“But can I hang it on the microwave, Mama?” She tried to steady her words, but there was weight behind them, tears at the ready.
Somehow it had become a practice in our home. Find success on one of those timed math tests, those race the clock, how well have we drilled our facts, math tests, and we Scotch tape them on the microwave for the day. It’s funny how the ways we air our success feel both arbitrary and natural at the same time. For kids and parents, both.
This girl of mine rarely ever beats the clock. But today she was killing it. Harder questions, a longer test and she was all over it. She wasn’t fighting it this time; she was taking that test head on, determined. The alarm caught her by surprise. She had done her best and it wasn’t quite enough. The last row, when time expired, was left entirely blank.
The tension of grace and justice might be the hardest line me for me tow as their mom and teacher. Our politically correct world tells me to grade with a purple pen and give them all a trophy, but the reality, the very real reality that I want to prepare these kids for doesn’t work that way. Not everyone gets the scholarship, the promotion, the book deal. The truth is, sometimes your best, your hard fought very best, will not be enough.
How do I even begin to form an 8 year old for that world?
I hate how questions like these come in flashes. In an instant, a second, I’m trying to address her heart and serve up a dose of truth that will outlive this moment, outlive me.
No pressure, mama, find the words.
When I look at her eyes, asking me about so much more than a stupid math test on the microwave, her identity hanging in the balance, the words come quick, “Of course you can. Scotch tape that thing for the entire world to see, because your trying always matters.”
These are the very moments that haunt me at times. I second guess and question, knowing better than to explicitly trust the softness of my own mama heart because sometimes it forsakes wisdom. I lay in bed at night and carefully weigh these moments out on my own scales of righteous motherhood, recalling the stories for my husband and in some strange way asking him if my own job here, my own attempts to do this mama thing well are worthy of Scotch tape and the microwave. So often it feels like I too come up short on the variety of timed tests that life serves me.
The girl and I, we’re the same.
But here is what I want her to know. You will not nail it every time. Some days you will make a to do list and attack, you will focus and work hard and you won’t get it all done. You may very well prepare for the interview, give it your all, do your very best and still not get the job. But your best is always worth giving; your best is enough.
The other day I was looking over some old blog posts for a project I was working on and a few typos were glaring at me. How in the world could I have missed something so obvious? Reflexive emotions of shame and embarrassment are always one thought away. But the truth is, if I only settled for perfection, I would never be able to write.
Perfectionism suffocates and silences us from ever even offering our gifts to the world. Comparison is it’s ugly cousin.
But courage says, it might not be perfect, but right now, in this moment, it is my best and I will offer it, bravely. Courage knows our identity and our calling are wrapped up in something greater, Someone greater, than our actions. There is freedom here, friends. Greater freedom than any purple pen can even offer.
So my girl taped her courage and freedom to the microwave today. And I might have just taped mine there as well.
Your best is always enough.