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Beautifully Terrible Children’s Recitals

In an article by Heather Havrilesky entitled, “Let Your Kids Be Bad at Things,” she ponders on the importance of beautifully terrible children’s recitals.

Parents want their children to succeed, to be good at something they enjoy. But this otherwise noble aim is precisely what leads to an overbearing parent who ruins the fun. This is something Havrilesky learned when her child signed up for a school talent show. She wanted perfection from her daughter, but it was precisely her imperfections that made the talent show so perfect:

On the night of the talent show, I wasn’t thinking about magic. I was bracing myself, as the curtains parted. I felt like a jerk for leading my poor lambs to the slaughter of public humiliation.

But as the first wobbly-voiced performer fumbled with her microphone, a different sort of magic slowly took over. I could see that these were charming flaws I was witnessing — irreplaceable, once-in-a-lifetime sorts of flaws: the distorted microphone squeals in the midst of a breathy Les Misérables ballad, the horn players with their strange alternative Star Wars rhythm. It was actually the non-greatness that made each kid’s performance so memorable and unique.

When my daughter and her friends took to the stage, I could see that was part of what made them so engrossing. These were the details that could break your heart: The girl who is always off beat. The girl who smiles but never sings. The girl who sings but never smiles. The girl who moves in the opposite direction from everyone else, no matter how many times you correct her.

Together, they form a kind of ragged, vulnerable tribute to being 9-years-old, awkwardly poised between very young and too old too soon. Together, they represent how it feels when you’re trying to choose between caring too little and caring too much. I was trying to stay aloof, but tears started pouring out of my eyes and wouldn’t stop. It was a beautifully terrible recital.

Possible Preaching Angle:

This must certainly echo something of what God feels as he values our imperfect service. He knows we are not perfect, yet we are loved. And it is our imperfections that cause us to lean on him for his strength and results (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

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