A Guest Post: Blow It Big

Happy Monday! Today, I have the honor of introducing you to Sharla Hintz. She was one of my high school youth leaders turned friend. During my high school days you could find me and my friends at her home playing with her children, which was strategically placed right next to our other youth leader's house. They took down the fence between their yards and let nine, yes nine, young kiddos run wild.

Sharla is one of the best story tellers I know. And with four teenagers you can bet she has loads of stories to share. Sharla is the perfect combination of strength & silly, perseverance & pure joy, and deep love & laughter. I hope she writes a book someday; I guarantee you would laugh through tears.

Sharla will post every third Monday of the month. Be checking back for her epic stories that will leaving you laughing and learning a lesson. We welcome you Sharla!

There is a joke going around about a woman who wants to open a business called Resolutions. It will be a gym for the first three months of the year, and then, for the rest of the year, it will be a bar.

It’s funny because it’s true. It’s not true that she is starting this business – that is a joke. But it is true that we are constantly trying to be better than we are.

This was a particular problem of mine when my kids were little. From the beginning I didn’t think I had what it took to be a mom. I was too unstructured and undisciplined. But after a lot of praying and panicking, I resolved to embark on motherhood.

Then, because science failed us and God did not pay attention to our plan, I had four babies in four year’s time. I waved my sanity goodbye and wore a glazed expression for many years.

Then people started asking me questions like, “How early did your daughter learn to read?” Or, “How early was your son potty trained?” And social media like Facebook and Pinterest clearly displayed how well everyone else was performing the office of mommy and how far behind I was. So I rushed out and bought books on teaching your preschooler the alphabet, and I bought my one-and-a-half year old son Sponge Bob underwear. I didn’t want them to get left behind. I didn’t want to drop the ball and have them suffer the consequences.

I remember writing out a schedule for one summer that included mornings of reading, grammar, and math flash cards. I resolved to be organized and disciplined. I set my sights on being the best mom in the universe. I think I stuck with that schedule about three days and then I passed by the lesson books on my way out the backdoor with bubbles in one hand and sidewalk chalk in the other. I felt guilty when I looked at those uncompleted books. Every now and then I would resolve to do better starting Monday, but then I would fail again as my diapered son and I ignored the Sponge Bob underwear on our way to the back yard to collect bugs instead of trace letters at the kitchen table. Every time I looked at the stack of workbooks I felt like a failure. I solved that problem by shoving those stupid books to the back of a rarely used closet.

I felt like I was blowing it. And I was. I was blowing it big, and it was the most important calling in the world. I didn’t feed them organic, homemade babyfood. I tried to make some one time, and nearly exploded my kitchen. I didn’t teach them to read earlier than other kids. I didn’t potty-train them earlier than other kids. When I sent them off to public school, they were just as average as any other kids.
Amazingly enough, my kids grew up to be just fine. They are impressively smart in spite of the workbooks that were never completed. And in a feat that only time can achieve, I have discovered something. When I look back on that time, I can clearly see that in some of my failures I found my greatest successes. I am not a teacher. I did terribly at that goal. I fell far short of most of my resolutions. But I do have other strengths, and those are the things my children have picked up on. I never sat down and taught them to enjoy life, but when I see my son belly laughing because his potato launcher backfired, I see that he learned the lesson anyway. His handwriting is terrible and he will never win an essay-writing contest, but he will laugh at his mistakes instead of sulk.

If I could go back in time, I would spend less time stressing about tracing letters and more time snuggling on the couch. I would leave my son in his diaper and pajamas and spend hours tickling his fat rolls.  

That’s the thing though. We don’t really know how to do what we are doing. And that is okay. We will do our best, but OUR best will not always be THE best.

For New Years Eve, my husband and I gave our kids two tickets. One says: 2014’s PERMISSION TO FAIL. This entitles the bearer to SCREW-UP. Please use by 12/31/14. 

We want them to use this ticket when they forget something, drop the ball, or otherwise make a mess out of things. Because it will happen. They know it, but we want them to know that we know it too. And it is okay.

The other ticket is golden and says: 2014’s BLOW IT BIG. This entitles the bearer to take a risk, a chance, or go out on a limb, with the result being disaster, humiliation, or breaking of said limb.

And the small print says:  Although consequences may need to be paid, the bravery of taking a risk is cause to celebrate. WELL DONE.

This ticket is to be used when they dream an impossible dream, go for it, and fall on their face. It’s for when they try something they don’t know they aren’t good at. While they are discovering what they aren’t good at, they might just find something entirely surprising that they are great at.

We hope they reach for the stars. They won’t reach all of them, but they might reach one or two. And, even if they don’t, the reach will change them. They will never shrink back into the small person they were before they reached beyond them.

I would like to give everyone some tickets. Blow it. Make a mess of things. It will be okay.

The goal is not the success, but the stretch.

Sharla Hintz lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her husband and four teenage children. She owns and runs a remodeling and management company with her husband, and spends most of her time trying to avoid working there.

She graduated from University of Northern Iowa with a degree in science, and puts that degree to good use by ignoring it so she can write a blog called fromthecarpoollane.blogspot.com.