Sunday, May 19, 2013

Darned Expectations

She got hit.  Hard. 

Right smack in her upper left thigh. 

It was her second at-bat in this particular game, but the first time she'd ever truly been hit by a fast-pitch while standing in the batter's box.  She took a few steps, dropped her bat and grimaced.  She was mad.  Then the hot tears came.  The pain and the anger were clear for all to see as my nine-year-old hobbled toward first base.

When she got there, she was met by her coach, a.k.a. "Daddy".  He spoke with her for a second, checking to see if she was okay.  I couldn't hear him, but did manage to hear her say, "I can't.  It hurts!"  Rubbing her stinging leg and fighting back the tears, she stepped onto first base, poised to steal second, which she did successfully. 

A minute later, she tried to steal third base.  But whether it was the throbbing in her leg or absentmindedness, she didn't slide, which is strange because she always slides if she knows it's going to be a close play. Because she didn't get down, she was thrown out.  (And for the record, she has yet to be thrown out this whole season.)

Safely sliding under the tag in a previous game.
Whereas I thought she was mad before, now she was spewing.  She fought with everything in her not to explode as she trotted off the field.  But as soon as she stepped into the dugout, the dam broke.  I watched her for a second, gave her some time to cool off and then made eye contact with her. 

"So...what happened out there?"

"First I struck out!  Then I got hit!  Then I got tagged out!  I DON'T like to get out!"

I attempted to calm her down as best I could while I listened to her frustration.  Then softly I said, "Mama said there'd be days like this, there'd be days like this, Mama said."

As helpful as I thought my words were, I'm fairly certain she didn't agree.  As a matter of fact, I believe I detected a slight eye-roll behind the mask and beneath the shades.

I reminded her to keep her self-control in check, take the frustration she was feeling and put it into playing defense the rest of the inning.

This is Grace's sixth season playing softball.  She's always enjoyed the game, but her love and interest in it has grown ten fold recently.

And I know exactly why. 

It began the afternoon we took her to her first game at the University of Georgia softball stadium to watch the Lady Dawgs play.

It continued to grow as she watched these college softball players excel in all the things she'd been learning to do over the past few seasons. 

It grew even more at the next game she attended, when both her team and her sister's team got to tour the locker room and then walk onto the field with the UGA players for the pre-game ceremonies.

And it hit an all-time high when she got to meet and get her glove and t-shirt signed by Geri Ann Glasco, the first baseman and her favorite UGA player, after the last game we attended.

Grace & Geri Ann

She wears her signed t-shirt constantly.  She's analyzed the UGA softball program.  She's memorized every player from the team poster hanging on her door.  She was even excited to write about UGA softball and Geri Ann for her descriptive writing assignment a few weeks ago here at home.

Since then, all we've heard is how much she wants to be like her.  She wants to hit just like her and she wants to play first base just like her.  She even wants to play for UGA just like her.  And she wants to do it all today.

We think it's great she has a softball hero heroine to look up to, much like little boys look up to Major League Baseball players.  We think it's super she is setting goals for herself and trying to improve her skills.  We think it's wonderful she is trying so hard and feels such passion for the game.  We love that she loves to play and to compete.

But here's where we aren't too pleased--when she sets up unrealistic expectations for herself and then beats herself up when she doesn't meet them now.

I mean, come on.  Grace is nine.  Geri Ann is nineteen.  Grace has played the game for six seasons and Geri Ann, well, way more than that.  Grace is a good athlete, but who's only had limited coaching and experience so far.  Geri Ann has combined her natural talent with years of specific, individualized training and hard work.  As best I could, I tried to explain this concept to our girl as we drove home.

"Grace, you gotta give yourself some grace.  Geri Ann has had years and years of training and practice.  Don't worry about being like her today and don't get disappointed because you aren't.  Stop comparing yourself to her abilities and accomplishments today.  Just be the best player you can be right now.  I promise you'll enjoy playing softball a whole lot more."

But in midst of speaking those very words, I suddenly realized how much I could relate to her.  I totally get those darned expectations. 

Silently or unknowingly I have heaped them upon myself and then felt angry or depressed when I didn't meet them.  When I have wanted (so badly) to do something someone else has done or have something it took someone else years to obtain, I have felt disappointed.  Maybe I needed more practice developing my skills or maybe I needed to wait for more time to pass.  Or maybe I needed to drop it altogether.

Whenever and whatever the reason, I need to extend grace to myself.  I need to take my own advice about the expectations I place on myself sometimes as a woman, as a wife, as a mom, etc. I just need to be the best version of me God is shaping me to be right now.  Goals are great.  Mentors are wonderful.  But when I quit comparing myself to others and contentedly just be me right now, I find I enjoy this game of life a whole lot more.

