Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Tag: parenting (page 1 of 2)

Parenting tip #10:  Love Your Kids—No Matter What

Rosen 2013 394

 

 

By Phyllis Rosen

Before writing this last article on parenting, I want to state something for the record:

I HAVE SIX WONDERFUL CHILDREN!

But I didn’t always know that. There were times during their upbringing when I wasn’t convinced they were all that wonderful. Each one, in his or her own way, caused some anxiety or fear or anger. At different stages of their lives, they were not very lovable.

But you must love them anyway, and of course, deep down you do. So how do you show that love during these difficult periods? It isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Here’s what my husband and I learned over the years:

1. Find just one positive thing to say each day.

When one of our kids was belligerent and prickly and almost impossible to interact with without getting into an argument, I prayed and prayed to know what to do. The answer was: Read the Book of Mormon.  As I read the Book of Mormon daily, something happened to my heart.   It softened.  And as it softened, I realized I needed to find something positive daily about this child.  As I mentioned positive things to him  (which were not easy to find), I found that the tension in the home decreased.

2. Let go of the things that don’t matter.  

One of our boys decided to pierce his ears. Later he grew his hair long.  Both actions were not what my husband and I wanted. However, neither action was life-threatening or had eternal consequences. We finally learned that the hair and the earrings were outward evidences of inward feelings. We decided to ignore the outward and concentrate on the inner.

3. Make home a refuge.

When one child made choices that were hard for our family to live with, a neighbor came over and gave great advice.   She said,  “No matter what, make your home the very best place to be.  Make it a safe place.  If your child leaves home, you will have less influence and less opportunity to set the example.” My husband and I decided to follow that advice. We did everything we could to make our home a place where our child felt loved, safe, and accepted.

4. Have patience.

We had another child who thought someone else—other than my husband and myself—was more qualified to give guidance and direction. This frustrated me greatly.  But a professional counselor told us to be patient and in time our child would figure out who really loved him or her, and would come back to us, the parents. And that was true.

5. Get professional help as needed.

One of our children got into trouble to the point that I could not live with the fear of what the long-term consequences might be. I finally went to a family counselor.  The result was that he validated my feelings, especially my fears. More importantly, he helped me to figure out what I could do to alleviate the fear and move in a positive direction.  We don’t have to bear every burden by ourselves. Professionals can help us get through tough times by applying their training and perspective.

6. Do all you can, then turn the rest over to Jesus Christ.

Only by turning our burdens to Jesus Christ can we get through the fear and the sorrow and the pain.   When we turn our worries over to Christ, we literally feel the burden being lifted from our shoulders.  This doesn’t mean that all the pain or sorrow or fear is gone.  But it means we know that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are aware of our situation and will guide us through it.  Turning our burden over to the Savior enables us to find joy along a difficult journey.

7. Remember that time is measured to us differently than it is measured to God.

We do not have the benefit of seeing the end from the beginning.  We can’t know whether our child will change tomorrow or in ten years.  We need to put our trust in God and know that His timing is perfect.

8. Last of all, when your child seems unlovable, remember that this is your opportunity to develop Christ-like love.

I discovered that after I had gone through trials with less-than-lovable kids, I was much more tolerant and forgiving of others. I am a better person for having gone through the hard times. Looking back, I can see Heavenly Father’s hand, not only in my children’s lives, but in my life as well.

And now I know without a doubt, I HAVE SIX WONDERFUL CHILDREN!

Parenting Tip #9: Be in the Moment

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Suppose Queen Elizabeth showed up unexpectedly at your home.  How would you respond?

A) Invite her in but continue to watch your Netflix. (only ten minutes left!)

B) Invite her in, talk to her, but at the same time post her picture to your Instagram.

C) Invite her in, make small talk while texting your friends to tell them about her!

D) Invite her in, sit and visit without any devices.

If you had trouble picking D, it might be time for digital counseling. Most adults would never treat a guest with such poor manners. But we seem to forget that our children should also be treated with good manners.  In today’s world, many people (parents) have trouble putting away their devices and living in the moment.

