Tim has developed a very sweet habit lately. Whenever he has to go anywhere out of the family/play room, he puts up a chubby paw and asks me, in an entirely unintelligible babble, to walk with him. He won’t move until he has our hands tightly clasped and pulls me along with him, excited to do something else. Because, you never know, it might be loads of fun. And, Mom, you’d better be there. Come along, Mom!
We can have so many reasons for not interacting with the kids. Bills lurk on the desk, laundry haunts the basement, the round of meals has to happen every…single…day. Physical conditions and mental diseases hinder and cloud our thoughts. Sometimes you literally can’t move without pain. And sometimes they really like Little Einsteins and Octonauts (and you not-so-secretly like them too) and you’re just glad that for one moment they’re not tearing up the house. Especially when it’s your in-laws’ house.
Recently, I was affected by a particular part of the semi-annual church-wide general conference. Here’s the link so you can go watch all the awesome talks for yourself! It was a talk by the Sister Rosemary Wixom, Primary General President (the person who, with her counselors and the Lord, decides the curriculum and topics for the children 3-11 for the entire LDS church), entitled The Words We Speak. Sister Wixom referenced the phenomenon described by Dr. Neal Halfon, a physician who directs the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities, as “‘parental benign neglect’.” Allow me to let her words tell the story:
The referenced incident involved “an 18-month-old and his parents:
‘Their son seemed happy, active and engaged, clearly enjoying time and pizza with his parents.
… At the end of dinner, Mom got up to run an errand, handing over care to Dad.’
Dad … started reading phone messages while the toddler struggled to get his attention by throwing bits of pizza crust.
Then the dad re-engaged, facing his child and playing with him.
Soon, though, he substituted watching a video on his phone with the toddler until his wife returned.
I’m sure a large number of us cringed hearing this description of an unfortunately very common-place scene in our own homes. Anyone else want to pretend the theme of Conference was not home, families, and children? You see, every Conference has a theme. The sum of the talks, all topics unassigned beforehand, comes together into a central message that the Lord is trying to give us. That’s why Conference is so important: twice a year we are gifted with a message presented by a diverse group of individuals. It’s like taking a picture with 5 different lenses. Same subject, different focuses and interpretations. But always this message is one that requires action, personal change.
To become more like our Savior and our Heavenly Father, we have to do better. Every day. And that can become very wearing. You go to bed and think, ‘Can’t I just have a day where I don’t have to work on anything? Just a little bit of a break?’ And the answer, sweetly whispered through the Holy Ghost, ‘No, dear, I’m afraid that there are no breaks. You need to work hard every day to come join me with your family. I know it’s hard. But, I know it’ll also be loads of fun. And, Mom, you’d better be there. Come along, Mom!’
Nothing teaches better than a sweet child standing at the stairs, holding up his sweet little hand, saying in his own sweet way, “Come along, Mom!”
I realized that I support a very worthwhile charity. I pay library fines dutifully every month. Aren’t I community-conscious? Next time you crack open a book in one of the Central Rappahanock Libraries and inhale that musty ink-perfume, think of me…and that old picture of Max above. I just wanted an excuse to put that up.
Anyways, I want to write this stuff up before I forget, and then I’m off to bed.
Today was a pretty good day. Laura completed her required independent work for the day, although she failed to practice her violin. And we worked through a tantrum to learn borrowing. The trick? Ignoring the fact that she was pitching a fit and narrating to her while I did sample problems. She’s too smart and curious to stay mad when there’s something to be learned, so she perked up and learned quite quickly how to borrow with multiple-digit subtraction.
And on that good note, let me brag about my kiddos a little more.
While I’ve read about the compliments homeschooled kids get, how polite and conversational they are, I didn’t ever expect to get any. Certainly not before they were 16. However, I suppose we’re doing something right because we got several today. One was specifically about Laura. We visited the Optometrist today (more on that in a week) and I had to depend on Laura to watch the ‘Littles’ in the waiting room. (Poor Tim & Jo get lumped under that title, saves time.) Laura wandered around the small space, chatting up the receptionists and our fellow customers. One lady, a teacher, could not compliment her enough when I poked my head out from the exam room. She described her as ‘so very smart’ and noted that she carried on a conversation ‘like an adult’.
