So let me tell you a story about this….Tuesday night she came home determined to learn these spelling words for Wednesday because her teacher told her if you got them all right on Wednesday then you didn’t have to take the test on Friday. So she was determined. After having studied “all day” I called them out to her for the first time. She got a little over half right…and then came big old tears. When she cries she has the biggest most perfectly, beautiful teardrops that just splatter when they fall. Her eyes were a blur with salty water drops. She’s very hard on herself – demands perfection from herself which provided the perfect moment for a serious conversation to her heart.
“Did you do your best? Just now taking this ‘test’ the first time did you do your best?” “That is all we ever want from you, YOUR best…if it means you make an A, a C or an F – if you did your best it doesn’t matter to me what your grade is. What’s important is your heart, your character – Are you kind? Do you love people well? Are you generous? Do you see people? That’s what matters to us!”
We continued to practice and by the third round she had spelled them all correctly and was quite proud of herself. One more practice round in the morning before schools and she was ready for the test – hence the A+
It was a great victory for her and I believe an even bigger victory for me!
I haven’t always parented this way and my three oldest have suffered as a result of it. I went to bed a little teary and heartsick myself.
When they were little we attended Westminster Christian Academy and then moved to Lafayette Christian Academy – lots of pressure to perform. Schools demand our best – we are rewarded with gold stars and good grades and performance is valued. It can be a ‘dog eat dog’ world as children compare themselves to one another in the system that schools have established and decided what is considered “good”.
Lots of pressure!
And my need to perform was high when my oldest were little – I didn’t know any better – I was in the system. Their performance was a reflection of my “good” parenting!
Being able to sit across from my youngest and speak the truth about what life has taught me about school, in recent, years was the sweetest. We have homeschooled for the last seven years in a what is know as a classical education. One of my favorite things about the program we have been involved with is that I have learned to celebrate what my children have learned not what they don’t know.
When my third oldest started the program we were at a disadvantage because started half way through the year so I was worried that we would be behind in Latin and her very wise teacher told me, “We are going to celebrate that she has learned half a year of Latin, half a year of Latin material that she didn’t know before and we are not going to worry about what she hasn’t learned yet.”
And thus started my journey of learning to celebrate what we learn along the way.
I think sometimes as parents we focus on the wrong things. The truth from this perspective is that the first time around with Evyn’s spelling list she actually knew 13 of the 20 new words she had been given.
Now that’s worthy of celebration!
She knew 13 new words not that she didn’t know 7 of them.
It was a sweet conversation and I am happy to know what I know now to parent her differently. As I said earlier I went to bed teary because I recognized the damage that the performance mindset had on my older kids.
I called each one of them the next morning to share this story with them and to apologize for inflicting on them
the need to perform,
the need to do better because their good enough wasn’t enough,
the need to fold under the pressure being pushed upon all of us.
And they are so gracious with their once young and dumb mom who was doing what she thought was right but didn’t have a clue.
I’m so thankful for grace and the fact that we can learn do things differently and the gift of apologizing for the mistakes we have made in the past in our ignorance.
So stop judging yourself, may you be safe from your own judgement and I ask you, just like I asked my youngest, “Are you doing your best right now in this moment?”
If you are not then choose to step into your best
If you are then know this – your best is ENOUGH!