As a friend is over for a play-date with her child, we’re chatting and helping the girls clean up and she asks a question that would have sent me into a complete panic a year earlier: “What’s Sydney doing for the 100th Day of School project that’s due tomorrow?”
“Is that due tomorrow?” I ask, a little taken aback. “Whoops, I just saw the note today because I have not been on top of checking the homework binder like I should this week!” I laugh and say “I guess we’ll just scrounge around the house and find whatever we can find 100 of and glue it to something. It’ll be fine. I used to get all panicky and bent out of shape about this stuff but I’ve changed.” Boy have I changed, and it’s so amazing that I don’t want to go back to that place I was before!
Pressure: The Fear of Judgement
When I think back to my early parenting years I wish I could go back in time and get a do over for the sake of myself and my children. The pressure to do everything right and with “excellence” felt like it was choking me at times – and I don’t think that I’m alone in that. I’ve literally had to remind myself to breathe in the midst of trying to get my kids to school on time to avoid the dreaded tardy slip.
I’ve actually witnessed the pressure to avoid making kids late to school put moms in tears and reduce them to pleading with the office staff not to give their children a tardy. Little things like this can make us feel like failures. I’m not sure what we all think is going to happen to us in the midst of all of this. Maybe on some level we’re all picturing ourselves and our children sitting in front of the principal getting a major lecture and after school detention. Whatever it is, we have this sinking feeling that it will chip away at our self-worth. Really, we have to stop and ask ourselves – what is the worst thing that can happen here?
Over the years I’ve often found pushed myself further and further to my breaking point to avoid that feeling of being judged. I often pushed myself to the point of exhaustion in my efforts to avoid potential rejection. I usually always manage to make it but often times just barely and at the expense of a lot of tense moments where I paid a price and am certain that my kids felt the pressure as well.
Failing at the Unimportant to Succeed at What Matters Most
In the challenging season I’ve been walking through, I hit a wall I couldn’t push through. Usually I could just push harder through difficult things and make it, but some things just can’t be pushed through. I reached a place where in spite of my best efforts, circumstances beyond my control forced me to let go of a lot of things that were holding me back and ultimately hurting my children. Praise God for using whatever it takes to get our attention!
The Question that Stopped Me in My Tracks
I remember one morning as I was fighting the losing battle to get out the door on time I heard the voice of the Lord speak to my spirit, “What does this matter in the scheme of eternity?” It stopped me in my tracks and I could feel my racing heart calm and peace descend upon me. When I get to heaven one day will it matter that my kids were late to school or that they made less than perfect grades in seasons where maybe grades were the least of their worries? What will God care about more, that I got them to school on time or that I stopped and said, “we are not going to make it to school on time, and it’s okay. Life happens, and it’s more important to me that you are okay. It’s more important to me that we all feel like we can just take a deep breath and know that we all have to ask for grace sometimes.”
Fear of judgment can blind us to obvious things like the fact that while school is important, my child’s emotional well-being always takes precedence. There are some lessons even more important to learn than anything our children can be taught in class. Perhaps it’s more important that they learn that they do not have to be perfect and that we all have to give grace to others who desperately need to know it’s okay; we aren’t going to judge them for being human.
There’s Always a Choice
As I called the school and told them we were going to be late and explained a little of what we were battling, I made myself vulnerable and said, “We need grace in this season. I’m juggling and there are going to be days that we may be late. There may be days missed. Grades may fall, but I don’t care because there are some things more important than any of this – like my sanity and their sanity and there is a lot going on right now that is completely out of my control.” Of course the response I got was nothing but gracious….grace asked for and grace received, because haven’t we really all been in that place where we needed it so badly at some point? The voice on the other end of the line said, “Of course. Girl, I totally get it and totally understand. In certain seasons some things aren’t really that big a deal.” I almost cried with the relief and the removal of the bondage of all that pressure!
Perspective can make all the difference. When parents are walking through battles of life threatening illnesses with children I don’t think they worry about the everyday, common things we can get caught up in so easily. I’ve seen people walk through things that bring what’s important into sharp clarity for them. We need to all meditate on this question when we feel the pressures of life crash over us, “What does this really matter in the scheme of eternity?” We could also word it this way, “In this moment, what does God care about most?”
People Always Come Before Pressure & Perfection
So when you are feel the pressures of life begin to overwhelm you, stop and ask yourself, “What does this matter in the scheme of eternity? What does God want me to focus on in this situation?” You can apply these questions to endless circumstances. Let me make a short list for you to help you put life in perspective:
- DIRTY HOUSE OR CHILDREN NEEDING TO TALK ABOUT THEIR DAY
- DINNER READY ON SCHEDULE OR HUSBAND NEEDING AFFECTION AFTER A LONG HARD DAY
- COOKING A PINTEREST PERFECT DINNER OR A QUICK PANCAKE DINNER AND FAMILY GAME NIGHT
- PRESSURE OF PERFECTION OR LETTING FIRST GRADER ACTUALLY FULLY BE IN CHARGE OF HER PROJECT
So, I put Sydney my first grader in charge of picking her 100th day of school items to glue on paper. She says, “Let’s glue 100 pom poms on paper. We’ll make them form the number 100.”
“Sounds great to me,” I reply as I reach for a colored piece of paper.
“No I just want a plain white piece of paper.”
“No problem,” I say as I grab a plain white piece of copy paper. “It’s your project and you should do it exactly the way you want.” Will this project be on Pinterest being pinned by anxious moms everywhere? No it will not, and that is totally okay. I take a picture as she’s working on it and I see it jumping off the page at me, the 100 boldly declaring our victory. Yes, lesson learned very well for both of us.
The next morning as I drop Sydney off to school two minutes late and I’m rushing off to pick up the 100 M&M’s I didn’t realize I was supposed to bring, I realize that I’m actually happy. There’s a few other stragglers besides me and we smile at each other offering each other grace. I’m back a few minutes later dropping off the M&M’s in the office and running to a parent meeting for fundraising about 15 minutes behind schedule…and it’s okay, because I know that I’m focusing on what really does matter.