As I was signing papers, “Are they this quiet at home?” asked the receptionist. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. No, this is one of those rare days where the stars align, the earth’s rotating backwards, and you turn your head and squint. Voila! Quiet, perfect children! At least for a couple of hours. Then we entered the dreaded Walmart. Oh, well, I need moments like this, no matter how brief, to remind me of how good my kids really are and how much I really do like them.
Other news: new shoes for all thanks to the aforementioned gigantic store of doom, and a yummy dinner. Life’s pretty good right now. Oh, and mom: Yes, I’m still alive. I’ll try to plug in my phone and call you tomorrow. Love you!
My heart is very full tonight. I think there are a lot of reasons for this and, with your patience, I will attempt to voice them.
I think, particularly as a teenager and on, that I have had a difficult time fully trusting the Lord to direct my life. Not because I don’t trust him. I have had a sure knowledge of my Heavenly Father my whole life. This has kept me safe and allowed me to weather some difficult times without being too burned by the results of my own and other’s actions. It must be tied up with pride somewhere. But it’s also a fear of not being in control. Of not knowing what’s next and what I need to do.
It panics me. Not being able to draw up a list that details the next events of the day, week, or year. How am I going to be prepared when I don’t know what’s coming?
But as my life has progressed, the Lord has made his will known pretty strongly. I had planned the college I was going to. The Lord let me know, as sweetly and directly as he ever does, that I was going somewhere else. I was smart enough to follow his direction. Then I was married to my amazing husband. I am starting to think that the Lord wanted to make sure I married him, so he introduced us when I was 12. And now, in our tenth year of marriage, it has just become plain that my trial to overcome in this life is to be able to give up control.
The first test was in trusting the Lord that he had a timetable for our children to come to this earth. So many friends and family find this approach unfathomable. I know that most of their reaction is out of love and concern for us, given that I have fibromyalgia and a bad back. All I can ever say is that, while many are not given this direction, we are. And we have had constant reassurance and proof that He knows when our family needs to grow. However, it is still hard to follow. Again, with the control thing.
We’ve had any number of tests to teach us that He has, really, quite excellent plans for us. Heck, we moved in a month to Idaho from Utah on the prompting of the Spirit. And lived in the town that I now want to retire in. Whenever Matthew has needed a job, no matter how desperate the situation seemed, something has appeared. And in such a way that we know it could only be another blessing from the Lord. After we were married, he was unable to find a job until the day we found out we were pregnant with Laura. That’s part of the test of our faith, it appears. Waiting until the…very…last…moment. It really plays havoc with the nerves.
So, in keeping with the grand lesson of my life (if I get this licked I get translated, right?), I have once again been told by the Spirit to give up the control. This time in homeschooling. I’ve realized that I’ve been driving myself crazy believing that I have to be responsible for every bit of education that my daughter receives. An incident just a couple of days ago allowed the Lord to speak to my heart about what His daughter, both of His daughters, need in this homeschooling.
Laura decided all on her own that her backpack needed organizing. She laid it out on the table and went at it without needing a jot of input from me. She then went from there to independently work on her spelling words. Then she worked on her report about the caves of Lascaux. After which, she ran up to her room to pull out her violin and start practicing. And I sat there wondering, ‘Well, what do I need to be here for?’ It was gratifying. But very humbling.
There is a post I read recently that came at just the right time to synthesize everything I’ve been feeling in my heart. In discussing her awkward, wonderful, and creative daughter, she stated that somethings don’t need to fixed. In fact, some things aren’t broken to begin with.
My daughter has her difficulties. But she’s not broken. She’s her.
I love her.
Now, I need to trust her.
So she can come to trust herself and her Father in Heaven.
Few things are more thrilling than reading aloud to your children. But sometimes the door to the mountain has been just opened and the hobbit is about to descend into the reeking dark….and the chapter ends. Then your daughter breathlessly asks, “What’s going to happen next?”
Read to your kids. Read aloud books that they cannot tackle alone. Let them meet Robin Hood, Bilbo Baggins, Laura Ingalls, and Ann Shirley while they are very young. Let them know them as comfortable friends that they can turn to in their more difficult years. Cultivate a habit that will propel them into new worlds throughout their life.
