The UnSuccess Ceremony: A Mother's Mutiny

4:57 PMHeather

I've gotta come clean on something.  Something I have not yet voiced.  Not just here on my blog but in real life too.  Listen, when it comes to end of the year success ceremonies--I have a problem.  I sit there and literally feel sick to my stomach.  I feel the butterflies as if it were my very self-worth on the line.  And in some ways, folks--it does feel like it is.  My validation as a mother--or more specifically--a good and successful mother--is riding on the outcome of that success ceremony.   As an adult who has wrestled against the strong hold of "performing love"-- every success ceremony ties me in knots.  It reminds me of the bragging mothers in the nursing room at church whose newborns slept perfectly through the night from day one while my seven-month-old still didn't.  Or the horrific phone call I once received telling me that some lame placement test showed that my son was developmentally delayed because he completed the stick figure with the second leg facing out rather than in.

Seriously?  Isn't mothering hard enough without feeling as though we fell short and are the only LOSERS in the world whose children can't play classical piano by age two and read War and Peace by age 5?

When I sit at these success ceremonies, I wonder.  Will my children's performance, or lack thereof, validate me as a mother?  Oh, pa-shaw, I tell myself.  That's ridiculous. Quit being silly.

But, I'd be lying if I said that these thoughts and feelings don't haunt me.  And not just as a mom.   These ceremonies feed on the insecurities of my childhood as well.  I find myself emotionally in the place of the second grader me who hated school and went to speech therapy and was the last one picked for Red Rover.


Great, I think.  My kid won't be named athlete of the year and they are now bound to live under a bridge somewhere, destitute and all alone. Never mind the fact that said child didn't even take athletics that year.

Don't ask me why all these conflicting emotions and thoughts plague me.  I got issues, I know.

Just once, I'd love to go to a success ceremony where they are keeping it real.  Something like, instead of the "no tardies" certificate (as if one of my kids will EVER achieve that status)--how about a "most consistently tardy" award?

Or, how about an award for the student who made the biggest mistake and turned it around?  Something like, "Best FORMER behavior issue."  

Or heck, why don't we just all stand back in awe at the most incredulous story of misguided youth?  It can take brains and gumption to pull off some pranks.  You never know who those class clowns may turn out to be.

This would be my favorite, perhaps, in such an "unsuccess ceremony."  How about dumbest criminal act?  Not to get personal if the parent of that male child is reading this.  But how about if you steal an iPhone then you take a selfie with said iPhone?  Just before you ditch the phone on school premises but keep the blingy girly case?  I'd hand out the trophy for that one.  Kudos to the school police officer who cracked that case, too, by the way.
 
Now to be serious. I don't think I'm the only one who may feel a bit of anxiety when it comes to these success ceremonies.  Yet, I hesitate here to say anything for one main reason.  Listen, bloggy friends, God love your kids and their accomplishments.  Truly--I don't abide by the philosophy that everyone gets a trophy and we are all winners.  That's not true.  A job well done should be recognized.  I'm all for that.  And not just for the time that my oldest son was named Bronco of the Year in sixth grade.  (See how I slipped that in there and still ride on the wave of that success?!)   So, I really don't want anyone to feel that I have some big beef with you personally if you post about your children's accomplishments.  That's not what I'm saying.  I love your kids and I love you as a parent and I just don't want you to think otherwise.

But I have two big problems here that feed into my issue with success ceremonies.  First of all, we live in a culture that makes our children our idols.  Sorry to step on toes, but it's true.  We as a society put our children on pedestals and we live for them and breath for them and wear ourselves out for them, limiting things like discipline and the hard lesson of being told no.  We do anything to help them get ahead and to feel special and wonderful and nothing but happy, happy, happy.  Entitlement runs rampant around here.  And I don't just mean this part of the country.  We think we deserve certain things, and we pass this on to our children as we idolize them.  We talk about character while we publicly worship our children and bow at the altar of their incredible accomplishments.

Listen, my kids are my heart beat.  But, they are not my number one.  God is.  Then, if I can keep my priorities straight past the urgent demands of my children, my husband comes next.  My kids come third.  Or they should.  This is the order I'm constantly working to keep in line.  I'm not here to make my kids' lives easy.  I'm  here to equip them for the hard lessons in life.  They are amazing because God knit them together with a plan and a purpose.  Not because they won "Little Miss Ain't I Something" at some beauty pageant.  Not because they scored a billion and one on their college entrance.  Not because they earned a jillion certificates on awards day.  We must be mindful, as we raise these darlings, that we need to worship the CREATOR.  Not his creation.  Even if they are the most incredible things we've ever seen or held or loved.  THEY and their accomplishments must not steal the worship due only to our Father.  If our children are coming between us and God, then we need to think twice on that. 

Secondly, when we have missed our children's opportunity for any hint of  success in sports because they didn't play until age eight--there MAY be a problem here.  We are driving this cycle of worth defined by success.   We live in a celebrity worship society that finds our personal worth wrapped up in our net worth.   We post how amazingly perfect our lives are on Facebook and set up images of greatness on Pinterest with dream house rooms and fashionable clothes that we simply cannot afford.   This smacks me in the face as I am a recovering perfectionist.  I work hard to weed out these feelings of failure when my task list is undone or my children fuss and fight and I have nothing positive to say for every friend I have on Facebook.

How about we work a bit more on keeping it real?   Let others in on our struggles and our shortcomings so our friends know they aren't the only ones.  So our friends can encourage us.  How about we remember this verse as we seek to quit elevating every accomplishment while we hide our every struggle:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  
Matthew 6:1

Here is the question.  What am I putting out there simply to be seen by them?  To be seen as successful for all the "thems" out there.  What am I doing  or saying so that I earn the approval of others? 

Do I care more about man's approval?  Or God's?  I mean, really look into the mirror of that challenge.  What is fueling your actions?  What's your motivation?

So, listen.  I don't think we have to quit the business of these success ceremonies.  Nor do I think myself powerful enough to push this tradition over.  And that's not ultimately what I'm saying needs to happen.  But, how about we are careful to not allow our own worth to be defined by certificates and awards and the success they seem to imply?  For that matter, how about we guard our children's worth and keep it from being defined by achievements?  

And how about being careful to not create a stumbling block for other struggling, tardy, "unsuccessful parents" and children by trying to keep up some illusion of grandeur?

I love the twist my daughter's elementary school has put on this whole thing.  The children set goals.  And the one they are most proud of meeting at the end of the year--their "personal success"--is read as they each pass across the stage.  
Love it.  That's real life.  Setting a goal.  Trying.  Failing.  Learning.  Growing.  Pressing on.  

And just once, I'd love to hear some kid's personal success be something like, "I don't bully my classmates nearly as much as I used to."  Or, "I now only fight with my mom for ten minutes instead of thirty each morning about my outfit."  Or, "I can calm down much faster now when I throw a fit."   

I think my "end of this school year personal success" would be something like this.

I survived.  We won some.  We lost some.  We failed.  We succeeded.  We learned a lot.  Now it's over.

While I'm boasting here...let me also say that I managed to get my children to the afternoon of Day One of summer before the "I'm bored" mantra set in.

Help me, Lord Jesus!   

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