words being said.

No More Excuses

Four days later, we loaded the 15-foot U-Haul truck and headed out. I was not going to keep repeating the same behavior that had left my kids’ hearts broken. I wanted to hear them say what they felt, and I wanted to apologize for causing them pain.

I don’t know where you are with your family. It’s easy to blame your rocky relationship with them on poor timing, ADHD, traffic, getting older, work demands, or even responsibilities God has allowed—like caring for a loved one with disabilities. You can add your “stuff” to this list.

So how do we dump the stupid “dog ate my homework” excuses? Here’s what I’ve learned . . . and will be learning for the rest of my life. I dare you to put these into practice. In fact, what does anyone have to lose by taking responsibility for his or her choices?

To get you thinking, here are a few ideas that have been revolutionary in my home:

  1. Apologize for any offense whether you find it valid or not. Simply say, “I’m sorry,” and leave it there . . . no ifs, ands, or buts.
  2. When you don’t know how to fix or change something, say, “I don’t know.” Admitting this is freeing, truthful, and simple.
  3. When something is hard to face, say, “I’m scared” rather than acting like you have it all together.
  4. When you blow it, admit it. Say “I BLEW IT! I’m sorry!” It’s amazing how others will forgive when you’re honest.
  5. When confronted with how you have hurt someone, listen, apologize, and ask what is needed in moving forward—like giving your time, being consistent, being reliable, or keeping your word. Whatever it is, LISTEN and follow through.
  6. Be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Get out of your comfort zone. Try new things based on what’s needed. Let go of your fear of failure.

Let Me Hear from You

No one can fulfill every need of others. And we aren’t required to please every person in our lives. What we are called to do is honor the Lord with our attitude and actions. One way to do this is by keeping our word and stepping out of our comfort zones.

In the days ahead, what’s one area of your life—one relationship, one task, one responsibility—you will stop making excuses for and keep your word? We’re in this together . . . how can I encourage you?

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