Please. Read a chapter book. Start while they’re young. Now.
You know those candies that start out sour, but then mellow out to a sweet flavor halfway through? Knowing that sweet core is there is sometimes all that keeps you going through the mouth-puckering sour of the outer shell. Right now, I can’t keep the idea of a SweetTart out of my mind.
We had a miscarriage at Christmas.
We were pregnant with number five. He was due in the summer and, despite the difficulties that would have been introduced (including being pregnant a second time in your in-laws house), we were all excited for him to join us. We were making plans and figuring out all the logistics when this happened. From the beginning of our marriage we have been prompted by the Lord to turn over the planning of our children to Him. I’m certain that this is part of a trend of our marriage where our plans never work out because He has better plans for us. While unplanned, prayer yielded distinct peace that this pregnancy was indeed part of His plan for our children. I didn’t expect any of this to happen. He was part of the plan; he was supposed to come.
I’ve had miscarriages before but those were at six and seven weeks. They were the equivalent of a heavy period. This was at twelve weeks. A month and a half makes a significant difference. We had expected him. We had had time for the oh-crud-oh-crud-oh-crud to fade and the glow of welcoming another soul to set in. We were almost ready to find out which gender clothing to pull out of storage. All this made it so much harder at first.
Our little boy arrived at home. As with the other miscarriages, we had little warning before he came. I held him in my hands and sobbed. He was so little, barely filling one palm. My husband, as he’s done in other crises, was both focused and comforting. He really takes to heart that he is our protector. When we’ve had trials visit us, he has stood against the world for us, a barrier from a reality that has grown too hard. I love this man.
We were able to call members of our ward (congregation) for help. A kind sister watched the children while we went to the hospital and a brother came over to administer a priesthood blessing. I’ve been trying to decide how to best explain a priesthood blessing. This blessing has authority from our Heavenly Father through His priesthood restored to the earth. You might describe it as using the priesthood to establish a conduit between yourself and God, allowing him to bless you with guidance, blessings, and most importantly at the moment, comfort. The ability to receive a priesthood blessing is an immeasurable blessing in my life.
The blessing promised comfort. There was a tenderness to the Holy Ghost then, a tenderness that I think is reserved for the Lord’s daughters when their hearts are broken and torn by their trials. The Lord wanted me to know that he had our little son and would care for him. I did not receive a direct promise that he would ever rejoin our family. However, he will have the opportunity to gain a physical body and come down to a family sometime in the future. I only pray to have a glimpse of him as he does wonderful things in the world.
Promises from the Lord are extraordinary. You are promised what you need, even if you didn’t know that you would need that comfort. More importantly, promises from our Heavenly Father have power. This power strengthens you and comforts you. I can go a long while on a promise from the Lord.
Sometimes the comfort of the Lord is a long-term proposition. His strength is there through the years as you struggle with a trial and its affects. I have plenty of things I’m still working through like this. Remarkably, this miscarriage was transformed almost overnight. Within a day I could honestly tell people “I’m okay.” Over the next week I told more and more people, loving friends and family responding with love and comfort for us, that it really was ‘okay’. But last night, not even a week since we had to leave him at the hospital to be evaluated and buried, I was able to think of that little body in my hands that night, that moment when I was sobbing with a broken heart, and smile.
As weird as it is to say it, it really is okay.
It’s no longer bitter, but sweet.
Joseph was born at twelve weeks. I held him in my hands. We named him. He’s back with our Heavenly Father. We are so blessed.
I love saying that it’s okay.
Oh, and our baby that we were pregnant with last time I posted was born a year ago tomorrow. Jo is adorable, cute, and too clever for her own good. She is definitely the youngest. Her wails of “I’m not being paid attention to!” could wake the dead. And they have at 2 in the morning. The above is a picture from about 1 month. She’s bigger now but looks much the same. And we love her. If it’s not obvious, the name Jo is from Little Women. I love internet-naming all my kids from books.
I’ve been writing and rewriting this post in my head for several months now. It was prompted by a book series that had a particular affect on me: I will never let my daughters read it.
No, not that Shades of Grey book. That one’s so blatantly pornographic that it’s rather obvious that I won’t let my daughter near it. This series took me by surprise and reminded of a few things. I also realized that it’s important for me to share my thoughts about it.
