Each month, I write a column for the Baptist News Global. This month, I wrote about doubt, drawing from Jason Boyett’s book O Me of Little Faith and an old favorite song by Chris Rice, “Smell the Color Nine.” To read the column, click here. Then hang around over there at baptistnews.com for great articles on issues that really matter.
Wait, did I read that right? No. Hold on. Seriously? Has it already been four years?
That can’t be because I believe it was yesterday, or the day before, that I wrote about the connection between potty training and college.
As parenting goes, I have always dreaded the day when I uttered these words: This is worse than potty training. Since my kids are pretty close in age, I was potty training at least one of them for three straight years. I’m being self-aware not self-deprecating when I tell you: I’m not good at teaching toddlers the tricks of the toilet. I’m not. (And please don’t leave me any tips here because really, I’ve heard them all and besides, they pretty well have it down by now.) Read more here.
Not long before that, I wrote about when Trellace was a baby and people suffered from the misunderstanding that I considered having an infant a burden. They had a compulsion to comfort me.
“It’ll get better,” the stranger said, punctuating his insightful comment with that know-it-all belly laugh that indicated he knew exactly zilch, “in about 18 years!” His laugh crescendoed, then faded into the distance as he walked away shaking his head, still snickering at his own joke. Read more here.
On the contrary, it always felt to me as if time was slipping away; that my babies were growing up too fast. What a blessing it was for me to learn the difference between chronos time and kairos time.
. . . “Where has the time gone? I don’t know, but I think I’m looking for it in the wrong zone. In Greek, there are two words for time. There’s Chronos—time that is measured, ya know, chronologically. And then there is Kairos—time that is measured by experiences. Chronos dissolves into seconds, days, years. Kairos, though . . . Kairos remains. (Read more here.)
In chronos time, it’s been four years. In kairos? The blink of an eye. But however you measure it, it’s time for Trellace’s university commencement. I wrote this post back in 2012, just before she left for college. It’s déjà vu all over again.Z
These days, in my world of parenting, I’m experiencing some serious déjà vu. See, when Trellace was about to start kindergarten (ya know, yesterday), good-hearted folk, attempting to be encouraging, offered familiar platitudes. Things like, “Oh she’s ready!” or “She’ll do great,” or “She’ll be fine! Don’t worry.” Now she’s going away to college, and those tired expressions have been roused for the occasion. (Read more here.)
Sunrise, sunset . . . I don’t remember growing older. When did they? (Fiddler on the Roof)
One of my favorite books is Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. The truths of this book have guided me in relationships and in ministry. Chapman’s premise is that individuals give and receive love in different ways; that is, we speak different languages when it comes to communicating love. Chapman has identified five love languages: Gifts, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Words of Affirmation. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week and it occurs to me that Chapman’s book offers insight that might help us encourage our teachers.
Gifts. Chapman makes it clear that the cost of the gift is not the issue. A person whose love languages is gifts, feels just as beloved when the gift is a picture drawn by a child as she does when it is a pricey trinket. The point is to have something tangible. Teachers might enjoy gift cards to a nearby restaurant, items for their classrooms such as school or office supplies, or personal remembrances like flowers or photographs.
Physical Touch. Often, when people hear this one, they think Chapman is referring only to intimate affection. Not true. Those who understand love best through physical touch, appreciate hugs and pats on the back, facials and massages. So, some teachers might really appreciate like a gift certificate for a manicure, pedicure, facial, or massage. Manicures are not terribly expensive and are a real treat for some people. (Do remember to cover the tip in your gift though so that the teacher doesn’t have to pay out-of-pocket in order to receive your gift.)
Quality Time. The important aspect of this love languages is presence. I’ve heard teachers express deep gratitude to those who support their work simply by being present. Is there a teacher in your life who you might visit this week? You could volunteer to read to students, or maybe you could attend a school program or club event. Teachers give so much time to our students, it can be a real blessing when others give a little of their personal time to be a part of the teacher’s world for a bit. If you can invest the time, you will be communicating to these educators that what they are doing makes a difference.
Acts of Service. In this case, the languages Quality Time and Acts of Service are closely related. For some teachers, your presence alone will be encouraging. Others will feel even more blessed if you offer to help them with some of the endless task required of them. This teacher might be happy to leave you in the classroom right by yourself with a necessary task such as grading papers, filing, tutoring, or something else. Teachers rarely have all the help they need. Volunteer your time and teachers whose love language is Quality Time will feel truly appreciated, loved even.
