Tag Archives: failure

The failure of trying to be everyone’s person

I’m going through a phase right now where I feel like I’m constantly failing. I say it’s a phase for two reasons: 1. I’ve been in this place before, and 2. I trust God to never let me stay here for too long.

The problem really isn’t so much about failure to accomplish goals or tasks (although there is an element of that). The problem lies in my desire to be everyone’s person.

The mom who shows up for every game, concert, and recital for my kids while also making healthy meals, helping them study and prepare for school, predicting their needs, comforting their hurts, and creating space to snuggle, cuddle or talk about life so they always feel connected to me.

The wife who prays for her husband daily, offers an empathetic ear when he’s had a bad day, acts as his biggest cheerleader, supportive of all of his endeavors and interests, all while trying not to be too needy or selfish with my own stuff.

The employee who thinks creatively and innovatively, never misses a deadline, maintains 100% focus while at work and doesn’t let her personal life interfere with her work life.

The daughter/niece/sister/grand-daughter who remembers to call, to visit regularly, to send those thank-you notes, to let everyone know how much they mean to her.

The friend who listens, who shows up with soup when you’re sick, and prays with you when you’re struggling. Who remembers to call or send a text to say “good luck at that interview/doctor’s appointment/meeting/etc.” Who never cancels lunch plans, or misses out on celebrating a big life event.

The women’s ministry leader who makes every woman who walks through the doors of that church feel welcomed and loved. Who prays for each woman by name, knows who is struggling and needs help, and makes time for coffee, to offer up encouragement and friendship to each woman, and always says just the right thing.

Some days I get some of the things right with some of the people. But most days I just get it all wrong and feel like I’ve failed all of the people. The forgetful friend, the frazzled mom, the tired wife, the absent daughter, the rushed ministry leader, the distracted employee. None of it feels good.

And the thing is, I don’t do any of it for a pat on the back or praise and thanks. I do it because I’m a relational person. I value relationships immensely and I’m incredibly grateful for each relationship and role I’ve been blessed with in life.

I genuinely love people (yes, introverts can love people, too). I especially love the people in my life. For so many years I felt terrible loneliness so I don’t take it for granted that I have all of these beautiful people in my life. When I think of how much I love them it knocks the wind right out of me and I want them — want you — to know it.

But instead, what ends up happening is inevitably someone feels left out. They feel slighted, shorted, overlooked, or forgotten. Or they don’t. But because there isn’t enough time for me to invest in the relationship the way I want to, they move on. They can’t wait for me to make time, so they find someone who can.

So here I sit. In this place of fear and worry of disappointing and failing them all. But even more so, I sit with fear of being left behind. That I tried to do so much I was left with nothing.

Then all of the thoughts come: I should have said yes to that; I should have said no to that; I should have called her back sooner; I should have double checked that date; I should have gotten more done yesterday; I should have gotten more rest last night; I should have stayed up later; I should have…

It’s overwhelming. It can be paralyzing. It makes me tired.

So, so tired.

Just before my head hits the pillow I read my daily devotional and it speaks like it was written just for me at this exact moment. God’s voice comes through the words on the page and says, “yep, life is pretty crazy right now. I know you don’t like it this way. I know you do better when everything is neat and orderly. I know you feel overwhelmed and like you are failing. I know you are worried people will leave you or be angry. I know.

But I’m here. You can’t do it all by yourself. You have to trust me. I will help you. I will comfort you and give you rest. I will help guide you on what to do next. I will never leave you to do it all alone.”

For a few moments I have peace. I am able to sleep.

Until the morning when it starts all over again.

Thankfully God has an infinite supply of patience.

Thankfully He never lets me stay stuck here for too long.

 

photo credit: Silvia Sala  via photopin (license)

I failed my child

Two nights ago I lay awake for hours, unable to find sleep no matter how much I willed it to come. One painful, desperate thought kept going through my mind: I had failed my son.

It’s been a really hard year for my boy. It’s been a really hard year to parent him, as well.

We’re not strangers to difficult years, though. The early years were especially challenging. When he was four my son’s pre-school teacher basically gave-up and asked he be moved to a different class.

By the middle of his kindergarten year, after consulting with a specialist and having him tested for a variety of learning disabilities, we were told he had severe ADHD and delays in fine-motor skill development. His disorder had also led to delays in his social development. But we were also told he was incredibly smart, and the child psychologist believed that with the right treatment and classroom modifications he could be very successful in school. And she was right.

For the next 3 years we saw a big difference in our boy. He responded well to the medicine and excelled in school, receiving straight-A’s two years in a row. Despite the initial delays in his social development he managed to make friends and was generally a very happy kid.