Children deserve our full attention. Babies learn how to communicate by watching their parents faces. They observe normal reactions:  smiles, frowns, laughter, crying, etc. These non-verbal cues help them learn the meaning of words and actions. Language skills are linked to thinking ability, social relationships, and reading and writing. In other words, the future success of your child depends greatly on their developing good language skills.  And that depends on you being in the moment with the child—looking the child in the eye and talking directly to him or her.

Although electronic devices are responsible for much of the distraction parents have while parenting, they are not the only problem. Work, church callings, desire to play (gaming, sports), and even household chores can cause parents to miss wonderful interaction opportunities.

jpg117Think play time. Children learn valuable social skills through face-to-face games. Playing games together helps children learn turn-taking, develop motor skills, and acquire conversational skills. Participating in these games requires hands-on for both parents and children.

But even more important than developing skills, children learn what’s most important to YOU by watching where you spend your time and your attention. If you are always on your phone, they quickly learn that that’s what you care about the most. No matter how much you TELL a child “you are important,” a child senses by your actions whether you really mean that or not.

When I was writing parenting tip #8—Play with your kids, I asked my daughter if she remembers playing together.   Her answer caught me by surprise. She told me that every time she came and asked me to play with her, I did. Now, not for one minute do I think that is 100% true.   I’m sure there were many times when I was too busy to “be in the moment”. But at the same time, it must be true that I stopped whatever I was doing often enough that her perception was that I always took the time to play.

Children grow up. The day will come when the house is empty of children and you have all the time in the world to clean, work, or surf the web. But you cannot recapture the time to get down, look your child in the eye, and listen to his or her heart. Make a commitment now to be in the moment.

For those of you attached to your phones, here are some practical ideas on how to have some device free time:

1. Have certain times during the day when you do NOT access your phone except to answer calls (screen the calls, answer only important ones). This means you are not looking at emails, Instagram, texting, etc.

2. Teach your children about phone-free times. Church, meal time, driving, movies, when company comes for short visits, bedtime, etc.

3. Choose to have device-free outings. When you take your child to the zoo, to the park, etc. decide to put your phone away and just enjoy the interaction. Watch their faces as they discover new adventures and experience the world. Be in the adventure, not posting about the adventure.

Remember, the things you love the most—think children—deserve the most time.

Parenting Tip #4: Support Your Spouse

As my husband and I were discussing parenting (we often do) we realized that a large part of parenting is supporting your spouse. You may wonder “what does that have to do with parenting? Turns out it plays a large role.

There are many ways to show support to your spouse:

  1. Being there for big moments 
  2. Upholding the rules set by partner
  3. Recognizing when help is needed and giving it
  4. Being happy for each other’s successes.
  5. Listening to the problems/triumphs
  6. Bragging about spouse to others
  7. Touching:  a hand squeeze, a hug, a high-five

Parenting is a tough job.  It takes time, hard work, perseverance, patience, creativity, and divine help.   When you feel overloaded or alone, it’s hard to endure through the tough moments (yes, everyone has tough moments).  I’ve found that the only way to get through it is to have support.   Unless you are a single parent (a topic for another day), that support ought to come from your spouse.  

These moments of support are not time-consuming or costly. It can be as simple as Rosen 2011 1277walking in the door at night and giving your spouse a hug.  It might mean showing up to his or her presentation, performance, or work party. It could even be as easy as asking “What can I do for you today?”  One of the best ways to support your spouse is by continuing to “date” each other.  Taking the time to do fun things together allows you to remember why you got married in the first place.   Weekly dates keep the fires of romance burning and they help you remember that there is more to life than parenting!

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Over the years, my husband has given me tremendous support. When I held piano recitals, my husband would always be there early to hand out the programs—a huge show of support since it meant he had to leave work early.  He would also hand out treats after the recital, allowing me time to visit with the parents of my students.

But how does this help our parenting? Happy spouses make for happy parents. When you know your efforts are appreciated, or even noticed, you feel valued as a person. Feeling valued as a person allows you to focus on others—the kids—and not yourself.