Words of Affirmation. This is the easiest for me to communicate because this is my own love language. I enjoy writing notes or emails, sending texts or messages to tell people I value them. I’ve also written notes on teachers’ white boards and on post-it notes left on their desks. Additionally, I try always to comment on excellence, especially to school administrators. Consider encouraging students to write notes to their teachers. It’s never too late: I’ve heard stories of teachers who received letters from people they taught years, if not decades earlier. These letters are treasures.
Whichever expression you choose, appreciate your local educators this week. And then do it again next week. And the next. Because really: one week couldn’t possibly be enough to thank our teachers for all they do for humanity.
And teachers? Thanks. You totally rock!
I come from a long line of folks who cannot abide The Big Head. I don’t know if this malady is well known north of the Mason-Dixon line, but down here in the South, everybody knows about The Big Head. It’s the noun form of the adjective phrase “full of him/herself.” For example, you might hear it used like this: “She is so full of herself; that girl has really got The Big Head!”
My father, a first generation college graduate who finished his master’s degree in 1963 and his doctorate in 1979, has every right to have a touch of The Big Head. But he has always said to me and my siblings what may well have been said to him: “When you get so smart you think you’re better than somebody else, it’s about time you go right on back to school.” And my mother . . . listen, she could puncture a bloating Big Head with just a look.
Naturally then, when my kids were old enough to get the message, I’d say, “Children, I’d rather you be dumb as a rock than get The Big Head.” Self-confidence is one thing. But being so full of yourself as to have The Big Head? Unacceptable. Thus, it has always been my goal to raise kids with both self-esteem and humility.
Then came Facebook. And I, like every other parent in this millennium, set about posting pictures and status updates about my children. “So proud of my son for winning this award!” “Proud Parent! My daughter received that recognition!” “Off to All-State! Proud of this girl!”
But there’s nothing wrong with being proud of our children, right? I mean, it’s not like I was going on about my own accomplishments. I was simply reporting, sharing, keeping people in the loop as it were.
My children (who had apparently been paying just a little too much attention in their early days) saw it a little differently. After every significant achievement, they’d warn me. “Now Mom, don’t put this on Facebook. It feels like you’re bragging.”
The nerve! The ingratitude! The . . . truth.
I started thinking about this business of parental pride, publicized so widely through social media. According to dictionary.com, the definition of “pride” is “a high . . . opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed . . .” Yikes. When I boasted about my children’s achievements, was I really patting myself on the back for the superiority of my parenting? (Conviction. It’s so intrusive!)
The other nagging question I had, though, was this: When my children experienced victory, was it really “pride” that I was feeling? I thought back to the times I’ve been really proud of my children. They were times that didn’t look like success at all. Like when they tried their best, failed, then got up and tried again. Times when they lost, but handled it with grace. When they acted justly, delighted in mercy, and walked humbly with God. Those were moments I “cherished in my [mind].” When they win, I’m happy for them, of course; I’m glad things went well. Those are cheerful, photograph-taking moments for sure. But pride? The times I’m proudest of my kids, I’m too grateful to snapchat or Instagram; I’m too wrapped up in thanksgiving to update my status.
In a video that has received nearly two million hits on ted.com, New York Times columnist David Brooks speaks about the difference between resume virtues and eulogy virtues. Quoting The Lonely Man of Faith by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), Brooks describes Soloveitchik’s theory of the two Adams. Soloveitchik suggests that within each of us are two Adams: Adam 1 who values external, worldy success, or resume virtues; and Adam 2 who values integrity and strength of character, or eulogy virtues. Brooks contends that the United States values Adam 1 over Adam 2 and that this resume-driven mentality is crippling our culture.
I’d agree. And, as a product of this culture, I wrestle with this exact internal conflict that Brooks and Soloveitchik describe so eloquently. So what’s a Baptist to do? Well, I’m not sure. But I think part of the answer is found in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (2:3-4)
Sounds to me like a pretty good way to avoid The Big Head, don’t you think?
*This post originally appeared at baptistnews.com as “How a resume-driven mentality is crippling our culture,” on April 25, 2016. “Baptist News Global is a reader-supported, independent news organization providing original and curated news, opinion and analysis about matters of faith.” Visit them regularly at baptistnews.com.
