Last week, my whole family went to a ceremony held in a courtroom in Louisiana. Among other things at the court, my step-dad was being honored, posthumously, for his contributions and excellence as an attorney.
It was a beautiful ceremony, but I also remember being so frustrated by my kids’ behavior. I had talked to them about how to behave beforehand, yet they still got antsy and squirmy. I felt annoyed and disappointed in their behavior during the hour-long ceremony. But mostly I felt worn out from the constant correction and shushing.
When it was over, my mom told me she thought my kids did amazingly well for…well…kids. I disagreed with her for a little while, remembering every tiny thing they did to disobey that morning. And then I realized it. They’re 5, 3, & 2. Perfect behavior just ain’t gonna happen. But they were quiet (not silent) and they were not disruptive. There’s not much more that I could’ve asked for. In fact, today, my mom was complimented by an attorney on my children’s behavior in the courtroom on Friday,
Unlike me, my mom is much better at accepting approximations.
When I was a kid, I remember how much I loved to vacuum. I was about 5 or 6, and while I bet I was terrible at vacuuming, I was allowed to do it anyway. My mom was great at accepting approximations, and I bet with 5 kids, any vacuuming was better than no vacuuming at all!
Meanwhile, around that same age, I distinctly remember sweeping one day and I overheard my aunt tell my mom that I was doing it wrong. I wondered if my mom would show me a different way to do it, but she never did. And the floors got swept. But looking back, I think my aunt just wasn’t very good at accepting approximations.
This was a phrase that stuck out to me so frequently in my education classes. I tucked it away during the summers spent in grad school, ready to pull it out in the fall when I would face a room full of 9th graders. And now as a parent, I’m pulling it out again.
An approximation is something that is nearly, but not exactly correct.
As mamas, we have a choice.
We can train our children in a variety of tasks.
We can do it all for them.
That’s probably not a wise idea. It creates teen-agers and young adults who expect everyone to serve them. It leads to selfishness.
But if we do choose to be parents who train our children, we’re left with another choice.
Will we stand over our little ones, ready to point out every mistake? We can be the exacting task masters, showing every flaw and imperfection, all in the need to help them do it correctly.
We can accept approximations.
We accept approximations when we teach our children how to make their beds. The three year old pulls his blanket up crookedly and then spends a long 15 minutes arranging his favorite toys in a line on the bed.
We accept approximations when we ask them to clean up their toys and they get nearly everything picked up, except for those two cars that rolled underneath the bed.
We accept approximations when we give the 1 year old a spoon and some oatmeal. And most of it gets in his mouth, but some of it lands in his lap. Or on the floor. Or in his hair.
We accept approximations when we say that “good enough” really is good enough. Because it is, especially in children. Children who are still learning. We want them to become people who do things with excellence, but sometimes to excel, we have to fail too.
If we want to train them to do tasks for themselves, that means we have to accept that awkward, in-between stage when it’s not really done correctly.
But if we’re going to approach tasks in this way, then we also can’t go behind them and re-do the thing. Nope. We have to truly accept the poorly-made bed from the 3 year old. When he’s 5, it will be neater. When he’s 7, it will be neater still.
As mamas, we need to love our children enough to teach them how to do things for themselves…and then love them enough to accept it when they can’t get it just right. Because each time that they try, they learn. Each time that they fail, they learn. And eventually, they become capable adults who can do so much because their parents let them try and fail.
Where is an area where we need to accept approximations today?