Another part of being supportive is being willing to sit down together and come up with a parenting plan.  Although you can’t cover every possible circumstance, you can set some guidelines for yourselves that put you and your spouse on the same parenting page.  When parents take the time to do this, something wonderful happens.  The kids soon realize that their parents are a team.   The kids will not be able to manipulate or pit the parents against each other.  (If you don’t think kids do this, you don’t have kids yet!)  This is a big step in positive parenting! Even though kids express the idea that they wish they could pit one of you against the other, the truth is that if they know the parents are united, they feel secure and confident.

IMG_1766If your parenting feels disjointed, if you feel alone even though you have a spouse, if you need encouragement or recognition, now is the time to take your honey on a date, sit down somewhere, and discuss how you can support each other in ways that matter to the two of you.  Your kids will thank you for it later.   

 

Written by: Phyllis Rosen

Parenting Tip Series #3

Consistent Parenting

There’s an old saying:  A jug fills drop by drop (Buddha). In light of the saying:  What do these stories have in common?

  • My daughter was home schooled for two years of middle school.   Each morning we had school:  math, history, reading, science, and electives. Then we ate lunch. If all her homework was finished, we did fun things.
  • Every Monday night our family had family home evening. We varied the activities—sometimes having a lesson, sometimes playing games, occasionally inviting neighbors to join us.  But not matter what, we had family home evening and spent time together.  
  • Saturday was a time for chores.  In the morning there would be a list of chores that needed to be done with a note telling the kids how many chores  to sign up for.  Those who came first got to choose their chores first, and as soon as they were done, they could move on to other activities.
  • If the kids had to be taken out of church, they had to sit on a chair in a room with no toys and no treats and no interaction with others.  We never changed or varied from this rule.
  • Bedtime was a time for reading!  Every night we tucked our kids into bed with a story.  

The common denominator here is CONSISTENCY.   Good parenting requires consistent parenting.  Children need consistency.  It’s important that they know what the rules are and what is expected of them.  When children understand what is expected, they know what to do, how to behave and better understand consequences for their actions.   

Consistency works in multiple areas of life. Our kids loved to play at all hours of the day. Like most kids, they would beg us to let them skip dinner to continue playing. While this was sometimes tempting, I knew that the lesson they needed to learn of consistency (and eating nutritious meals) was more important than the short reprise it might mean for me if they skipped dinner. As soon as Dad came home, we would make sure the kids would come in and be ready to eat. This allowed us to enjoy quality family time and helped my kids learn important values.

Our kids didn’t always jump at the opportunity for family scripture study, so we made it an expected routine just like dinner. While we would vary our family scripture reading time, we always read with our children. This helped our kids learn the value in consistently putting our Heavenly Father first and also helped our children learn what we, as their parents, valued.

Another way to look at consistency is to think of it in terms of routine.  As you build routines into your parenting, you actually reduce the stress of everyday life and help children to feel secure.   For example, if you teach your children that they should brush their teeth every night, and you consistently make sure that happens, soon they brush their teeth by themselves without putting up a fuss.   They just know it’s part of the daily routine.  This eliminates discussion and arguments and hopefully cavities.

As you develop a routine for chores, children can learn that doing chores quickly and efficiently allows them to move on to more pleasurable activities.   This, in turn, motivates them to work hard and to organize their time.    When you have a routine for fun things (going to the park, visiting the library, etc.), then children learn that they can put off their wants for a period of time because they realize that the fun activity really will happen.  They are able to trust that you mean what you say.

Never too old for Easter egg hunts.

Never too old for Easter egg hunts.

Even as teenagers, (maybe especially as teenagers), children feel secure when they know you mean what you say.   When my kids were out with friends and we had agreed on a curfew, my kids knew that I would be sitting up waiting for them.  They also knew that if they didn’t come in on time, there would be consequences.   (Yep, once I made my teenage son put 30 puzzle pieces into the jigsaw puzzle I was working on because he came in late!)