You see when I was in my last couple of years of high school, we lived on the other side of a swing bridge that spans the Intercoastal Waterway. My school was less than two miles from home, but because it was on the other side of the bridge, I never knew how long it might take to drive to school. If the bridge was turned to allow large ships to pass, you might wait up to 10 minutes for it to come back around. (These days, there’s a big highway bridge that provides an alternative route from my parents’ home to the high school, so the swing bridge is not nearly as big of a problem for travelers as it once was.)
Bridges. They make a real difference in the quality of transportation.
According to the NC Dept of Transportation, NC has about 13,500 bridges. We have all kinds of bridges here. We have bridges made from wood, steel, and concrete. We have highway bridges, street bridges and pedestrian bridges. We have suspension bridges, natural bridges, covered bridges, draw bridges and yes, even swing bridges.
Each year, 9,000 of those are inspected by certified bridge inspectors. And guess what? Roughly 40 percent of our bridges are “considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.” Now before you go out and trade your Honda for a hover car, know that NCDOT states that these bridges are safe but will “require significant maintenance to remain in service, and limits on vehicle weights may be required.” The price-tag on the repairs? Upwards of $9.4 billion!
Bridges offer convenience, save us time, and open opportunities to us that would otherwise remain closed, but they require significant effort to build and once they are built, the work is not done. That’s when the ongoing task of maintaining the bridge begins. And that task never ends.
Such is the bridge between forgiveness and peace.
(Want the rest of the sermon? Here’s the recording.)
I started dating my husband in 1985 when I was just 19 years old. I met my future mother-in-law that same year. Her son and I have been married nearly three decades and on April 11, 2016 she celebrated her 80th birthday, a birthday doctors never dreamed she would see. Since the 1960’s, she has fought a muscle disease that has transitioned through a number of diagnoses: dermatomyositis, polymyositis, and now muscular dystrophy. Whatever the doctors say, we say she’s a miracle. Today’s thank you note is to my one and only mother-in-law, Joyce Lawrimore.
A Most Excellent Mother-In-Law
(loosely based on Proverbs 31)
An excellent mother-in-law who can find?
She is far more precious than a screened in porch on a warm summer day.
The heart of her daughter-in-law trusts her, confides in her, and heeds her wisdom.
She supports her daughter-in-law’s vocation, and avocation.
She believes in her daughter-in-law, encourages her, and inspires her.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She does not take sides in conflict, but offers support to those whom she loves.
She knows how to apologize. She does not interfere.
(A rare and valuable example she is among mothers-in-law.)
She suffers medical maladies, but does not complain.
She has searched for a cure, found new treatments, and defied the odds.
She is persistent. She is strong. She is resilient.
Her family takes great pride in her.
Her potato salad is the best in the South.
No other mayo but Duke’s is allowed in her cupboard.
Her pecans are roasted to perfection.
Her fresh tomatoes are served free from their peeling.
She adores her grandchildren, but is not biased.
Her grandchildren are the most beautiful, talented, and wonderful children ever born.
She speaks the truth.
She rises while it is yet night, but refrains from judging her late-to-rise daughter-in-law.
She laughs easily, and sees the humor in painted squirrels running through the park.
Toys sing and dance in her living room.
Her faith sustains her; she is a devoted disciple of Christ Jesus.
She studies Holy Scripture.
She prays without ceasing.
She recognizes God’s voice.
She is obedient.
At God’s direction, she donates her electric organ or takes her family to Disney World.
She opens her hand to the poor; and reaches out her hands to the needy.
Strength and dignity are her clothing. (But multiple blankets keep her warm.)
She laughs at the time to come when she will run up heavenly stairs and feast on divine delights.
Her children and her grandchildren rise up and call her blessed;
her daughter-in-law also, praising God for the blessing of a godly mother-in-law.
“Many Mothers-in-Law have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a Mother-in-Law who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Happy Birthday Joyce! I love you and am so grateful for you!
I met him in the playroom at Mission Hospital in May of 2007. My son was at Mission due to complications from pneumonia. Paxten was there for chemo. Or something . . .
