A New STANDard

During the first eight months of my daughter’s life, I recall her being content exactly twice.  The first time was in September (she was born in July), at a Oregon State Football game.   The source of her satisfaction:  250 band members next to us, thousands of orange shirts around us, and an oversized Beaver head smiling at her.   

Seeing as I could not  hire the Marching Band for babysitting, her next moment of peace did not come until early December.  And I missed it. 

I had signed-up for a writing class at the community college, and my mom entertained her while I met with professor for editing.    Unable to please her, my mom put my daughter in the car for a drive . . . it didn’t work   . . at first.  Desperate; my mom rolled down all the windows, allowing the pouring rain to pelt the entire back seat.  She then  blasted the speakers with the deep-south Blue Grass playing on public radio, and whipped through neighborhoods making as many sharp turns as possible.  By the time my meeting ended, my daughter was soaked from head to toe and tapping her toes to a relentless beat.  I may have revoked my mom’s privileges, had I not known her desperation.

Aside from those two moments, the only thing I recall about those first months is constant screaming.  An insatiable discontent.   Nothing fulfilled her.

Then one Sunday night, magic happened.  At eight months old, the Crankster stood up and ran across the room, and the screaming stopped. 

So it comes as no surprise that, eight years later, she is often described as “highly tactile.”  Since preschool every report card has made reference to her “Tigger-like” qualities.  She cannot sit, let alone still. I have never in my life seen her walk.  Bounce, skip, flip, cartwheel, run, jump, grapevine?  Yes.  Walk?  No.  Images of her face never flash before my eyes, just flailing arms and legs.  One mom even complained that  my daughter’s body parts managed to wiggle their way into every picture she took. 

School has always been a challenge for her.  Not the academics.  Just the sitting part.  Her citizenship grades plummeted last year because her jitters distracted the other kids in class.  She tried to control it by tearing her pink erasers into molecule sized pieces.  Her grade for organization and cleanliness tanked.  Her teacher (whom we adored) tried the classic “what did I just say,”  when my daughter’s impulses made it appear she wasn’t listening.  To the teacher’s surprise; she not only repeated the instructions, but also did so mimicking the exact tones and mannerisms of the instructor. 

I tried talking it through with my daughter, explaining the importance of remaining tranquil in class.  It didn’t work.  I researched coping mechanisms and tricks to help her breath and focus.  They didn’t work.  I bribed her with the promise of a new Webkin.  It worked . . . for an hour.  I finally resigned to the fact that MY daughter was THAT kid.

This year we enrolled in a new school.  I immediately warned her teacher about her struggles, suggested she lacked focus, explained she often made mistakes because she rushed through things, and completely set her up for failure by telling him she never tested well.  Not exactly my strongest parenting moment.

Now, four weeks into school, she is happier than I have ever seen her.  She aced her science test, doesn’t cry when I tell her it’s time for math homework, and is completely obliterating my every expectation.

The secret to her new-found success?  Her teacher allows her to stand.  In his words; she dances around, but she gets it done and she does it well. 

I admit I am dumbfounded. Who knew that simply removing the  requirement of a chair, would actually make room for the achievement of other (and more important) things. 

This teacher took my daughter’s greatest weakness, embraced it, and made her strong.  I thought she would potentially fail.  He just saw potential.

We are taught to focus on our strengths.   We are encouraged to look for the strength in others.  We set the standard based on the strongest person.

Yet, God’s does the opposite.   He promises to meet us at our weakest point, and to make us strong.  God embraces our weakness, and calls it our greatest potential.   He sees the weak and discarded and raises them up to set the bar.

He then tells us to look for the weakness in others.  Not so that we can exploit it, but so that we can be strong for one another.  If we see that our actions cause another stumble (even if it is because they are weak), then the law of love tells us to cease.  We are commanded to bear the infirmities of the weak, to support the weak, and to give to the weak.   Our faith ultimately demands that we embrace the weaknesses of others, and in so doing give them the strength to stand.  It also removes the chairs in our own lives.  Like Paul said (in my paraphrase):  “I can be happy when I’m weak because it means you are strong.”

May we be one another’s teacher; removing all hindrances, helping each other to stand, and live to the fullest potential.