“Dad, do your best!”
These were the sweet words I heard my 6-year old son call out to my husband as he left the house one evening a couple of weeks ago. Hubby was off to train with a local rugby club for the first time and was a little nervous about how well he would cope with the high impact circuit training not having done it for some time.
I smiled as I heard the words ring through the house and it occurred to me that my son called these simple, yet heartfelt words of encouragement because they were words that he heard in his own daily life.
My kids are very fortunate to attend a school where the teachers love their work and offer tons of support, but also at home we like to speak truth into our children’s lives as we try to build them up to be confident, honest, kind and resilient people.
All we ever ask of our kids is that they try their best in everything that they do, whether it is schoolwork, a sport, playing an instrument, being a friend or drawing a picture – putting your all into it is enough.
It doesn’t matter what grade they receive as long as they’ve tried their best. It doesn’t matter if they score a try against the toughest rugby team as long as they’ve played their best. It doesn’t matter if they don’t press all the right strings on their cellos as long as they’ve tried their best (of course it matters to our ears, but you get my point). It doesn’t matter if they only have one friend as long as they are the best possible friend they can be to that one person. It doesn’t even matter if they go outside the lines in my favourite mindfulness colouring book… as long as they’ve tried their best!
What really matters is character, the heart behind the action is what shines through. A person doing their best is content and satisfied that they are giving the best of themselves. In my experience a person who is striving to meet someone else’s expectations will never find contentment.
These simple words from my child to his Dad have played on my mind over the past week or so and have caused me to think about how I live my own life. Often, I set standards for myself that are so high that with all the best will in the world are totally unattainable and then I am left feeling like a failure, like I’m weak, incompetent… worthless.
This is so unhealthy and sends out a really confusing message to my children and leaves me feeling unmotivated and negative – not good! On the one hand I am telling them ‘do your best’, ‘you are enough’, ‘your efforts are valuable’. And on the other hand I am demonstrating to them that even though I am trying my best, it is not enough. Even though I am trying my best I am failing, I am tired, all the striving is sucking the joy out of my life – this does not make me a good role model or a fun person to be around.
A degree of self-tolerance is needed at times. I must learn that it’s ok to not be 100% perfect, that it’s human to make errors, to feel tired, to get ill or just simply need a break. I need to learn to let myself off the hook and know that it is ok just to do my best and que sera sera…. it is liberating.
It’s funny how a few kind words from a child to his father as he went out to try something new struck a chord with me. Sometimes that’s all it takes to help us see truth, a few well intended, innocent words, to help us to break through the weariness that sometimes takes hold and know that just doing your best is enough.