Paxten and I soon became friends. He was frequently in the hospital and I would visit him on Wednesday nights while my children were at church. I’d have around 45 minutes to hang out with him. We played with stickers and playdoh, talked about Ben Ten and Spiderman, and played with his toys, navigating iv tubing and hospital bed limitations. He learned early on that I had to leave at a certain time and as that time drew near, he would distract me from looking at the big clock on the wall. We laughed at his shenanigans, he begged me to stay longer next time, I promised I’d try.
Not quite a year later, his hospital days were over forever. Today marks eight years since my little friend Paxten Andrew Mitchell passed from this life to the next. He was 3 years and 7 months old.
Paxten’s dad once told me, “They could find a cure to pediatric cancers, but there isn’t enough research done. That’s partly because no one wants to talk about kids getting cancer. The thing is, though, that if they would talk about it, awareness would increase. When awareness increases, so does funding for research. When research increases, cures are found.”
Research. It really is the solution to the unthinkable.
There are lots of ways you can be a part of that solution. Two great charities I recommend are Saint Baldricks and Cure. Both of these organizations work to fund research and to provide cutting edge equipment to pediatric oncologists. Check them out. Every contribution matters.
If you can’t contribute financially, there are other ways you can make a difference. Talk about children with cancer (by far the majority survive and live full lives). Remember, cancer is not contagious. Our kids won’t catch it just because we talk about it.
And hey! Just by reading this post, you’ve increased your awareness. Share it with friends, and you’ve multiplied that awareness.
What other ways might we join in the effort to find a cure for pediatric cancer? Because a cure must be found. The alternative . . . well . . . it’s unthinkable.
Our 30 year old retaining wall had come tumbling down, and the stone masons were tasked with rebuilding it. They would reuse the rocks, but they’d have to shape them to fit the new design. The old wall had looked a lot like a pile of rocks stuck together with some mortar. The new wall would be superior to the old one and not just because of its advanced construction technique either. It would be a real work of art: aesthetically appealing as well as structurally sound.
The work was tedious. Each mason chose a stone and with chisel and mallet, began sculpting it to fit the wall. Gloved hands turned the rock this way then that. Decades-old dirt clods fell away easily; old mortar took a bit more work. Eventually though, the mason would have to knock off parts of the stone itself. He would pound away, turning round rocks into square ones. Once he had placed a reformed stone in place, he’d choose another one and start again. The wall began to take shape. And it is beautiful.
Kind of like a church.
Think about it: we come together to build something beautiful and strong. Like the masons working on the wall, God shapes us into living stones. God holds us tenderly in gentle but firm hands, knowing we have everything we need to be the building block needed in this place at this time. Yet we’ve covered ourselves with the concealing mud of shame or conceit, vanity or self-loathing. As we are placed together to form church, God carefully, slowly, and with great love, removes as much of our muck as we will allow.
Sure enough, it takes no time for our ugly parts, the ones we wouldn’t release, to scratch against the residue of The Others. It’s uncomfortable, even painful, to have to make space for them. It would be such a beautiful church, if The Others weren’t so muddy and jagged.
“They should have let God shape that mess off of them before they came here. They just aren’t going to fit in here like that.” We wince and grumble, making a show of accommodating their faults. Meanwhile, we have forgotten our own smudges and imperfections, concentrating as we are on the defects of The Others. Too often, we leave or The Others leave, seeking a place in a different church, a different community.
And the story repeats itself: because no matter where we go, the living stones are imperfect, dirty, and broken. At least that’s what it looks like to human eyes.
But what does God see? To divine eyes, do we look like rare gems, uniquely shaped to form this particular church? Do our imperfections look like godly opportunities to grow into who we were created to be?
God calls to us saying, “Come to Jesus, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-6)
*This post originally appeared at baptistnews.com as “A ragged wall that looks a lot like the Church,” on March 27, 2016. “Baptist News Global is a reader-supported, independent news organization providing original and curated news, opinion and analysis about matters of faith.” Visit them regularly at baptistnews.com.
In my life as student and as parent, I’ve been blessed to know a number of outstanding public school principals. Among this elite group, is Oakley Elementary School’s former principal Linda Allison. What I loved most about Linda Allison was that she never put process ahead of pupil. Her compassion for students was matched only by her commitment to their success. Seriously, Ms. Allison should train new principals. She is that good.
