It’s that time of year. The school year is ending and, with that, brings all the accolades and recognition of school-year achievements. Every time I look at social media (including my own accounts), I see pictures posted of kids receiving certificates for academics or trophies for sports, or the excitement as seniors get accepted to great colleges. It’s awesome. How cool to see the wonderful opportunities afforded our kids and the recognition they get for having worked hard.
But I can’t help but think about many parents who struggle watching all of this when they consider how their own kids are faring. What about our kids who have not been inducted into an honor society and never will? Or the ones who didn’t get a lead part in the school play, got cut from a sports team, or didn’t get asked to prom? Is it possible to be excited about the success of all the kids around us while still having a sense of disappointment for our own? Let’s be real about it and admit that it can be tough. And that’s okay.
Here are a few thoughts to consider.
1. Just because a success isn’t measurable doesn’t make it less worthy.
In other words, it’s easy to measure academic success and reward it. There are also easy ways to assess athletics and honor those who excel in their sport. But do you know what is not easy to publicly reward? When your child is nice to the lonely kid in the lunchroom. When he is the only one in the class who doesn’t take a shortcut on the assignment because it might be cheating. Or what about your kiddo that studied her buns off for the history test and a C+ was an amazing accomplishment? Don’t forget your child that serves in the preschool each Sunday or gets up early each morning to have his quiet time.
These things may not bring trophies and certificates, get applause from a roomful of people, or have a picture to document some great feat on Instagram. But what you do have is an opportunity to remind your child (and yourself) what matters to God. Kindness matters (Ephesians 4:32). Integrity is lasting (Proverbs 10:9). Serving others is commanded (Matthew 25:35–40), and spending time with the Lord is the path to righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Great accomplishments come in lots of different sizes and shapes, and, although some may not be as measurable as others, they are just as worthy of celebrating. And God does that right alongside us.
2. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Theodore Roosevelt
It’s not often that I quote former presidents, but Teddy was dead-on with this one. Comparing our kids to those around us will absolutely steal our joy. Janet Denison often says that the only time she really questioned if her kids were good enough was when she was comparing them to those around her. Those comparisons caused her to think about something her boys didn’t do rather than all the things they had accomplished. Can I get an amen?
By the world’s standards, most of us are average. Did you grow up spectacular at anything? I didn’t. I was a decent student, with relatively no athletic ability and a hint of musical acumen. Let’s just say there’s no trophy room set up at my parents’ house with all my newspaper clippings. And that’s okay! Nobody has asked me this week if I was top 10 percent in my high school class, or if I could read before kindergarten, or asked to see my soccer trophies (thankfully because I have none). I am so thankful my parents rested in my mediocrity (ha!) and allowed me to have a childhood of fun memories with no pressure. I was average by the world’s standards, and probably by the standards of those around me, but not God’s.
In God’s upside-down kingdom, we are absolutely exceptional! Each one of our kids is created (a) by God, (b) in his image (Genesis 1:27), and (c) for HIS glory (Isaiah 43:7). Are you getting this? If this doesn’t give us enough reason for celebration, then we need to get some help. We should be handing out certificates with these kinds of accolades—the ones we have nothing to do with and are all about Jesus.
So, when you lament that your child isn’t that good in sports, or struggles in school, or doesn’t seem to get invited to a lot of parties, remember this: God created them just how he wanted them and for his glory (not ours). He also did the same thing for other kids around you. If he wanted us all to be good at the same things, he would have done just that. And if none of that brings you comfort, remember that Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish her first novel, Little House on the Prairie, until she was sixty-five. There’s time, people!
3. Be determined to find the best in others.
When you’re focused on the fact that God is the Creator and accomplisher of all great things, it’s easier to cheer for others. Draw a line in the sand right now that you are going to celebrate with those around you. Rest assured, when you do this you may feel like it’s the same “perfect” family with the same “perfect” kids who get all the “perfect” awards. But, once we step out of the boat of bitterness, we can get into the one with grace and love abounding for all.
After all, if you’ve spent any time on this planet, you know there’s always more than meets the eye. It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Lies—not on social media anyway. And you know it because you’ve seen it in your own life. A picture is worth very few words because it tells only a limited story with merely a glimpse of someone’s life. You don’t know what you don’t know. What may seem like just another accolade for a great kid may actually be just the lifeline they need to keep going on.
We don’t know what hurt, despair, anxiety, etc. is behind the smile and the certificate. And it’s not that we should wish ill on those who are experiencing success, but it’s just the reality of knowing that life is full of ups and downs and we can celebrate with each other because God authored it all.
A few final thoughts: There may be times when we struggle with comparison and need to give our social media lives a healthy hiatus. And then there are times when things are rosy with lots to celebrate. I encourage you to consider others when posting on social media. Make sure you know your motives and the possible impact it may have on others.
Now, by no means am I suggesting we need to be all sanctimonious and stop engaging in any dialogue about our kids’ successes and defriend everyone who dares to put something good on there. Let’s not be dogmatic; let’s just be Spirit-filled. And when your kids do awesome things—the ones that earn a trophy or the ones that don’t—let’s share it with each other and celebrate the great things the Lord is doing.