Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Pressure to Perform

Yesterday my children's gave their final homeschool band concert of the season. This performance represented the culmination of months of private practice and rehearsals. Many of them had only been playing their instruments less than a year. As you would expect, the children were eager to look and play their best. My children were excited but nervous. Days before my daughters were trying to decide how to wear their hair and which blouse looked best. They practiced earnestly in the hours before the concert. They knew all eyes were on them and they didn't want to be the one to mess up. The pressure to perform was intense but honestly, mostly self inflicted.

As a parent, I was just proud of my children for participating. It didn't matter how well they played. I would grin, hug them tight, and tell them they did great. Because that's just what a momma does. I didn't hear the mess ups. There weren't any. All I heard were the pleasant tones of children who loved their instruments and the music they played.

As we applauded, my children realized that the nervousness was for naught. The pressure to perform was over and they could loosen up and enjoy the desserts basking in the after glow of parental praise for a job well done.

While I listened to the children, my mind drifted back to my own struggle and the "pressure to perform". It wasn't for a concert but a different stage I was seeking perfection. Every time I left my front door I felt the eyes of the world were upon me. Would I measure up? What will other homeschoolers think of me? Of my children? How about strangers? Would they look at this often bedraggled momma with six children in tow and shake there heads? Of course, most didn't notice anything. They were too busy worried about how they looked and acted to care about me. But my own self inflicted pressure to look and play the part was intense.

This pressure climaxed a few years ago on a trip to Ohio. We were traveling deep into Amish territory to order a kitchen table and chairs. The store was owned by a Mennonite family. We had spoken by phone a few times. They encouraged us to bring the children and make a day of it. Immediately, I grew anxious. What would this family think of me? Of my children? Would they behave themselves after a long car ride? Or would we be the subject of next Sunday's sermon about what NOt to do?

The family greeted us warmly and we eagerly began looking at the wide selection of furniture. My children drifted outside to play for a little while. Their son followed. All seemed to be going quite well. We could see them from the window and slowly I relaxed a little. As we were settling on stain colors, we began to hear strange noises from the back room. They sounded like the muffled groans of an animal trapped in a closed room. The other mother and I began walking toward the sound. As we began to get closer we heard giggles mixed in with the groans. We instintively knew it was the boys and the sound we heard was burping. Loud. Obnoxious. Burping. I knew that it was too good to last. As we opened the door, my son sprang up. "Momma, did you know you could make yourself burp? It's really cool all you have to do is..." The other mother became red faced and very apologetic. Yes, it was her son teaching these city slickers all the latest belching techniques and even how to talk while doing it. He taught them a few other tricks too! And to think I was worried about my children?

With a burp God set me free from the "pressure to perform" and the fear of not measuring up.

Recently, I gave a talk to a small group of mothers. Afterward, one mother confessed that she didn't think she had what it took to homeschool. With despair in her voice she sighed,

"Don't I have to be some perfect mother with perfectly behaved children?"

I knew her struggle and her apprehension. "No," I said with a smile, "You don't have to be perfect just forgiven. There are no perfect mothers. Only imperfect ones who are God's perfect choice to raise HIS children. "

And just as my children realized after the concert was over, we will bask in the afterglow. Our Heavenly Father will welcome us with open arms saying,

"Well done my good and faithful servant enter now into the joy of my rest."

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