These words of advice make sense and seem easy to follow.  Unfortunately, kids like to test you and your resolve at almost every stage of life.  When my oldest son was about twelve, I discovered how valuable consistency was, not only for the kids’ security, but also for making parenting easier.    My son started giving me a lot of grief about obeying the rules.  When I’d remind him it was time to do his chores, he would whine and complain and twist the issues around until we were arguing about all kinds of things—like why didn’t his brother have to do this chore?  Why did he always get the hard jobs? or Why did I love his sister more?  It got so out of control I finally I went to a counselor for help. The counselor changed my life. He explained I didn’t have to answer all the accusations my son was making.   All I had to do was be consistent. So then the dialogue went like this:  

Mom:  You need to clean your room
Son:  What??????????????   I just cleaned it.
Mom:  Oh, really?  Well, you still need to go clean your room.
Son:  Why doesn’t Steph have to clean her room?  Her room looks worse than mine!
Mom:  Really?  I’ll have to look.   But you still need to clean your room.
Son:  But I want to go outside to play!!!!!!!!!!
Mom:  Great idea.   As soon as you clean your room you can go outside.
Son:   Mommmm!
Mom:  I’m sure you can do it.   Let me know when you are done.

No matter how many excuses or changes of topic he introduced, I consistently returned to what I expected of him.   AND IT WORKED!   He eventually gave up and did what he should.   All it took was consistency on my part.

Being consistent isn’t always about chores, consequences, or nagging mothers. Being consistent is just as important when it comes to traditions and family fun.

Every family has traditions; and what builds traditions? Consistency.

One of our favorite family traditions is an annual Easter egg hunt.   Every year, on the Saturday before Easter we get out the dying gear and color our eggs.   Then later in the day, we hold our annual Easter egg hunt.  We fill plastic eggs with candy and then hide both the plastic and the boiled eggs all around the yard.   This is such a tradition, that we even took eggs with us (plastic ones!) when our family was on an outing over Easter.   We hid the eggs at the cabin where we stayed!

It is not just holiday traditions that are important.  Birthday traditions, family outings, or extended family get-togethers can also add consistency to the family.   One of our favorite habits as a family was the Sunday evening game night.   We spent many happy hours playing board games, card games, and in the summer—croquet!   These consistent moments built memories that glue our family together even today.

So if you feel like parenting is the hardest thing you’ve ever done, pause and ask yourself if maybe a little consistency wouldn’t help to smooth things out and make parenting easier.

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Written by Phyllis Rosen

Ten Best Parenting Tips Series: #1 Read Aloud

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 5.40.34 PMMy husband and I have six children.  Six!!!  Who can believe it?  This fact puts Dave (my husband) and I into the  “experienced parents” category–especially since the youngest is now 23 years old.   Parenting is not easy.   Should I say that again??  Parenting is not easy.   It’s not for wimps or the faint of heart.   It takes commitment and effort and patience and effort and humor and effort and…….you get the idea.      

The other night, Dave and I decided to each compile a list of Ten Best Parenting Tips and then compare them.   Turns out we had very similar lists, so we combined them and narrowed them down to our favorite ten.   As some of you other parents might be looking for advice, we decided to share our list.  Each week on Stance we will discuss one of the ten tips.  So sit back, relax, and try to remember how excited you were to be a parent in the first place.

Read Aloud: Connecting with your Children

Read aloud to your children: From the time our children were born, we read aloud to them. When they were babies they just enjoyed being cuddled and hearing the rhythm of our voices.  As they got older, they loved the sounds of words, especially rhyming and alliteration.  To this day I can pretty much quote the entire story of The Cat in the Hat (Dr. Seuss). These rhyming books were not only fun, they were vital in helping our children learn how sounds go together, which in turn helped them learn to read.  Beyond that, we found that simple books teach great principles.  We have a son named Sam, so of course we read him Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Seuss).  Because of that book, we were able to encourage him to try new things. It’s fun to quote to our kids “You do not like it, so you say.  Try it! Try it! And you may!”  This phrase helped our kids with trying new foods, new clothes, and even making new friends.  When we read Horton Hatches the Egg (Dr. Seuss) we were able to mosey into principles of responsibility and promise keeping.