And you, friend?  Ever heaped an extra helping of those darned expectations upon yourself?  If not, please share your victories or your secrets for extending grace to yourself while battling the comparison game.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Post Mother's Day Post

Mother's Day.  Some loved it.  Some didn't.  Some were excited about it.  Some were not.

I confess I've had mixed opinions over the years.  And recently, I may have even dubbed it my "least favorite holiday."

For me, it was the burden of expectation.  The sense of obligation.  The "have-to's" and "should-haves".  The let-downs and the disappointments. 

It became too much for me.  So I downplayed it with my husband and my own girls, until the past couple of years when I've felt the Lord helping me to achieve some much-needed balance.  Now, I can walk in freedom with the whole thing.

No guilt.  No worries.  No burdens.  Not about what I did do or didn't do.  Not about what I have done or haven't done. 

Just the freedom to enjoy the weekend with my family.

I love being a mom.  I really do.  But the last thing I want for my girls to feel is that I need them to fill my love tank.  Don't get me wrong.  I absolutely, without a doubt, appreciate their encouragement, their sweet gestures and their kind words.  But my survival and worth as a mother is not tied to it.  And their worth and value as my daughters should not be linked to it.

I want them to feel free to express their affection to me however they want to, when they want to, not only when they feel they should. 

And I know the mother-daughter relationship can be very complex.  Some days are good.  Some not-so-good.  Some seasons are easier.  Some, more challenging. 

But as I lead my girls and teach them to navigate our relationship and the world around us, here's a short list of things I say to them and pray they will know deep in the core of their being:

1.  I love you and treasure you because you are mine.  Period.

2.  My love for you will not change because of what you do or what you don't do; I will not love you any more or any less based on your behavior or choices, your successes or failures.

3.  I am FOR you.  I am NEVER against you.  I am on your team.  I will always be your biggest cheerleader and coach.

4.  You may have come from me, but you are not an extension of me.  You are a distinct individual, created by God Himself with a specific personality, specific giftedness, abilities, and plans for this life.

5.  It's okay if we don't agree from time to time; it's okay if we do agree from time to time.  I love and respect the differences and similarities in our opinions, outlooks and preferences. 

6.  I absolutely do not expect you to be just like me, nor do I want you to be.  I only want you to be who God designed and purposed you to be.

7.  As you grow and mature, take what you've received and pass it down to others. Love as you have been loved.  Give as it has been given to you.  Serve as you have been served.

8.  I am here for you.  If you need me, I'm here.  If you don't, I'm still here.

9.  I will tell you the Truth.  Whether you like it or not, or want to hear it or not, I will tell it.

10.  I will pray for you.  You can count on it.  It's singlehandedly the most important privilege I have as your mother.

So, now and for future Mother's Days, I'd rather focus on the camaraderie.  The fellowship of valiant mama-warriors who fight for their children nearly every minute of every day.  Because I've learned that motherhood ain't for sissies.  It's for the bravehearted, but also for the tenderhearted. 

It's for all of the women who display mothering hearts, whether they have children to call their own or not.  It's for those who teach and share and love and guide and care.  For those whose mother-love spills over to anyone in need of mothering.  These mama bears, forever looking out for the little cubs who cross their paths.

At the end of Sunday's service, our pastor asked for all the mothers to stand.  He read a very kind "thank you" note of sorts to all the mothers, supposedly written from a child's point of view.  It was an emotional display of gratitude to all the mothers.  And I appreciated it; I even teared up during it. 

But for the first time ever during a Mother's Day service, my heart was torn.  I wanted to soak in the moment for me, but found myself aching for a host of other women.  For those women who longed to stand, but could not.  For those waiting for the day they get to stand.  For those who've accepted the reality they may never stand. 

For those who've suffered loss.  For those who still long to mother and that time hasn't come yet.  For those still in a season of waiting.  For those who have suffered a difficult or strained relationship with their mothers.  For those abandoned by their mothers.  For those whose mothers are no longer present in their lives. 

And if you are one of these women, Mother's Day might not have been a welcomed day on your calendar either.  You may have preferred to skip right over it.  In some ways, I understand.  And I pray for you.  

Whatever our role or position as women, let's brave the battlefield together.  Let's step in for the sake of the next generation, for the mothers now and the ones to come, knowing all the while Who gathers us and leads us as we go.

"He tends His flock like a shepherd: 
He gathers the lambs in His arms and
carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11

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