Our Best Selves
I did some hiking with my family over the past week and was reminded that my body doesn't work as well as it used to. In my mind, I still leap over rocks and under fallen logs with the agility of a 15 year old. The reality is different. I can still do all of these things but what I once could do without thinking now requires a little more planning. I am less flexible and therefore less confident with my foot placements.
As I was contemplating this on one of our hikes, with my children far in front of me, I started to plan how I could fix this problem. I know people much older than me who are more flexible and still scamper up hills like children. I could start a workout routine where I do more stretching and strength exercises each day. I know this would help but as I thought of it, I considered what I would need to give up in order to make this happen. I love hiking. I live in an amazing place with lot of forest land and well maintained trails. I don't really WANT to spend my exercise time in my room stretching. I would rather be outside.
I have had to make choices like this a lot over time. My Spanish is passable for the majority of my patient encounters but I am far from fluent. I am no good at "water cooler talk" about the latest TV shows because I rarely watch. I have consciously decided that my Spanish and knowledge of popular culture are good enough because I don't want to make the time to improve them. I certainly WISH I was fluent in Spanish. And I know I could get there if I read and speak daily in Spanish. But that would require giving up something else. Right now, I would rather read for pleasure or to gain medical or world news knowledge. And I don't have time for all of it.
So I forgive myself for not being my best at everything. I could be more flexible but I have chosen not to. I could be bilingual but have chosen not to. I could be current on Gray's Anatomy but I have chosen not to. Instead, I have a nice garden, I read several books a month, I stay current for my pediatric practice, I eat dinner each night with my family, I read the Bible daily and have started this blog. I have chosen the things I want to be my best at. Because I can't be my best at everything. And I have offered grace to myself for letting some things go, knowing I could do them better if I tried.
I wonder if I offer my children and my husband the same grace at not being their best at everything. They are constrained by the same time limits I am- there are only 24 hours in their days as well. I disagree with the priorities they demonstrate at times, knowing their activities are not contributing to the vision I have for their futures. For instance, why invest hours a day in playing video games or rereading the same books when you could be improving wood working skills or getting more exercise? It is my job as a mother to guide my children down a constructive path then their internal compass gets stuck.They don't always think through the ramifications of their time investments and balance what they are choosing vs what they are letting go. But they are learning this skill just as I am. I want to start using this language with them.
We all get 24 hours a day. We all need to learn to invest these hours to be our best selves, understanding we can't be the best at everything. I want to focus on teaching our kids to be their individual best; the goal is not to outshine everybody else. On school assignements, my question should be, "Is this your best work?" If I ask it often enough, it will stop sounding like a accusation that it isn't good enough, and start being a reminder for self reflection. If I think they can do better, I should state it, not ask it. "It looks like you raced through this assignment. Perhaps there were other things you wanted to do more than you wanted to do well on this. However, I think investing your time into quality school work is essential. Do you need help finding ways to improve or can you work on it some more and do better?"
If I ask if they have done their best and they answer yes, they could be speaking from the viewpoint of me on my hike. Yes, this is the best I can do right now hiking up this steep mountain with no trail. Could I do better? Probably, with a big time investment I am not willing to make because I care about feeding you and sleeping enough and getting some exercise. They may be thinking, yes, this is the best work I can do on an assignment that does not seem interesting or relevent, especially when it means I can get a C rather than an A, still passing, and have extra time to spend with my friends.
I am learning as a parent that I need to offer my kids grace when they make decisions different from the ones I would make with my adult perspective on what is important. Just as I offer myself grace when I choose to let one thing slide so I can shine in another area. They need more direction than I do, but they still deserve patience and grace.