I waited in the car.  Every minute or so, I checked my watch.  While I tried to prepare myself for bad news, I simultaneously attempted to create a sort of “smiley” face on my own less-than-happy countenance.  Too soon it was time to go.  I exited my car and walked over to where all the other parents stood.  Acted as if this was “so super exciting” finding out how my twin sons did today in kindergarten.  Stephen ran out first, his way-too-big back pack dwarfing his little five-year-old body.  He had papers to show me, and lots to tell me, grinning ear to ear.  Then I looked over at the other classroom.  Kids began to pour out and I looked for Chris.  He saw me and smiled.  Bounced over to where I stood with his brother and began sharing all about his day in a “bit-too-loud” voice that caused the other parents to glance our way.  Then I saw her.  Chris’ teacher.  She walked over to me smiling but I knew looks could be deceiving.  Here goes, I thought.  With some hesitation, I asked her quietly, “How did Chris do today?”

 

Now, as many parents know, this question wasn’t all about Chris.  It was a lot about me.  About me as a mother.  Had I prepared him enough?  Was I a good parent?  Was he getting enough love and attention?  It was a question I had asked her many times before and, while at the time I saw myself as a concerned parent, I wonder if this kind, loving teacher saw instead a vulnerable, insecure young woman deeply needing approval and encouragement.

 

I almost held my breath waiting.  But today her response was very different.

 

“Mrs. Lamera?  How about if, from now on, we will assume that Chris has a normal day?  If it is especially good, I will let you know.  If it is a day when he really struggles, I will also let you know.  But if I don’t talk with you about his day, know that it was a perfectly normal day for Chris.”

 

It has been 15 years since I heard those words and they still make me cry today when I think about them.  As they were spoken, I felt a giant weight lift up off my shoulders.  No longer would I have to dread this reunion with my sons as I waited for my own maternal “report card” from Chris’ teacher.  I could be like all the other mommies picking up their little ones without fear of judgment and fear of failure.

 

These last few weeks, I have been reminded of how awful this feeling is for all of us.  This feeling that we do not measure up.  Don’t cut it.  Do not have what it takes.  And I believe this sense of failure can be summed up on one word.

 

Should.

 

Quite frankly, I believe this is a word which could be eliminated from our vocabulary without causing any major issues.  Actually, I believe it might help solve a few.  Let me explain.

 

I should really get some exercise.  I shouldn’t be sitting here and reading right now.  I should be a better wife/mother/daughter/sister.  You should really listen better.  You should be getting straight A’s.  You should have played (that sport) better today. 

 

Other words and phrases masquerade as a “should.” Like, “Why can’t you…?”  “Will you ever…?”  “I wish you would just….” 

 

Now imagine I am putting my hand out and raising it way above my head.  That’s what “should” is.  A super-high expectation.  Yours or someone else’s. Now imagine I am putting my hand out and only lifting it to my shoulder.  That’s where “should” says YOU are or where I am.  Way below.  Disappointingly, embarrassingly, dismally…LOW.

 

I don’t know about you, but being told by someone else or telling myself I am “less than” doesn’t EVER feel good.  Because all a person really hears is “YOU DON’T MEASURE UP.”  And I don’t think that is ever helpful.

 

But it IS understandable.

 

I believe “shoulds” come from two places.  Heaven.  And from sin.   Here is what I mean by that.

 

The “shoulds” that come from Heaven are the obvious outcome of being made by God for Heaven – for a PERFECT world.  There will be no “shoulds” in Heaven because EVERYTHING WILL BE AS GOOD AS IT CAN GET.  We will all be the people God intended us to be and will not be the sinful, messy, disappointing people we are now.  When someone doesn’t show us perfect love, perfect patience…it hurts.  And when our kids don’t perform as well as we can see (in our minds) when playing an instrument, or sport, or whatever, it is jarring, frustrating.  Because, in our idea of an ideal world, they do.

 

And when we are working more than full-time, parenting kids with more homework and extra curricular stuff than we EVER had and dealing with more health issues than we ever imagined, it is not surprising if, after all our missteps and outright face-plants we look at ourselves in the mirror with disappointment and the whispered words, “You should be able to DO this.”

 

But our “shoulds” also come from sin.  From our expectations that we will come FIRST.  From our need to treated in whatever way WE desire.  To get our own way.  To control other people’s beliefs, feelings, words, actions.  ‘Cause living with fallen people is hard.  And if people would just do things OUR way it could be so much easier. (I am thinking Satan believed a “should” statement.  Something like – I should be equal to God.)

 

I am so thankful for a God Who knew we could never measure up.  And then sent a Savior Who COULD.  For Jesus not only erased all our sins.  All our failures.

 

He made a way for us to let go of all that doesn’t not measure up.  And to simply know that we are loved.

In Christ,
Melinda Lamera