Excellent, Not Perfect

My greatest challenge:  teaching my children.  I  began more than ten years ago with the crushing pack of my children’s education pressing down on my shoulders, and it has become a burden light and wonderful to carry.   There are some days when the weight again seems unbearable and any mistake whispers the lie: “You’re unqualified.”

First day of school ten years ago– true story.   I learned about a cool way to teach spelling:  write the word on a blackboard, and see how many other words can be made with the letters in that word.  The blackboard made it seem so… schoolish, and I do have a love affair with words.  The perfect exercise.

Our word was “animal.”   We made lots and lots of little words with the letters in animal.  I won’t bore you with them all.  But even I was amazed at how many words could be made by rearranging the letters.  (Obviously I hadn’t ever played Boggle before.)  Just as we were finishing up, Dad came home from work.  Beaming, I waved my arm across the word-filled blackboard Vanna White style and said, “See what we’ve been doing?”

He had a strange look on his face.  Figuring he didn’t understand how cool this exercise was, that maybe it looked like mindless scribbles all over the blackboard, I explained to him all about metacognitive strategies and how seeing the little words inside the big word would ingrain the correct spelling in their minds.  Still, he didn’t seem to get it.  No praise.  No stunned and awed expression.  No “You’re amazing, Wife!”

Being the very first day, I admit, I did expect some strokes from him.

“What?”  I asked finally.

“That’s great, Hon.”  He said, “But ‘animal’ is spelled A-N-I-M-A-L, not A-N-I-M-A-L-L.”

Argh!  You probably won’t believe me when I assert that I’m not even a poor speller.  I was just over-excited with a dash of blonde moment.   I DO know how to spell “animal.”  I did back then.  But the mistakes I made, especially that one, helped me to know that perfect was never going to be my adjective.   I have moved on, and we try daily for excellent.  Some days we even hit it.   My friend recently reminded me that a mistake does not disqualify me from the arena.  How I needed to hear that.  Maybe we all do sometimes.

One of my favorite verses is from Ecclesiastes.  “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God.  For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?”

The eating part is cool, but the labor part is even better.  I believe my heart will not condemn me if I ask God for direction, go the way He points, and continue to contradict a world that would tell me my labor in raising my children is not good.  However small, seemingly unimportant the task is, I will tell myself my labor IS good.

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