When the kids reached elementary school age, they still loved being cuddled, IMG_0788  held, and sitting close, plus now they really enjoyed and understood the story line.  Some of the first books we chose were Thornton Burgess’s books about the creatures of the forests and the meadows.  In this series of books, the characters; Danny Meadow Mouse, Lightfoot the Deer, etc. are intertwined, with each book focusing on a different animal.  (My oldest son, Kevin, loved them so much that for one of his birthdays, in his 20s, he asked for the complete set!)  These books also taught important life lessons, like what it means to be a friend, the importance of preparation, and the wonderfulness of diversity.  Charlotte’s Web (White) helped our kids learn to not judge others by their looks.  Where the Red Fern Grows (Rawls) allowed us to talk about sorrow and death.  Sometimes a book was so sad I had to hand it to my child to read because I couldn’t stop crying.  We continued to read aloud even as the kids got older.   Books that were exciting pulled them in.  Hatchet (Paulsen), The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi), and of course Harry Potter (Rowling) let us explore new geography, pirates, and wizardry as though we were having the experiences ourselves.  

You might think that the only time to read is at bedtime.  While we did read at bedtime almost daily, we found many other times to read.  Taking a break from playing—or working—to relax and read was something I cherished as a young mother.   Everyone needs a change of pace and I loved taking 15-20 minutes out of the day to read.  Whenever we went on vacation we packed some books along.  The kids liked to read their own book, but we also would choose two or three books to read aloud together.

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 5.40.40 PM During the summer we joined the public library reading  programs.  Having prizes to earn motivated the kids to try  new genres and broadened their world.  We liked  checking out books so much that I finally had to make a  rule that each child could only check out as many books as  they could physically carry.  (Our record for checked out  in one week was 54 books!!!)   We sometimes read  outdoors, sitting under a tree or on the patio.   We would  also read by the light of the Christmas tree, choosing one  Christmas story each night before bed.

So why is reading to your children so important?  Why did it make the parenting list for both my husband and me?  There are three main reasons:

  1.  Because reading aloud to a child can be a totally positive activity.  You aren’t asking the child to  perform or behave in any specific way.  You are simply enjoying being entertained together, and can laugh or cry or react in any way you want and it’s ok.   It’s a time to relax and be yourself and let the child be a child.  
  2.  It’s a way to enlarge a child’s world.  How else can they discover what it feels like to experience war—Shades of Gray (Carolyn Reeder), try to coax a goose to fly—Chester, I Love You (Blaine M. Yorganson), or live alone on an island—Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell).
  3.  It’s a way to teach values without preaching.  (Tom Sawyer:  “you can’t pray a lie.”)

Now that our kids are grown, do they still read?   Yes, they do!  I laughed when I found out that my son Stan has a public library card from every city he’s ever lived in.   My kids like to recommend books to me and we enjoy discussing what we’ve read.  So don’t hesitate—sit down and start reading.   You don’t like it, so you say…try it, try it, and you may!

Written by Phyllis Rosen

Everybody That You Meet Has an Original Point of View: More Parenting in “Arthur”

I had so much fun analyzing parenting styles in “Arthur” last week that I decided to do another cartoon animal related post. Although the Crosswires and the Barneses are a little bit more dysfunctional than the Reads, the Baxters, and the Frenskys, they still pass parenting muster.

The Crosswire family:

The Crosswires are Elwood City’s equivalent of the Rockefellers and they very much fit into the rich parent stereotype. You know the one—whenever their daughter needs quality time, the parents buy her a new toy and leave her with the butler. Mr. Crosswire gets very little screen time and Mrs. Crosswire gets even less. As such, Muffy is quite spoiled and frequently relies on whining and wheedling to get her way, rather than actually thinking about the problem she needs to solve.

