I’ll begin my thoughts today with an overshare if you don’t mind, well, it’s an overshare and a bit of a confession…
It’s a theory I’ve been working on, and the theory is this: Parenthood is like a patch of quicksand in that no matter how much of yourself you put into it, there is always more required of you.
I often feel that tide pulling on me. The footing I gain one day—working feverishly to get a leg up on the laundry or dishes—I quickly lose the next day as the tasks begin to accumulate again. The quicksand pit is also pebbled with exhaustion from midnight feedings, a never-ending parade of runny noses, school commitments, demanding social customs, endless internet cartoon streaming, and even a myriad of other “good things” that just overwhelm. Sometimes I feel like the sheer volume at which requests are made in my home would induce mental instability in a drill sergeant. At those times I see little beyond the sand rising above my head. And, I find myself thinking, this is insane! This CAN’T POSSIBLY be God’s perfect plan for families! And it’s easy, especially for moms, to fall into the pit of thinking; If I were more, my family life would be perfect and happy.
However, the truth is, God does have a perfect plan for families and it does not center around a perfect mother—It centers around our perfect Savior.
Elder Jeffery R. Holland gave a beautiful and sensitive address titled, “Because She is a Mother” where he shared a letter written to him from a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints. I’d like to relate a part of that letter to you. It states:
“Maybe it is precisely our inability and anxiousness that urge us to reach out to Him and enhance His ability to reach back to us. Maybe He secretly hopes we will be anxious,” she said, “and will plead for His help. Then, I believe, He can teach these children directly, through us, but with no resistance offered. I like that idea,” she concludes. “It gives me hope. If I can be right before my Father in Heaven, perhaps His guidance to our children can be unimpeded. Maybe then it can be His work and His glory in a very literal sense.”
Whew (I’m taking a deep breath here!). With that transformative change in perspective, the depths of quicksand open up into a waterslide of hope and trust in the Savior. Am I still overwhelmed and inadequate? Yes. But I’m SUPPOSED to be overwhelmed and inadequate(!!!), such is the design of life. Our anxieties, inabilities and challenges bring us to Him and bless us greatly by giving us ears to hear His counsel. We cannot do it alone. We were never meant to do it alone.
So, if you sometimes secretly feel overwhelmed like me, here are some perspective-changing thoughts about what really matters: In the most recent General Conference of the LDS Church , Tad R. Callister gave an address titled: Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children. His thoughts resonated with me as I first heard them and I felt (as the bible describes) to treasure them up in my heart. He gives some suggestions on how to invite the Savior into our homes and turn the quicksand trap over to the Lord. He states:
“One of the most meaningful things we can do as parents is teach our children the power of prayer, not just the routine of prayer.
No doubt most of our youth have their evening prayers, but perhaps many of them struggle with the habit of personal morning prayer. As parents, as their prime gospel teachers, we can correct this… [What parent would] let their sons march out to the front of battle without a breastplate and shield and sword to protect them against the potentially mortal blows of the enemy? But how many of us let our children march out the front door each morning to the most dangerous of all battlefields, to face Satan and his myriad of temptations, without their spiritual breastplate and shield and sword that come from the protective power of prayer? The Lord said, “Pray always, … that you may conquer Satan” (D&C 10:5).
As parents, we can help instill within our children the habit and power of morning prayer.
Tad Callister’s mother taught him as a young man to begin praying that the Lord would help him find a good wife, explaining that it would be the most important decision he would ever make. We can teach our children to look beyond the school projects and sporting events of today, and pray for help with things of the greatest importance. The God of the universe listens to OUR prayers. Shouldn’t we teach our children the wonder and miracle of that opportunity?
Next, Callister cautions that we need to carefully cultivate good character by using our time wisely. To restate the old adage: Idle hands are the Devil’s playground. Perhaps today it is: the technological playground is the Devil’s stall tactic. He states:
On occasion…we will need to put our foot lovingly but firmly down to restrict our children’s time with television and other electronic devices that in many cases are monopolizing their lives. Instead we may need to redirect their time into more productive gospel-oriented efforts.
Along with this point, Callister shared the story of world-renown pediatric neurosurgeon, Ben Carson. It is a beautiful story of how Dr. Carson’s wise but illiterate mother caused her two sons to escape the cycle of poverty through education. She noticed how they were idling away their lives in front of the TV. She turned off the Television and required that her children read two books a week and write a report back for her. What Sonya Carson lacked in book sense she made up for with common sense that would be vindicated nearly thirty years later when major research studies showed a powerful connection between “over- viewing” and underachievement (*Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook).
At the time though, her sons were less than thrilled and Ben lashed out saying,
“Mother, you’re the meanest mother in the world, trying to make me learn all this. It’s hard work” (*Ben Carson Think Big, Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence).
I love this story because it shows so poignantly that Children need us to be parents, not just friends. Sometimes that means being unpopular with them. Growth is hard, as humans we naturally resist what is difficult. Let’s not shortchange our children because it makes us “mean” parents.
Callister concludes this thought by saying:
“[As we] redirect their time from television and electronic devices into more productive gospel-oriented efforts, There may be some initial resistance, some complaining, but like Sonya Carson, we need to have the vision and the will to stick with it. One day our children will understand and appreciate what we have done. If we do not do this, who will?”
Such a good point. And the last point Callister made that I want to discuss is about putting our children first in our lives. He says,
“We might all ask ourselves: do our children receive our best spiritual, intellectual, and creative efforts, or do they receive our leftover time and talents, after we have given our all to our Church calling or professional pursuits? In the life to come, I do not know if titles such as bishop or Relief Society president will survive, but I do know that the titles of husband and wife, father and mother, will continue and be revered, worlds without end. That is one reason it is so important to honor our responsibilities as parents here on earth so we can prepare for those even greater, but similar, responsibilities in the life to come.”
I also love Elder Neil A Maxwell‘s timeless counsel on this subject. He added:
“Obviously, family values mirror our personal priorities. Given the gravity of current conditions, would parents be willing to give up just one outside thing, giving that time and talent instead to the family? Parents and grandparents, please scrutinize your schedules and priorities in order to ensure that life’s prime relationships get more prime time! Even consecrated and devoted Brigham Young was once told by the Lord, ‘Take especial care of your family’ (D&C 126:3). Sometimes it is the most conscientious who need this message the most!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 121; or Ensign, May 1994, 90).
I love this counsel from wise church leaders. It lightens my load and changes my perspective. It helps me to value my challenges as a parent and put my shortcomings in the Lord’s hands. To those of you who are secretly overwhelmed, there is good news for the quicksand treaders. You’re doing it right! Let some things go so you can take the Saviors hand. As the scriptures state:
Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save. Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him. Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks. Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening. But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness. Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you. Alma 34:18-27
The Lord wants us to ask. He wants us to cry unto Him over the details of our lives, to tell him how we feel. He invites us to share with Him our pain and afflictions so that he can carry them with us.
I know that as we receive of that cleansing, living water which the Lord offers us, everything changes. The very ground beneath our feet changes and we’re no longer slipping in a sand trap, but climbing with our families to new heights.
God does have a perfect plan for families and it does not center around perfect parents—It centers around our perfect Savior.
He changes lives and hearts. I believe in Him and know that as many times as I have reached up from the quicksands of my life, he has heard me. With infinite patience and love his Hand is outstretched still. There is perfect comfort and hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The promises in the scriptures and the words of our modern prophets warm my heart and kindle my faith. They are the treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures. May we drink deeply and often of the peace that the Savior offers us is my prayer.