When I learned that she was retiring (after I dried my tears), I wrote a story in her honor and later read it at her final faculty meeting. That was about 9-10 years ago. This year, my oldest will graduate from college and my youngest from high school. Their brother is finishing his sophomore year of college. But despite the passage of years, I remain so grateful to Ms. Allison for her leadership, dedication, and just her natural intuition as an educator.
So for this thank you note, I offer the story I wrote for Ms. Allison—the Little Red Hen of Oakley Elementary School. Thank you Linda Allison for setting the bar so high. I count you as one of the great blessings of my life. And so do my little chicks.
Once upon a time there was a little red hen who lived on a teaching farm that existed solely to train young farmers. The chickens on the farm, all one big family, got together and chose the little red hen as the principal of the farm. The little red hen was honored. She found great joy in sharing her life and work with her many brothers and sisters. Together they kept the farm running smoothly.
Unfortunately, the little red hen also had to work with three other animals who thought they owned the whole farm: a turtle named Wright Procedure who moved very slowly; a parrot named Polly Tisshun, who maintained a spotless image, talked a lot, but did very little, and an elephant named Feddy Govment who thought he knew everything, even though he didn’t even live on the same farm as the little red hen.
One day, the little red hen came upon a child and his parents.
“We want our child to have the best education, the best learning environment, and the best playmates the world can offer,” the parents instructed as they hugged the child and got back in their car, “We can’t stand around talking about it though, we have jobs, you know!” The parents drove away, leaving the child with the little red hen.
“Oh my, aren’t you a fine young fellow!” clucked the little red hen as she pulled the tyke under her wing. “Welcome to our farm!”
About that time a few of her brothers and sisters came down the path and she introduced them to the child. “Let’s get busy and teach this child how to feed the animals!” She smiled at the spark in the child’s eyes and in the eyes of the teachers.
But before the other chickens could even respond, Wright Procedure, the turtle who moved very slowly, poked his head out of his shell and said, “Stop everything! Don’t do anything until we get these forms filled out. We’ll need permission from the parents and clearance from the pediatrician. Plus, we’ll need a waiver signed by each of the animals the child will be feeding. Also. . .”
While Wright the turtle droned on, several of the little red hen’s sisters took the child down to the barn and started the lessons. The little red hen, back in the farm office, filled out the necessary paperwork. She called the pediatrician who put her on hold: “Important, urgent issues demand the doctor’s attention!” Once the little red hen had completed the child’s file she went to check on the child’s progress.
“WOW!” she said to her siblings “You have done a great job teaching the child how to feed the animals. I believe we can promote the child to animal grooming.”
“Well, I certainly agree,” cooed Polly Tisshun, the talkative parrot with the spotless image. She smiled to the camera operator who had come along with her. Wouldn’t you agree, Little Red Hen that my program Accelerated Feeders has, well, haha, accelerated this child’s progress?” The camera clicked more pictures as Polly fluttered over and perched herself on the child’s shoulder.
“Well, Polly, I’d be happy to talk to you about that,” said the little red hen, as she motioned Polly off of the child and toward her office. The other chickens stepped in and hurried the child onto the next lesson.
But before the little red hen could leave with Polly, Feddy Govment the elephant who thought he knew everything, lumbered down to the barn. “Has the child mastered animal bathing yet?” he asked, his ears flopping.
“Well, no,” said the little red hen, about to explain that the other chickens were just beginning that phase of the training.
“What’s wrong with those teachers?” Feddy stomped his feet upsetting the animals and causing the teachers to cease training long enough to settle the animals. The child observed, learning, in the process, how to calm animals in the event of a disturbance.
“And anyway,” Feddy shouted, “Look at that kid! He’s not DOING anything! And the teachers are just running around like chick. . .well, like chickens do sometimes.” Feddy looked around, waving his trunk from side to side and looking everywhere except at the little red hen.
The little red hen started to explain. “The child has made remarkable prog. . .”
“Then give him the Animal Grooming Test!” thundered Feddy.
“I have one right here,” said Wright Procedure, the turtle who though he moved very slowly, always managed to find his way into the middle of any activity.
The child did not pass the test and so he had to take the actual course material. The teachers received official reprimands for their negligence and the farm was placed on probation until the child passed the test.
