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!”