From the Mothership: A Passing Grade Isn’t Everything


A Passing GradeThe end of the college semester is over, which means my niece and I enjoy a “review talk.” We discuss what she did and didn’t like, how she evolved as a person, why she flourished in some courses and not others, who influenced and inspired her. (And, as a side, these are precious, treasured moments for me with my practically grown little love turned college lady!)

Of hot debate this year was Spanish class! She feels frustrated and discouraged that a language she loves — one she even made her minor — is such a challenge. My niece put in more study hours, extra extra credit assignments, tutoring, and meetings with the professor “just” to get a B — and barely a B at that. Her “frustrated and discouraged” teetered on depressed and defeated. (Imagine lots of dramatic exclamations.)

My perspective is this: I am really proud of the hard work, diligence, effort, and resourcefulness . . . really proud. That speaks volumes about character and work ethic. Several years removed from college myself, I now understand the importance of working on the daily for the benefit of the whole. Yes, it is important and admirable to work hard, but one grade in one class — in the grand scheme of things — isn’t a make or break deal. The chances are low her future employers will ask what she made in her freshmen Spanish class. The GPA may be of interest (maybe); the name of the college (maybe); but the degree as a whole is the vital piece. My advice was to take a deep breath, be thankful for the opportunity to show others and yourself how hard you can work, accept the B for all it’s value, and let grace embrace you.

Good advice, right?

And then a few hours later . . .

I realized I wasn’t applying my own dern advice. I demand a high level of aptitude, capability, and endurance as a mother myself. It is not a secret that I struggle with perfectionism. (My niece comes by it naturally.) I have an ongoing judge’s panel keeping score in my mind, doling out grades of how well I handled this, how well I accomplished that as a parent. More than once a day I feel frustrated and discouraged. Some days those feelings teeter on depressed and defeated. (Imagine lots of dramatic exclamations.) But hold the horse and stop the buggy! I’m turning my oh-so-sage advice about Spanish courses and report cards on myself — and maybe you.

It is a good thing to sacrifice, work hard, to do your best effort for the sake of your children’s well-being, development, and joy. OF COURSE! Remember, though, it is the bulk of your work, your years loving and nurturing and guiding and disciplining that makes the mark, sets the path. Today is important, but it is one long day that makes up many short years.

In the midst of yelling when you should have walked away, disciplining when you should have hugged, folding laundry when you should have played, know this: Take a deep breath, be thankful for the opportunity to love sacrificially and work hard, accept the stumbles and fumbles, value the hard things that reveal your weaknesses, and let grace embrace you.

It’s true for my niece. It’s true for my kids. It’s true for me. It’s true for you.



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