I heard the screaming first. Running from my daughters’ bedroom, where I was supervising my oldest while she chose books and Barbies for bedtime, I raced into the master bathroom.

My 3-year-old was still in the shower where I’d left her with the water turned off. As she stood up, naked and hysterical, I noticed that even though we had rinsed her off before I left, her legs were once again coated. Slicked up with bubbles and a slimy coat of shampoo, she looked like nothing so much as a greased-up pig. As she skidded across the slippery tile floor toward me, I simultaneously grabbed for her and scooped the shampoo bottle out of her hand.

It was then that I realized that in my momentary absence, she had squeezed out my shampoo on the floor. Not just a little…more like 2/3 of my newly-opened shampoo bottle. Having sat on the floor of the shower stall while she did so, her little bottom was now on fire.

It was a classic case of too much of a good thing that had now returned, literally and figuratively, to bite her in the butt.

Oh, the burn. Thank goodness a good dose of water could wash away the sting.

I get it, though — I do. Just like my daughter’s shampoo incident, all too often our (seemingly) harmless choices can have far-reaching consequences. The friendships we maintain, the careers we choose. The place we live, the person we marry. All of those start with small things, small choices that later require bigger and further-reaching choices.

And because I know this to be true, I’m terrified of making the wrong small choices when it comes to my family, especially in my parenting. How does the way I treat my children on a day-to-day basis relate to their long-term health and well-being? Let’s be honest: I yell at my kids. I say unkind things sometimes, or give them dirty looks. I can be just as childish as they are, sometimes. I regret the way I act, and I apologize — but I still wonder, do the good and bad balance out?

And then I run across this —

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit…” Titus 3:5

The washing — poured out, regenerating, cleansing, making whole — is what matters, not the deed. And so, when the days come when I feel like I’m on fire from the choices I’ve made, I try to remember this truth, that my apologies are like a good dose of water, meant to take away the sting. Cleansing. Regenerating. Making whole.