Then last year the small private school he’d been attending since he was 2 closed and he and his sisters started at a new school in September. It’s a good school with small class sizes, a special education resource, and Biblical foundation. But it’s different.

I completely underestimated how hard the change would be on my boy — a child who likes routine, who sees the whole world in black and white/right or wrong. He declined academically and acted out in the classroom. We met with the teachers, principal and special education resource multiple times. We put into place new plans for behavior management and test-taking. Still he struggled. My straight-A child strained to get B’s and C’s. And then came his first D’s and even an F.

At home my husband and I struggled, too. My son rebelled in various ways, trying to assert some control. His natural-born curiosity, fearlessness, and lack of impulse-control led to some really scary situations. We took him out of hockey, the only sport he’s ever loved, so he would be able to focus more on school. We took away his prized Lego’s when he refused to clean his room and when we found dangerous items he’d found and hidden. We tried incentives and rewards, we tried punishment and consequences. Many nights we sat by his side to help him focus on homework until we finally sent him to bed, drained from fighting with him. Other nights we were just plain tired and didn’t have it in us.

The school year ends next week and I can’t say I feel like there’s been much progress. And so, I am left with that sleep-stealing, heart-breaking thought that I failed my son.

I could have done more. I could have monitored his grades more, met with teachers sooner, and caught-on to patterns quicker. I could have spent more time double checking his homework. I should have showed more patience and less exasperation. I should have told him how wonderful he is more often and told him I was disappointed less.

Every note home from a teacher, every missing homework assignment, every stern look from a stranger, and every comment made by another parent strengthening the self-recrimination.

Then there’s all of the well-meaning (usually unsolicited) advise from others. I could write a book.

And because of all of this I have kept the truth tightly guarded, careful about saying too much to too many. Even with our closest friends, and in our small group Bible study where we have been reading The Power of a Praying Parent for the last 16 weeks, I have been careful about how much I reveal.

But then during our study this week a friend revealed her deepest worry and fear: that she’s failed her children. While our circumstances are different and the struggles our children are facing are not the same, I know how she feels. And as my sweet friend shared her fear, I felt God urge me to tell her that this is a season in her parenting journey and it will not last forever. I also tell her that I believe prayer is powerful, and when things are hard and we feel like it’s all out of our control, we must lean on God and prayer even more.

Later that night as sleep eluded me and the thought that I had failed my son echoed in my head, I wondered why I couldn’t find comfort in the same advice I’d offered my friend a few hours before. I didn’t think for one second that she had failed her children and I completely believed the words God had placed in my heart. But I couldn’t apply them to myself. I had prayed all year for help, for change, for direction, and I still felt at a loss.

So I did the only thing I knew to do: I turned to the Word to try and find some comfort and wisdom. Sometimes words of comfort come quickly, other times, not so much. I read through several Psalms, 1 and 2 Timothy, and parts of Isaiah. I was encouraged by the Word, but felt nothing I read was speaking directly to my failures as a mom. Then I settled on Ephesians.

“So overflowing is His kindness toward us that He took away all our sins through the blood of His Son, by whom we are saved; and He has showered down upon us the richness of His grace—for how well He understands us and knows what is best for us at all times…Moreover, because of what Christ has done, we have become gifts to God that He delights in, for as part of God’s sovereign plan we were chosen from the beginning to be His, and all things happen just as He decided long ago. God’s purpose in this was that we should praise God and give glory to Him for doing these mighty things for us, who were the first to trust in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:7-8, 11-12 TLB)

It was in these words that I finally found comfort. They reminded me that God alone knows what’s best for me and my family at all times; that we are His chosen and that He has a plan for each of us. They reminded me that I am to praise Him for all things…even difficult parenting seasons.

And this is what I was missing.

I have been so focused on the hard, the less-than, the short-comings, that I have not taken time to praise God for this year. I confess, I have not looked for the good. I have forgotten that this is only one chapter in a book that’s already been written, by an author who delights in me and my son, an author that understands how I feel before I do, and who knows what is best at all times.

And finally I realized, it was time to change my prayer. Instead of asking for God to get us through this season, to change my son’s behavior, or to show me how to “handle things” I need to say “thank you”.

Thank you God for this season. Because although it’s not been easy, I know it is still part of your plan for my boy, and for me. Thank you for understanding my son, even when I don’t, and for choosing us to be Yours. You know what is best for us and You see and understand things I do not. So I entrust my son to you. I let go of my failures and hand them over to You. For even though I fall short, Your love never fails.