However, things aren’t all bad in the Crosswire household. True, Muffy’s mother is rarely seen and when she is she never says anything. She gets a line in the head lice episode where she reminisces on her own experience with lice, but it’s the nanny (who only appears once or twice) who’s actually washing Muffy’s hair. But Bailey, Muffy’s butler/mentor, is a wise character who helps acquaint her with opera and get a book club started. And Mr. Crosswire himself isn’t all that bad. He takes Muffy to the opera and to art exhibits. He also takes over coaching the soccer team when none of the other parents will step up. Mr. Crosswire enables Muffy’s spoiled lifestyle, but he genuinely seems to care about his daughter and just wants what’s best for her.

Picture from here.

Picture from here.

The Barnes family:

Binky is first introduced to the audience as a bully in a gang called the Tough Customers, and his parents are apparently unaware of his bullying tendencies. However, as the series goes on, Binky sheds the stereotype more and more as it’s revealed that he likes ballet and catching butterflies, both hobbies that his parents fully support.

Picture from here.

Picture from here.

Binky, like Buster, seems to be a victim of helicopter parenting—there’s an episode where he finds out that he has a peanut allergy and his mom kicks into High Mom Mode, trying to protect him. As a result, Binky sometimes acts out to assert his own independence. At the end of the aforementioned episode, though, because he tells his mom how he feels, she agrees to be a little less involved and he agrees to check in with her a little more often. The fact that they communicate and continually reassess their standing is the signal of a healthier relationship to come.

Both the Crosswires and the Barnses want what’s best for their kids, but that’s not enough—they have to communicate with them. The best parents tell their kids their reasoning for rules that seem arbitrary, but they also listen to feedback and adjust accordingly.

You don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. Just listen to your heart*.

*listen to the beat, listen to the rhythm, the rhythm of the street…

—Becca Barrus, Stance

A Wonderful Kind of Day: Diverse Parenting in “Arthur”

Do you ever find yourself over-analyzing your favorite shows from childhood? If so, then this post is for you. Today I’ll be looking at the different parenting styles of three of the families in the popular PBS kids’ show “Arthur.”

Picture from here.

Picture from here.

Arthur’s Parents:
As David and Jane Read are the parents of the titular character, they get the most screen time. The Reads don’t have time for archaic gender roles—David is a caterer and Jane is an accountant. Both of them share household tasks and can be seen in different scenes doing dishes together and trading off cooking meals. It doesn’t just fall to Jane to sort out all the problems with the kids; David is just as involved in Arthur and DW’s lives as Jane is. The Reads tuck their children into bed at night and take them on trips every year. They are involved in their kids’ lives without being helicopter parents.

Buster’s Parents:
Buster is the only main character to live in a single-parent household*.There’s even a whole episode devoted to Arthur trying to fix Buster up with an assortment of dads for the Father’s Day Picnic. (I do a write-up of this episode here for anyone interested.) Despite this perceived disadvantage, Buster is as well-adjusted as any of his friends. He and his mom have a close relationship and do everything together. There are some especially interesting episodes when Bitzi (his mom) starts dating and Buster has to come to terms with it. Bitzi talks to him through the whole process and makes sure that he is okay with the way things are developing. At times Buster’s mom comes off as anxious and hovery (especially in “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas”), but Buster realizes that she feels like she has to do everything perfectly since she’s raising him alone. They clearly love each other and are patient with each other in their circumstances.

Francine’s Parents:
You don’t see as much of the Frenskys as you do the Reads or the Baxters, but Francine’s home life is still worth considering. If Francine has a problem, she usually figures it out herself or talks it over with Muffy or Catherine (her older sister). On the rare occasions where she does turn to her parents for help, though, it’s usually her dad she talks to. Francine isn’t as well off as her friends (a sore spot between her and Muffy), but her dad makes sure that she knows that money isn’t as important as family. “What would I do with more money?” he asks. “Could I buy a better family?” Mr. Frenksy’s light-hearted attitude toward his children is one that more people should strive to have.