In the midst of the crisis, the little red hen was called away to meet with Wright Procedure the turtle, Polly Tisshun the Parrot, and Feddy Govment the elephant. A committee was formed to study effective teaching of animal grooming and the three friends recommended strategies for school reform that might, in time, bring the farm up to par. Their first recommendation: they would visit the barn immediately following the meeting. As the meeting ended, the little red hen’s cell phone rang.
“The child’s parents are here,” said the chicken on the line. We need you back here at once.”
The little red hen arrived at the barn before Wright, Polly, and Feddy did. (They had, as it turns out, been left behind.) The parents appeared worried, tired, and confused. They had seen the news and gotten the test results for the school.
“Welcome,” The little red hen said to the mom and dad, genuinely happy they’d come. She listened to their concerns, made notes for herself, and responded to their comments. They left, after a quick tour of the barn, saying they felt much better.
Time passed and in what seemed like a moment, the child had completed the requirements for Elementary Barn and it was time for him to move on. The little red hen, gathered friends and family and asked, “Who will help me celebrate this child?”
“I will!” said Wright Procedure, sticking his head out of his shell. He began designing a flow chart so that he could celebrate properly.
“I will!” said Polly Tisshun, wearing her red plume that she saved just for such occasions. “My camera crew is all set up to capture the moment.”
“I will!” said Feddy as he galumphed through the door and tried to take over the room.
“OH NO YOU WILL NOT!” Said the little red hen fluffing herself up to her full height and glaring at Wright, Polly, and Feddy. The little red hen extended her wing and gestured at the teachers who stood between the child and the three intruders.
“We will celebrate this child. We prepared this child. We taught this child We love this child. My brothers and sisters and I will celebrate this child.”
And they did. While Wright Procedure, Polly Tisshun, and Feddy Government looked on, completely befuddled.
In a continued celebration of my 50th birthday on 7-22-2015, I’m writing 50 thank you notes in 50 weeks. This one to Ms. Linda Allison is #15. Please click on the tag “50 Thank You Notes” to read the others.
See, whether we like it or not, we often learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. Failure underscores the lesson, highlighting it for future reference. It points to areas of growth and opportunities for improvement. Success feels good in the moment, but failure can benefit a person for a lifetime.
Still, the mother in me—and the aunt for that matter—hates to see children I love experience the pain of disappointment. I’ve seen it plenty of times though. Here are just three of examples.
- My oldest, an 8th grader at the time, had spent months preparing her History Day project on Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the United Nation’s Human Rights Initiative. The topic was complicated (it took me awhile to understand it myself). She’d done fastidious research, using mainly primary documents. She compiled her sources in an annotated bibliography and wrote a script which she committed to memory. She also created a backdrop, pulled together a costume, and collected vintage props. After a successful district performance, she headed to the state competition with high hopes. The results? She lost to a student whose mother had admitted to me that she wrote most of her daughter’s script.
- It seemed as if my son only got on losing teams. Whether it was little league baseball or church basketball, more often than not, his team would lose. No one played harder, practiced more intently, or came to games more prepared. Regardless, game after game, his teams fell short of the mark.
- When she was in the 6th grade, my youngest daughter challenged a teacher. It’s a long and complicated story (believe me when I tell you that you do not want me to get started on it). The short version is that the teacher was about to read aloud from a popular trade paperback (not a classic by anyone’s appraisal) that I had not allowed my kids to read due to the mature content. My daughter asked to be excused to another room. This launched a controversy that led to a number of lengthy emails that flew between the teacher and me over the course of several days. Suffice to say, we disagreed in the extreme. Shortly after that, grades were due. My daughter had an A average, but her participation grade dropped suddenly and she wound up with a B in the class. She was beyond furious.
In each case, though, my children learned more from these failures than they ever would have from succeeding in the same situation. My oldest learned that careful research is actually its own reward, no matter what an impartial judge may say. My son has developed persistence that is unrivaled; loss never diminishes his resolve. My youngest, still spunky and opinionated, discovered that true conviction is more important than academic assessment.
None of those valuable life lessons could have been acquired through success. It took failure to teach them the hard lessons.
Knowing this does not mean I want my kids to fail. I don’t. I never celebrate when my beloveds fall short of their objectives. (Frankly, if I had my way, my kids would never even have a bad hair day, let alone a true heartbreak.) When things don’t go their way, I grieve with them and share their disappointment.
But over time, as tears dry up and emotions settle, I do my best to uncover the blessing in the setback. And it’s always there. Always.