While sitting down with my son to look over his online grade book, I noticed his stress ratcheting up every time he didn’t have a perfect grade. The few assignments the teacher had not entered yet were stirring up the reservoir of fear deep in his belly and with every word he grew closer to tears.
“I did that one. I don’t know why it’s not in there. I don’t know why my grade is so bad. Mommy, will you call her and tell her I did those papers?”
He had crossed into full blown ‘freak out mode’ in less than five minutes complete with hand wringing and a quivering bottom lip. Did I mention he’s only in second grade? What do you say to a second grader in freak out mode over their grades? This kid is extremely bright and strives for perfection.
I needed to choose my words carefully or I would just reinforce his idea that somehow, he needed to work harder to fix this.
I began by explaining that he might have been gone during those assignments or maybe she just hadn’t entered the grades yet. It didn’t help. He became more stressed at the idea of having to make up work. So I stopped. I stalled him for a minute with a hug and a few words about freak out mode and I asked myself what I would need to hear if it was me.
The fear of not doing enough and not doing it right was wrecking him.
So I directed our conversation away from the emotional issue of doing a good job, and started talking about the math. I showed him how to calculate percentages and that the blank rows were not hurting him because they weren’t included in the calculation.
Slowly but surely, we backed out of freak out mode back into normal kid mode. The wringing hands dropped to his side and the red puffy eyes returned to their normal size and color.
I have to admit I am a little shocked at how fast he came out of that mess. At first I thought it was because he is very math minded and this explanation was right up his alley. When reflecting on what went right I went back to that question of what I would need to hear. Thinking about it, I almost laughed aloud.
I can guarantee he missed several of those assignments, but he doesn’t have to make them up. You see, he reads several grade levels ahead of most of his classmates. Several times per week he leaves his room and goes to the Kindergarten classes to read to a small group of younger kids. Other times he goes to an older class to be part of their reading group.
He missed those assignments because his teacher told him to do something else.
I laughed at myself, because I go into freak out mode regularly. If I spend the day blogging, creating graphics, or planning ministry events I don’t get everything else done on my list. Sometimes Gary comes home from work to no dinner because I sat back down to work after setting the kids in and I completely lost track of time.I stink at keeping the kitchen clean and my husband graciously takes care of it on top of everything else he does.
Since starting my book back in September, I’ve been in freak out mode a lot. I’ve stress over missed assignments like cleaning the house, planning the garden, home cooked meals, and that never-ending list of household projects.
I connect not doing those things to being a bad mom, wide, and neighbor. I wring my hands. My eyes tear up and I need someone to pull me out of the mess I think I’ve made.
God sent me the perfect partner in life who regularly reminds me of the math. My husband often reminds me those things I’m not doing don’t count against me. Sure they may be in my job description, but sometimes my Teacher sends me ‘down the hall’ to do something else.
If I trust my Teacher, my God when He sends me down the hall to pursue something, why don’t I trust Him enough to let go of the all the other things I think I’m supposed to be doing?
I feel like one of those muscle bound guys trying to pull a fire truck across a finish line. It’s ridiculously slow and if you lose your momentum, you are toast. I mean, really, I am not a fireman. Why on earth am I pulling a fire truck? What a waste of energy!
How much faster could I get to my real assignment if I stopped pulling that firetruck? How much more could I learn if I was paying attention to the Teacher instead of worrying about the things I am pulling that God isn’t calling me to?
It’s sooooo easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget to go where God is calling us, and I’m grateful for a panicking child to remind me that ‘freak out mode’ is a choice.
Are you in the same place? Perhaps you are so overwhelmed with what you think you should be doing that you never get to what God is actually calling you to do. Know that if you’re feeling this way, there is a way out. Step away from the emotional baggage of doing a good job, and start talking about the math. Stop thinking you’re going to fail as a person if you stop doing things. If your push to check everything off is keeping you from God it is most definitely not from God. He is fair and is not going to punish you for something He never told you to do in the first place.
How do you get out of freak out mode? Please share in the comments! And if you’re looking for a supportive place to speak with other faith-filled women be sure to join our free community, Christian Women Who Lead.
Angela J Herrington is founder of Broken Beautiful BOLD online women’s ministry and Life and Leadership Coach for Christian Women.
In addition to operating a successful boutique social media agency, she teaches women how to recognize, cultivate, and unleash their God given leadership ability. She holds a BA from Indiana Wesleyan and a Masters in Leadership from Wesley Seminary. Her graduate research project focused on leadership development and opportunities for Gen X women in the US church.
Angela is a Lark’s Song Certified Life Coach who reaches hundreds of thousands of women in 40+ countries each month on Facebook, IG, Twitter, Pinterest and two blogs. She is Director of Communications for Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy, a women led organization dedicated to engaging, empowering, and equipping women to lead in the church.
She is the host of the soon to be launched God Sized Calling Podcast and has also been published in Hope for Women and HOPE is Now magazines.
Angela is a also wife, mom to 6, and proud resident of Marion, Indiana with her family when they’re not traveling the US in their RV.