Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My Story, Part 13

To start at the beginning, click here.
For Part 12, click here.

1994 found me thirty and pregnant with our third child. I distinctly remember one night lying on my bed, watching the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer as my varicose veins throbbed and my belly wobbled and heard myself say "I'll never do that." I don't know what part of me had been so delusional that I thought I ever actually could do that (as in be in the Olympics or even be an athlete of any stripe) but there I was. Pregnant, thirty, and all washed up. My entire life I had looked ahead to the "some day" part of life and now, out of nowhere, I had passed that and was looking back with longing and regret for missed opportunities.

Fast forward a few months and I became the mother of a bouncing baby boy. I had heard a number of moms say "If you can handle three kids, you can handle any number above that." I am not so sure what I did counted as "handling" three kids. I cried. I despaired. I daydreamed about running off to Montana with my baby. I daydreamed about the OB that delivered my baby. Seriously. I got a freakin' crush on the doctor that delivered my baby. Who does that?

Postpartum with Baby #3 was just plain hard. Matt was working long, long hours and I wasn't so much depressed as resigned and hopeless. It was all too much and I really wanted to start over with a new and different life. Or at least a new and different husband. (Sorry, honey.)

To add insult to injury, enter The Ezzo Reign of Terror. As if I wasn't overwhelmed enough, Gary Ezzo's "Growing Kids God's Way" and "Preparation for Parenting/Babywise" parenting programs took hold in our church and in the Christian community at large. If you don't know about this, please read the link. It will help you understand the atmosphere I lived in.

Always up close and personal with insecurity, guilt, and crippling self-doubt, the emphasis that there was one way to Do It Right when it came to parenting was just disastrous for me. My thinking self read the material and recoiled at the ludicrous claims and cruel and even dangerous directives yet my emotional self hated being the odd man out and the one who didn't Do It Right.

Behind all of this stuff was a really distorted view of God. Even though at I had been a Christian for 13 years at this point, I still struggled terribly with my image of God as the stern taskmaster who was never, ever satisfied with my performance. So there I was. Convinced that God hated me because of my failure as a mother and convicted and horrified over my lack of love for my husband.

I was pretty much at the end of myself. Turns out that that is exactly where God wanted me.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Why I Hate Awards Ceremonies

I have seen so many articles lately bemoaning the fact that kids now get "participation trophies" and blame that for the sense of entitlement and woes of an entire generation, I understand that getting a trophy just for being on the team seems a little odd, but I understand the problem it is trying to address.

At the end of every school year are awards ceremonies. These things take hours. I endured them as a student. I endured them as a parent. Every year it seemed the same kids got the awards. It became predictable. For the students and the parents.

There were the academic awards. The athletic awards. The character awards. Some of the awards were objective by grades and GPA. Others were voted on by teachers. Some were voted on by fellow students. The smart and the talented got the awards. The popular got the awards. And everybody else sat there.

As a student you learn to deal with it. To expect it. To know that nothing you can do will really change it. As a parent it is more heartbreaking. You hope your child takes it in stride. Learns from it. Develops resiliency and peace with who they are.

As much as awards may be there to encourage students to compete and push themselves to be the best they can be, the reality is that for many students, their best will never, ever be good enough.

Life is not an even playing field. So many factors play into a child's achievements. Some kids are born with intellectual gifts or natural abilities. Some are born into families that are driven and push for accomplishment. Some kids are born into families that have the resources to provide the opportunities that spark interest and hone skills. Some are born with an ear for music or athletic zest dripping from their muscles. Some are born with a bubbly personality and a chatty disposition.

On the converse, some kids are born with challenges. Learning disabilities and ADD and autism spectrum disorders can prove to be hurdles that require much effort to manage. Some kids struggle with anxiety or depression or other mental health challenges that may force academic performance to take a back seat. Some kids are born into homes where there is violence or negligence or addiction or poverty. Survival is the goal.

The fact of the matter is that Average Joe will never be able to compete academically with Mr. Gifted High IQ. The kid raised by a single mom who works the night shift will likely never have the same opportunities to hone his skills as the kid whose parents have traveled with him every weekend, year round, to play in state soccer leagues. The quiet, shy introvert will never catch the attention of the teachers the way Miss Congeniality will. The popular kids stay popular and the not-popular ones rarely have a chance to break into that exclusive club.

Even though I am saying all this, I am not advocating for a trophy for everybody. It is really a pain to store those things and nobody really cares about them anyway. I just want to make the point that all these awards can be frustrating and discouraging and downright painful. Some will try their hardest and never make the grade. Some will give up. Some won't care and never try at all.

I don't know the answer. I am just pondering. I do wonder if the whole awards thing is necessary at all.