A couple of years ago I overheard my daughter Hope telling a friend that she was so glad I didn’t get all worked up over grades. Not trying to be nosey but totally wanting to be nosey, I kept listening.
She went on to explain that she and her brothers and sisters were expected to do their best, but in the end, as long as they work hard, Art and I were okay with whatever grade they received.
For the most part, this is right.
This hasn’t always been the case. When Hope started kindergarten, I felt compelled to help her succeed. I felt enormous pressure because I believed success in school meant success in life, and I wanted to set my child up for success.
She was a bright child. She was an articulate child. But try as I might, all through kindergarten she couldn’t read.
Then came first grade. All of the other kids in her class were reading with ease. Some were even reading chapter books! Not my daughter. I panicked. I had her tested. I worried constantly that I must be doing something wrong as her mother.
In the end, it was a readiness issue with her. When she was ready, she starting reading.
Then along came my next child, who was reading at four years old. Finally I’d done something right, I reasoned.
But then child number three came along, and she was my slowest reader yet.
Through all of this, God started to untangle the misperception that success in school determines success in life. And that as a parent, it is up to me to push, plead, demand, and determine my child’s future.
Slowly, I realized God has a plan for each of my kids. As long as I am depending on the Lord to guide me as a parent, nothing I do or don’t do will mess up my kid’s future.
As their parent, it’s my job to guide them, but my guiding shouldn’t have their success in the world’s eyes as the ultimate goal. My guiding should be focused on leading them into a relationship with God, where He’ll make their path straight, no matter what their grades are.
As a parent, this revelation has provided such freedom for me and my kids.
I can celebrate that if one of my kids excels in a subject, that particular success is needed for whatever God intends for them to eventually do in life. If, however, a child struggles and can’t grasp a certain subject—well, that’s also part of God’s direction.
Of course, working hard, doing your best, and being a conscientious student are important. But in the end, for me and my home, grades are not the ultimate determination of success.
This child may never make marks in school that the world highly esteems, but giving her the freedom to excel in the way God has designed her is already paying off. She has an eternal perspective that’s more valuable for her future than any academic accolade.
I’m convinced her struggles in school are actually God’s way to keeping her on the path He’s had for her since she was conceived. Hope was conceived only four months into our very rough start of a marriage. Art and I were two broken sinners thrust into the responsibility of trying to raise a child.
The day Hope was born I saw God like never before. His tender grace was handed to me wrapped in a pink blanket with eyes so wide, so blue, they were a sea of forgiveness forever staring back at me.
I’d never physically touched God, but that day I did. And maybe for the first time in my entire life, His hope rushed inside of me and started rearranging and redeeming my brokenness.
We named her Hope.
Now, we won’t talk about the conversations I had with God when His Hope kept me up in the middle of the night for months after that. And we will save the story of how His Hope has always felt it was beneath her to be the child, and she would put her hands on her toddler hips and tell me not to boss her.
We’ll save those stories for another day.
Because I’ll never forget an e-mail I got from His Hope while she was on a mission trip. Hope was walking the broken roads of Ethiopia navigating poverty her mind couldn’t quite process. She bumped into sheep and a woman walking toward her house made of cardboard and ripped bedsheets.
Hope’s steps were steady, though her heart felt shaky as she loved on 30 kids dying of AIDS in a forgotten orphanage on the forgotten outskirts of town.
She wrote to say, “Mom, I’ve fallen in love. The kids rushed at me when I walked in and I tried to hold all 30 of them at one time.”
From a broken mama. Into a broken world. His Hope is still going forth like only His Hope can.
So, all that to say, yeah—I don’t get all worked up over grades. Trusting God’s plan is the only secret I know in the gentle art of not freaking out.
Join thousands of other moms who are also looking to God for what they need each day with Proverbs 31 Ministries’ online Bible study of my book, Am I Messing Up My Kids? It begins July 13th and you don’t want to miss it. Click here for more information and to sign up today!
To get us started for the study, I’m giving away 5 copies of Am I Messing Up My Kids? to randomly chosen commenters. To enter, leave a comment telling me how you keep your freak-out moments under control.