I love reading myths, legends, and fairy tales. Something in me thrills to these stories, these glimpses into the souls of empires and nations. Always up for a good re-telling of a fairy tale, I picked up a couple books from the “Once Upon a Time” series in the Young Adult section of the library. Sometimes it’s cleaner, and more fun, to read YA fantasy. And it’s by the kids section. Useful, hmm?
Unhappily, this series has the wrong happily-ever-after in it.
After reading the first book, I was not thrilled with the focus on the princess’ sensual response to her prince. However, since each book in the series is written by different authors, I started the second with hopes of a fun alternative spin on the story of the twelve princesses. This one even placed itself contemporary to the end of King Arthur’s reign and incorporated elements of Arthurian and Celtic legend. Cool, right? Here’s the problem: the princess and the prince were more ‘in lust’ than ‘in love’. From their first meeting to the resolution of all their problems, the focus is on physical attraction and following through on that attraction with complete strangers. But it’s okay, since they’re each other’s ‘one true love’.
No, that’s not love. Physical attraction is a start. I certainly thought my husband was really, really cute when I met him at age 12. You know, just old enough to have a real crush. I look back at pictures of him at 20 and still think he’s really, really hot in them. Thankfully, I was taught by my parents and religion that just because you think someone is cute, or even hot, you didn’t start macking with him. You certainly didn’t run around pressing your body against him as one princess from the series did. I’ve known my husband 17 years now. Even when we lived near each other for about 3 years, we talked on the phone and exchanged notes through my notebook at church almost more than we actually saw each other. Not to say that Handsome didn’t make every effort to find opportunities: coming to my session of church before his own and making sure to come to every church dance. Talk about heady stuff for a young teenage girl. Now I freak out about the idea of a 18-year-old around my 15-year-old. You hear me, daughters? Do as I say, not as I did. No older men. Right, because that’ll work.
But because we didn’t focus our attention on the physical attraction, we had the chance to become friends. Eventually best friends. Even after I moved away, we talked on the phone almost every day. We joked, discussed what was going on in our lives, even told each other all about dates, and boyfriends/girlfriends. (I was insanely jealous when he told me about his prom date, but I also know he tried to keep me away from a very interested local guy when he came to visit).
Surprisingly, although we both knew at some point we were in love, we didn’t have any kind of discussion until I was 19 and he was 22. Before then, I moved before I could date at 16, he went on a religious mission, I went to college, and he got back and started college as well. At that point we both received wise (read: very strongly worded) counsel from friends and family to do something about this long-term friendship/relationship.
To be honest, it’s no surprise we had a baby 10 months after getting married. My dad called that on the wedding day. Yes, we were physically attracted to each other. We almost missed our bus because smooching, engaged people are not focused on buses. We’re still very physically attracted to each other. Being married is nice.
I know that most people don’t have insane long-distance relationships that almost amount to a 7-year courtship. To be fair, that made resisting the pull of hormones a heck of a lot easier. I won’t deny that it would have been hard to keep them in check if we had been able to start dating when I was 16. Yep, my body liked him. But I knew that that was not enough. (Again, I’m so thankful for growing up in a religious home.)
A happily-ever-after doesn’t come from physical attraction. It doesn’t come from making a baby. Only knowing that person and being able to trust them in everything will do it. There are so many hard things in this life. So many forces that strain at a marriage and family. Some of these forces are actively trying to pull you apart. Given what I’ve learned, seen, and experienced, I believe that a relationship that starts with ‘in lust’ will end with the same. If sex is the focus, then nothing else can be. You won’t have the ability or attention span to focus on anything but sex. It’s a powerful force.
The point of this post is this: the “Once Upon a Time” series presents being ‘in lust’ as the only necessary ingredient for a happily-ever-after. This teaches young girls that they should trust the response of hormones over what their mind and heart are telling them. And, since hormones wax and wane, this means they are preparing these girls for relationships that are supposed to be happily-ever-after, but are not. This is a harmful, damaging lie. And I cannot let my daughters read books that teach them this lie. Not ‘will not’. Cannot.
I’m so glad that I ran into these books now. Better now than later. And I hope this helps out other parents who didn’t realize the harm these books, and others like them, can do.