Eight Days Left

This past Monday was great. Not just great. It was awesome.

May 11, 1976… 44 years ago I was born. So my family spent the whole day focused on me. For an enneagram 7 I was in heaven. From the time I woke up, till I went to bed, the day was all about me. Morning. Lunch. Dinner. And even the movie at home… all my choice. [Insert photo of me on a stage in a spotlight] If you haven’t guessed it yet, I like attention.

So as we laid on the couch watching the movie I chose, [The Last Full Measure – it’s based on a true story… you should watch it], I couldn’t help but feel good about how the day unfolded. I think this word is a little overused at times… but I felt really blessed at how I’m loved by my family. It really was the perfect day.

And then in the middle of the movie, probably just after 10:30 pm, Carter comes up and gives Jami his phone. I didn’t see him, but I could tell in his breathing that something was wrong… really wrong.

“I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why.”

With eight days of e-learning left, Carter checked his classes and grades and learned he was getting an F in his band class. Eight Days… An F people.

As you can imagine, I hit pause on the movie, and Jami and I went into police detective mode as we threw questions at him. “How did this happen?” “What have you been doing during e-learning?” “Are you missing assignments?” By this time Carter was in full-on tears and panic. Not only was he getting an F in band, he was also getting B’s in a couple of classes which sent more questions his way. In his defense, a couple of the classes are probably tough and a B is acceptable (the classes he is getting B’s in are classes that if I was honest I got C’s and D’s in). At this point, the obviously bigger problem was the F. So we turned the focus back on that class. As he was talking about his band class, it appeared that there were some practice sheets that weren’t filled out. But he insisted that they weren’t there before. At 10:47 pm we told him he needed to email his teacher and get working on getting the outstanding work completed. So he went back down to the basement to begin to get caught up.

After he went back downstairs we turned the movie back on. After about 25 minutes after resuming the movie, Jami asked, “Is that crying?” I didn’t hear anything. But sometimes a mother’s ears are better than dad’s… let’s be honest, most times in circumstances like this, a mother’s ears are most always better than dad’s. So I hit pause again, waited for a few seconds… sure enough, I could hear Carter crying from the basement.

We walked to the basement door and called Carter over to see what was going on. Before Carter said a word, we could tell that he was in full-on panic mode.

“I’m gonna get an F in the class. I won’t be able to get in a good college or college at all. So I won’t be able to get a good job to make the money I need to buy food. What am I gonna do?”

Panic mode. Like, pacing back and forth, out of his whits panic.

Carter’s a freshman. In his brain, he jumped 8-10 years down the road. YEARS. Based on this one grade. In his mind, his life was all but over.

And in that moment, in a split second, I went from being concerned about his grade to worried about him as a person, as my son. So after we got him calmed down to a point at which he could listen, we reminded him that he already emailed his teacher. He already emailed his counselor. We told him that what he needed to do now was to get the assignments done one chunk at a time. It doesn’t help to look at the five to eight outstanding pieces of work all at once. Take it one assignment at a time. Then, I told him that he was going to stop at midnight and go to sleep. To get done what he could tonight, then attack some more tomorrow… one step at a time. We can only do what we can do with the time we can do it. Sleep. Get some rest. Wake up at eight or nine the next morning, and do some more.

Then, I had him walk up the stairs, and I gave him a big, long hug, and told him I loved him.

You see, as I stood there, witnessing my son in full panic mode, I quickly realized that he didn’t need us to question and tell him he needed to get his work done. He didn’t need us to put more pressure on him. He needed us to help him focus on what he could do, do it to the best of his ability, and let him know that we love him no matter what.

He then went back downstairs and started to work some more. After a little less than an hour, Carter came back upstairs to go to bed. I wasn’t expecting what he told us next… he told us that he finished the rest of the outstanding pieces of work. “Good job bud,” I said. We told him that it was going to be fine. He did what he could and hopefully his teacher will reach out with the answers he needed in the morning… and he went to bed.

As we watched the rest of the movie I couldn’t help but think about what had just happened. Two things hit my brain… One, I didn’t think Carter had an F. He’s an A Honor Student. There had to be something wrong on the teacher’s end. While I thought that, there’s no chance that I was going to say that to Carter. And two, how many times do I react like Carter reacted… I focus on the extreme negative and go to the darkest place rather than focusing on what I can do and trust that I will be ok despite my circumstances and honor God to the best of my ability.

You see, we all have circumstances in our life that make it feel like it’s not in our control. If you haven’t been there yet, you will be. Some of us are there right now. With our kids. With our job. Our finances. Our health. And if we let our focus wonder off of where it should be, we can easily spiral into panic and despair. I’ve been there. That’s where Carter was, until he was wrapped in his father’s arms. And that’s where God wants us, that’s where we are… in the Father’s arms. We just need to adjust our focus to realize it… that in the middle of our panic and despair, God is right there with us, calling us into his embrace. All we can do is our best and know that God is there with us.

The next morning came, as it usually does… there’s always a morning. Carter completed his e-learning. We could hear him joking with his Math teacher. And before I left the house around 12:25 pm, Carter still hadn’t heard from his band teacher. As I was heading back home, I called Jami to see how things were going. She said that Carter had finally heard from his band teacher. I said, “So what did he say!?” The teacher said, “My bad, it was a typo. You have an A in the class.”

A TYPO!? A freaking typo!? Are you kidding me? Nope… not kidding.

I’m glad it worked out like I thought it would work out. But things don’t always work out the way you want them to. Things won’t always go our way. But there’s always a morning. Morning always comes. And if we do our best, we can rest easy knowing that we’ve done all we can do. As a parent, we learned some valuable lessons that night. Each moment demands something different. It’s up to us to be open to what our child needs from us in that moment. Sometimes it’s discipline. Other times it’s a hug and encouragement to realign their focus.

And for each of us personally, God meets each one of us in all of our circumstances, calling us to his embrace.