By Heather O.
I’m not very good at math. In fact, that may be an understatement. I stink at math. It was always my worst subject, and I struggled with it in highschool, and as an adult. When I took the GRE for graduate school, I had to have a personal tutor help me prepare, and we spent the entire time working on the math portion of the test. Lots of tears, frustrated sighs, and concentrated practice sessions later, I managed to scrape a high enough score to get into graduate school. It did, however, take two tries to get a math score high enough to apply.
So, needless to say, the classes that I struggled with the most had to do with numbers. One of these areas is Audiology, the study and science of hearing. Audiologists are great–they fit hearing aids, they test hearing, they help a lot of people out. As students, we had to do a clinical semester with an audiologist. Basically, we spent our time administering hearing tests and interpreting the results. Sadly, I even struggled a little bit with just those basic practices. I couldn’t always work the screening machine right, I would sometimes confuse the notation for the left and right ears, and it took me a few times before I got the hang of how to write a report on a hearing test. I dreaded the time I spent with that audiologist, pleasant as she was, because I felt I was always making mistakes. I just figured she dreaded the time with me as well.
Imagine my surprise when, at the end of the semester, I was awarded an A- for the clinical. I did not see her evaluation of my performance, and I didn’t ask. I was just grateful for the grade, and figured she felt just a little sorry for me, and curved it just a bit. I breathed a sigh of relief, and moved on.
Towards the end of my schooling, while working as a teaching assistant, I came across that evaluation while doing some filing. Of course I couldn’t resist sitting down and reading it, and was astonished at what she wrote. My dreaded audiologist had glowing things to say about me and about my performance, as well as my aptitude as a student.
Now, there are times when we know when we are good, and we know that the teacher knows that we are good, and we bask in the glow of great academic performance. This was not one of those times. I truly felt I had screwed up in this clinical track, and was genuinely surprised to read genuine praise from my instructor. I even thought for a second that she had confused me with the other Heather in our program, a student I admired and looked up to for her knowledge, study habits, and excellent performances both in the classroom and the therapy room. Certainly the student this woman was describing couldn’t be me–I had made too many mistakes, and didn’t deserve such praise. I was truly baffled.
Ok, so at this point, you, my dear reader, are asking yourself, “What does this have to do with Mommyhood, and how much more do we have to read about Heather patting herself on the back for being so great after all?”
Here’s my point. I think that this lesson learned as a student can apply to mommyhood as well. We make mistakes as mothers. And not just small ones. We can make some big ones that have some serious consequences. But I think that at the end of the day, we might be surprised at the evaluation that the Lord and our children give us. We concentrate so much on the mistakes we are making, the struggle we have with the steep learning curve that comes whenever we face something new, that we tend to lose sight of the things we are doing well, or we think that they don’t count for enough.
I remember once saying to somebody I worked for in college how I had a hard time dealing with a certain situation. He said to me, “Of course you did. You’d never done it before. Everything is hard the first time you do it.” He wasn’t surprised I had struggled–in fact, he sounded like he almost expected it. Don’t you think the Lord feels the same way? When we become mothers, none of us have ever been one before, no matter how much we babysat. It’s a new experience–of course we are going to make mistakes. But like I said, sometimes our mistakes torture us so much that we lose sight of the things that we are doing well, and we minimize the good while maximizing the bad.
Now unfortunately, we don’t get year-end evaluations and high grades to show us exactly how well we are doing. But I think that focusing on the positive aspects of our mothering can give us some perspective about how we are doing, the positive feedback that all of us so desperately need. And I think that the Lord truly will cut us some slack for struggling with things that we’ve never faced before.
So if you don’t mind, I’m not going to focus on the fact that my child is currently naked, piling jellybeans on the kitchen floor and dive-bombing his Mr. Incredible toy into them. I choose to focus on the fact that my child is engaging in creative play while expressing his individual views against clothing in general. He’s not just making a mess in my kitchen–he’s experiencing tactile stimulation while observing the laws of physics in regard to objects in motion. Wow–that last sentence would look great on a year end review, don’t you think?
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