To the other moms and dads who feel like they have failed in some way: remember you have a Father who knows what is best at all times, even when you don’t. Take comfort in that and sleep well tonight.

one chapter in a book that's already been written

Teaching our kids how to lose

My kids are growing up in a world where every child gets a trophy or ribbon just for showing up. If you participate, you get an award. And it’s a topic that seems to produce strong feelings among  many parents. There are generally two camps of thought on this issue, or as I like to say, you’re either a Burns or a Focker (see Meet the Fockers if you don’t get the reference).

1. The Burns camp: We are misleading our children and doing them a disservice by celebrating mediocrity. In the real world you don’t get an award just for showing up and not everyone wins.

2. The Focker camp: We are building our children’s self-esteem, evening the playing field, and recognizing effort.

I have to admit that as a mom, I struggle between these two camps. While I do agree that in the real world not everyone wins, you don’t get an award just for showing up, and if we don’t prepare our children for that we are doing them a disservice; I also feel that my children will have 60+ years of the real world (God willing) where people and experiences will tear at their self-esteem, so why not let them have a few years to build up their confidence and believe they can succeed?

When my son’s hockey team came in third place (out of three teams) he beamed with pride as they put that bronze medal around his neck. And why shouldn’t he? He and his teammates practiced every weekend, skated their little hearts out, and worked just as hard as the kids who won first.

Yet when my daughter came home devastated because she was the first kid in her class to be eliminated in the school spelling bee, I had to remind her that not everyone could win or it wouldn’t be much of a competition, and she should be happy for her friends who won.

It’s a delicate balance. And I’m quite sure I haven’t got it figured out. But one thing I was reminded of this week was that letting our kids lose — and more importantly, teaching them how to lose graciously — is an incredibly important responsibility we have as parents.

My eldest daughter has led what I would consider a bit of a “charmed life”. She’s incredibly smart and therefore always received good grades, often without trying too hard. While she’s not a star athlete, she does pick up new skills fairly quickly. This, coupled with the fact that she goes to a very small private school, means she gets a lot of playing time on her volleyball and basketball teams. Most recently she’s been bitten by the acting/music bug and was given a solo in her school play earlier this year. The kid is used to things going her way. So when the school science fair came upon us earlier this year she desperately hoped and prayed for placing in the top three so she could advance to the Regionals. Low and behold her project won first place at the school level and she was going to get her wish to go to the Regional Science Fair.

A month later, we headed out early in the morning with a whole cheering section in tow (siblings, grandparents, the works) for the college where the Regional Science Fair was being held. My daughter was a ball of nervous energy mixed with excitement for getting to have this, as she called it, “once in a lifetime experience.” After a long day where she presented her project to seven different judges over the course of nearly two hours, we anxiously awaited for the winners to be announced. Her classmates who also attended Regionals won first in their categories, but my daughter’s name was never called. She didn’t place in the top three for her category. She would not be coming home with a medal.

She was on the other side of the gymnasium, so I couldn’t see her face when the awards were read, but I braced myself for a heart-broken little girl and a few tears. Instead, what I saw as I crossed the gym was her congratulating her classmates. There were no tears, and her head was held high.

Later, in the car, as we approached home I asked her what she thought about the whole experience and what she had learned. She said, “well I learned that you can’t win all of the time.”

“Yes, that’s true,” I said. “But what do you think about that?”

“Well, everyone deserves a chance to shine and succeed, and I already had my moment.”

That night I hugged her tight and I told her how very proud I was of her. Not just for all of her hard work on her science fair project, but for her poise and composure. I told her I was proud of her for the way she handled herself and how it showed what a strong character she had to not get what she wanted and still be gracious about it. She looked up at me beaming and said, “really?”

“Yes really. I couldn’t be more proud of you and the person you are becoming.”

Sure, I could have said things like “you’ll get ’em next time!” Or tried to find reasons why she didn’t win and start strategizing about what she can/should do differently next year to secure a medal. But then the conversation would have become all about winning. I would be teaching my daughter that success only comes in the form of a trophy or medal. When what I really want to teach my daughter — all of my children — is that hard work, strength of character, and trying new things that challenge us are the ultimate prize.

They won’t always be picked for the team, win a ribbon, or even be recognized for their hard work. And if they are doing it for the recognition, they will be disappointed. However, if they do it for the joy of the adventure, for the experience; if they focus on trying their best and being kind to those around them in the process; if they remember that approval and self-worth come from the One and not from being number one, then they will always be successful.

The last thing my daughter said to me that night?

“Mom, I can’t wait until next year’s science fair!”

Yes she lost. Perhaps it’s not what she would have chosen, but I’m so grateful that she was able to see the bigger picture and understand that losing does not equal failure. How we approach life and respond to disappointment is what truly makes a person successful.