Learn to Appreciate the Hard Days

0308091849I came home from an extremely long day of work. I sat on my bed saw it- the reminder of why this was one of my hardest days.

It was my son’s first yearbook. I absently picked it up and began flipping the pages. I went directly to the page his class was on and I looked at my son, posing for the best photo that has ever been taken of a kindergarten young man. Hair swept, effortless smile, head slightly cocked, and full of the confidence that has come from knowing he is loved, cherished, respected, and protected.

My son has done well, and he knows this because his strengths have been reinforced time and again by affirming adults.

I woke up tired on one of the hardest days of my life. I was drawing every bit of caffeinated strength from my single cup of coffee as the family headed to awards day. We were all going to be there to witness all the accolades of a stellar kindergarten year being foisted upon my son. With no surprise at all, he received one of two reading excellence awards that were presented in his class. To our great surprise, he did not get an award for high points as an accelerated reader. Accelerated reading is an extracurricular program, and though he read books on a 2nd and 3rd grade level in the library to earn points, those reading levels did not allow him to test as quickly as the books on his graded level would have. So in spite of such hard work and excellent test scores, he did not get a medal.

The disappointment, transitioning to anger, registered clearly on his face. He pouted through the last kindergarten song they sang, going through the motions dutifully but without conviction. The ceremony ended and end-of-year announcements were made. We received instructions on how to collect your kids if you were taking them home, which we were. And as the whole family approached where my boy was sitting, his face lit up. He saw mom and dad, grandparents, an aunt and an uncle, cousins, and something was right with the world. He held up his certificate and cheesed for pictures.

I was still stung by what I perceived as a loss. I had pictures of reading boot camp in my head, not because I blamed my son for not trying, just because I thought I would have to have a talk that went something like this:

I know it’s tough son, not winning a medal. Especially when you’ve worked so hard at it. But don’t worry, we’re gonna try extra hard next year. We’ll spend all summer getting ready to win a medal next year. You want to win a medal, don’t you? You do, I know you do. D you want it so bad you can taste it? Come on, let’s rally up! We’re gonna show them 1st graders who’s boss! Who’s the man? You da man!…

And on and on. I could really see myself inspiring my son with a Rocky-inspired rant-a-thon that turned his whole downtrodden countenance around. Come to find out, he wasn’t too concerned about it after all. Then I realized that he had already been getting what he needed to help him come back and exceed all expectations- the knowledge that he is loved, accepted, and worthy just because he is our child. While not as dramatic as a movie-inspired turning point, it was comforting to know that our little man is prepared to grow up. And that I can still open my eyes to lessons learned from a child. That’s how I made the most of my hard day.

Sometimes the hardest days end up being the most rewarding. How do you make the most of hard days?

Copyright (c) 2013 Glen Gaugh


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