My daughter’s voice soared with emotion as she told me about our grandlamb’s kindergarten celebration. Everyone was crying as the teachers presented the six-year-old wonders with personal awards. There was pageantry…songs…and Reese’s award for being the “Most Positive and Shiny” student. Then there was a pause.
“We went back to her classroom and the wall was plastered with pictures of Star Readers. Every student had their toothless smiles under the award but Reese. My heart sank Mom—and the torment began. I didn’t work with her enough. She’ll always struggle in school. I’m a terrible mom.”
I had to put the brakes on right there and remind her that she did work with her, she’s not going to struggle in school, and she’s the best mom this side of the hemisphere. But in those moments it feels like a tractor bulldozes our heart into a pile of mulch. Little pieces of well-being and confidence splayed across the sidewalk for all to see.
What is it about our self-worth that ties itself to outcomes that are often out of our control? And why do we feel like everyone else’s picture will be under the “Star” category, but ours will be conspicuously missing?
I’ll never forget what it felt like to struggle in school—to be the kid that’s pulled out for “resource” classes and Special Ed help. To top it off I had horrible allergies that kept my nostrils a fine shade of green. I wasn’t exactly the most popular kid in class—which made me feel all the more stupid. I remember the day Sister Mary Jane made me stay after school to learn my addition and subtraction facts. She stood me at the blackboard and shouted the equations faster than I could write. I guess she thought it was an awesome technique to keep a student after school and shout the numbers while they cried. To this day I hate math, thank you Sister Mary Jane, but I did learn something the next year. A few weeks into third grade I remember thinking “You can either feel stupid this year, or you can work like crazy to be a good student.” That was the year everything changed. I was never an “A” student, but B’s were golden…and it’s there I think we have to stop and be honest for a minute.
Never once did I hear my parent’s generation talk of their children’s performance at school, activities, or in sports as if it were their badge of honor. Back then parents rarely attended our games or events. They were too busy working, or…just being adults. It was my generation that flipped that concept on its side. We were the generation of the “hoverers” who practically smothered our kids with attention and opportunity. I sometimes wonder what would happen today if Sister Mary Jane kept me after school and yelled Math facts at me. She probably would lose her job and have to apologize on a national platform. But honestly, I’m grateful for that five-foot-one drill sergeant! She taught me to take charge of my learning and to realize it’s no one’s job but mine to learn.
My little grandlamb Reese is just learning the ropes of school, expectations, and Stars on the wall that don’t host her picture. I have to say…it breaks my heart. But I had to remind myself (and my daughter) that this is Reese’s story, not a mark of her mama’s self-worth. We aren’t horrible parents if our children are behind, outspoken, or end up with a detention (gasp…!) Some things are simply out of our control, and those are typically the very things God uses to teach us our most valuable life lessons.
We live in a competitive, harsh world. We go from “Stars’ on the wall to names on a list—the chosen ones selected for the best jobs, the best teams, the best opportunities. All the while, carrying not only our own self-worth, but now days—our parents, grandparents, and extended families. It’s no wonder stress and poor self-esteem are the leading cause of disease and mental struggle.
Ironically, nowhere does Jesus say “Blessed are the highest grade makers, the most attractive, or outstanding performer.” You know who he calls blessed?
The poor in spirit, the ones who mourn, the gentle and righteous…
The merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the ones who are teased… (Matthew 5)
What if we had Stars for these attributes on a wall? Would we cheer as loud for these qualities as we do for good readers, stud athletes, or beautiful figures?
As I type these words I’m thinking about Reese’s little award that sits on her bedside tonight: “SHINING STAR.”
I couldn’t be more proud, of both her and her mama. It may not be a big award but it’s an important one. One she earned each day as she struggled to read, or encouraged a classmate. I know she’ll be a great reader in time, but for now, I love that award.