In sum, this broad sweep of parenting styles and tactics shows that A) there’s no one right way to raise children and B) there are plenty of things to learn from a world where aardvarks, rabbits, and monkeys can be friends.

 

*I’m counting Prunella and Fern as secondary characters and don’t tell me that Fern’s had a dad this whole time, PBS, the man’s been missing for fifteen seasons you can’t just sneak him into an episode, pretending he was there the whole time, and think I won’t notice.

—Becca Barrus, Stance

Sabbath Message: Whom Will Ye Serve?

“[C]hoose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).family-walking-along-beach-1117003-print

I’m not sharing this scripture because it is my favorite, or because it changed my life when I memorized it in Seminary. I think this is one of my dad’s favorite scriptures, and I remember enjoying it when I read it for the first time in Seminary. But it’s never been one of those scriptures that stuck with me. It’s never been my go-to scripture.family-prayer

Although it has never been that scripture for me, someday I want it to be one of the most applicable and meaningful scriptures in my repertoire. Someday, when I have a family with little children who depend on me for so much—I will want this scripture to have meaning. When I have a family I will teach my children the gospel of Christ. I will teach them right from wrong. I will train and guide them in all that they need to know. I will teach them who to serve. When I have a family, we will serve the Lord.

—Shelby Olsen, Stance

The Way Things Are

by Jenna Hoffman

I was ready to move out of my parents’ house long before I actually did. By the time I was eighteen, my family was practically begging me to leave. My mom and I argued more often than not, my dad and I barely spoke, and my siblings were just nuisances to be tolerated.

When my mom dropped me off at my dorm the first day of freshman year, there was nothing in my heart but joy for my new found freedom. Although my parents only lived twenty minutes away, I can count on one hand the number of times I went home that year. I was having too much fun pulling pranks on the boys across the way and hosting spontaneous game nights with my new friends.

For the most part, this attitude continued through my sophomore year and into my junior year as well. As I had opportunities to live with and learn from a variety of people, I realized that everyone else seemed to have been raised much differently than I had. I started to make dangerous comparisons, comparisons which led to confusing thoughts and subsequent unfair accusations.

I was frustrated with the way I’d been raised. In my limited scope of life, I felt that I might have turned out better had my parents practiced “the right” parenting techniques. I might have been a better communicator and friend, a more competitive student and athlete. I might have had a stronger testimony of the gospel and a better grasp on the complexities of life.

According to my young and selfish self, everything I wasn’t and everything I didn’t have was my parents’ fault.

In the following months, I put my brain through a metaphorical meat processor in an attempt to figure myself out. I wanted to dig into the vaults of my upbringing and unearth the causes and effects of the person I had become. It was a long and emotionally painful process, punctuated by intense arguments with my parents and teary conversations with friends.

During one such conversation, a friend, who was a parent herself wisely told me, “I’ve learned that part of becoming an adult is accepting that your parents made mistakes, and forgiving them for it.” This piece of advice revealed two things to me: that everyone else had imperfect parents, just like I did; and that my parents were not just parents, they were people. I could not claim perfection, so why did I expect them to be able to?

This realization was the first step in accepting my parents for who they were rather than trying to change them into who I wanted them to be. Instead of blaming them for what I felt they’d done wrong, I took a deeper look into their own ideas and experiences, and I began to appreciate them for what they’d done right. And when I really took that time to evaluate my family in a fair and honest way, I discovered that although there were flaws, and grievances, and mistakes, at the core there was only pure and unadulterated love. And that is the way things are.

I’m Afraid to Be a Mom

I went to a baby shower last weekend and I couldn’t help but think how fun it would be to have a baby of my own. Actually, every time I’m around kids (which isn’t actually that often), I find myself thinking this. But then I think about how painful it would be to actually physically have a child, and how I’m happy being an unmarried, not pregnant college student. But I do have thought of some plans for my future first baby. Before I get pregnant, I’m going to read all the parenting books available and take advantage of every birthing class. Then I’ll be ready. Won’t I?

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