This isn’t a documented statistic, but I’m suspicious that 98 percent of all parents contemplate running away from home while helping their child prepare for a spelling test. Or maybe it’s just me.
Every week, my daughter, Caroline, brings home a list of words that she needs to learn by Friday. We go over the words, and I try to help her recognize patterns — she tells me my patterns don’t make sense. I even spell out the words with my body like I’m moving to the beat of “YMCA.”
But a few weeks ago, we hit an all-time low. We were both tired and frustrated by the intricacies of the English language. Instead of encouraging Caroline, I just lost it. I got frustrated and raised my voice and told her she just needed to concentrate more. The whole thing ended in tears and more frustration.
And that’s the thing about motherhood. No matter how hard I try, I can’t achieve perfection. Before I had a child, I knew exactly what kind of mother I’d be — I’d have cookies waiting after school, and we’d snuggle together and make learning fun. But there are days when I just don’t have time to bake cookies, and doing homework with my child is simply impossible.
I had a difficult relationship with my own mother, so when I learned I was having a daughter, I vowed that I was going to be the best mother ever. I’d attend every soccer game and never be late picking her up from school. I’d do crafts for hours and never be impatient. But I have already failed with all those goals. We cannot achieve perfection, and when we don’t give ourselves grace, it just adds to our frustration and sense of failure.
Honestly, a lot of my desire for perfection stems from pride. I want others to look at me and think I’m an awesome mom. But like the Lord told Samuel before He anointed David to be king of Israel, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). As a mom, the best thing I can do is surrender my pride and the fear of what other people think to the Lord. I need God to help me have the right heart as I live in daily dependence on Him.
Caroline and I now approach spelling in new ways. I have her go over her words for about 10 minutes before I begin to work with her, and I’ve learned to take a few deep breaths to keep it all in perspective. When I relax and make it fun, she relaxes, too.
I try to remember that all moms are imperfect souls who have been entrusted with a little piece of heaven — children. God didn’t give us these little people because He thought we’d be perfect. He gave them to us because He knew His grace could fill all the gaps that we could never fill.
Melanie Shankle is a writer and speaker. She blogs daily and is the author of Sparkly Green Earrings.