“The Best Times of Life,” Ensign, Sept. 1982, 57
Each season of life seems to bring with it special memories. Childhood, with its anticipation and curiosity; adolescence, with questions and uncertainties; maturity, with its experience and combining of purposes—each is an important part of memories that will make a lifetime.
So it is with young motherhood. For a certain span of life you seem always pregnant or nursing or tending small children. But these are challenges and responsibilities and joys that will come only once in this life. If we could see beyond the present in an eternal sense, perhaps today would be more precious.
“This is the best time of your life!” my elderly neighbor chuckled as I threw down the hose and raced to rescue my one-year-old tumbling down the steps of our new home.
“If one more person says that to me, I’m going to scream!” I thought as I tried to comfort my crying baby and watched my two-year-old from the corner of one eye. I was four months pregnant with our third child and trying to keep our newly-seeded lawn wet in hundred-degree weather.
“Your lawn’s coming along fine,” my elderly neighbor smiled as she walked toward me. Her face was dry and scented with cake powder. She seemed so calm and composed. I was perspiring and trembling with frustration.
“How can you say that?” I asked. “I can’t even see any grass for all those weeds. Sometimes I think that’s all I ever do—water the weeds.”
“Don’t worry about the lawn,” advised my neighbor. “You’ll see. Pretty soon all this watering will pay off, and your grass will crowd out all those weeds. All new lawns are like this. But things will change.” She waved as she walked back toward her house. “This is the best time of your life, dear.”
“Well, if this is the best,” I thought, “I don’t want to be around for the worst.”
I had decided that older folks just didn’t appreciate what they had. They could get up whenever they wanted. They had time to immerse themselves in music, literature, art—everything I didn’t have time for. Eating one meal without feeling like bringing in the garden hose to wash down the kitchen and the kids would have been a high point of my day.
It seemed as though all I ever did was wash diapers, faces, walls, floors, clothes, or dishes. My hands looked like they hadn’t been out of water in years. In the evenings, after the children were safely tucked in bed, I usually tried to fit in some writing or art or music; but more often than not, something else needed washing again.
Then one morning, a concerned trip to the doctor brought warnings of a miscarriage and instructions for bed rest. The children were packed up and taken to my mother’s. Suddenly I had all the time I longed for and all the bed rest I wanted. It was wonderful!
But as the days wore on, something strange happened. I started missing my water-dimpled hands. This “no-work-to-do” business was getting old in a hurry.
A week later, I was still resting and the miscarriage still threatened. Late one night contractions began; then suddenly they stopped, and I knew I had lost the baby. My husband carried me to the car and we drove to the hospital. Lying with my head in his lap, I looked out the window into the darkened sky. It seemed to reflect my disappointment.
The doctor advised me to be philosophic about the whole thing. “After all,” he explained, “most women have a spontaneous abortion or two during their childbearing years.” My husband sat quietly at my side, his eyes red and tired.
Days later, at home, I sat outside on the porch with my two small children. I noticed that the lawn, after weeks of my absence, had really changed—just as my elderly neighbor had predicted. The small, tender green seedlings were growing into mature blades of grass. All the watering had paid off.
It occurred to me that perhaps all the work with my young family bore some resemblance to our newly-seeded lawn. Indeed, it seems to be all work and water at first—and it’s hard to see the tender seedlings beneath the weeds. I knew then that if I didn’t stop and look, I would miss something precious. I would miss the joy in my children’s growing. In time they, like the lawn, would not require my constant care. And the time would have passed all too quickly.
Perhaps, unlike my neighbor had suggested, this was not the “best time” of life. In fact, it would be no better or worse than any other time. But I would only have this time once—and if I missed the joy of growing in everything around me or within myself, I would truly miss it all.
The growing times are not always predictable. Family home evenings with our young family, for instance, don’t always turn out the way my husband and I plan them. Sometimes our eighteen-month-old “song leader” hits everybody on the head with his baton and giggles instead of leading the music. Occasionally the lesson is a bit muffled because our three-year-old insists that the closet door knob is her microphone. I usually get a headache after our two-year-old favors us with a piano solo.
Sometimes our four-year-old’s prayers include petitions like, “Please bless my sister to be more cheerful and to stop hitting me and share her toys with me and let me have her new doll.”
But then I see my eighteen-month-old open his New Testament Stories book and lovingly say, “Oh, Jesus, oh, nice.”
Or my three-year-old sees President Kimball on Conference Sunday and lovingly says, “Oh, Mother, there’s Kimball!”
Or my four-year-old, on a spring day walk, stops and says an impromptu prayer thanking Heavenly Father for the beautiful world.
Or we all kneel together in prayer at the close of family home evening. Then I know why each Monday night we’re all together—and why we keep trying.
Life as a young mother is much like a late summer rain storm. The thunder and lightning, the on-then-off-again cloudbursts, seem to control the moment. Soon the slow uneven raindrops turn into rain-sheets swept across the sky by gusting winds.
But later, the rain will slow and gradually stop. The sun on the western horizon will shoot through a small opening in the storm clouds, and the sky will turn to a panorama of changing colors. Deep ambers, brilliant golds, cool wet blues, and translucent white will brighten the once-grey heavens.
A young mother is in the summer of her life. The work and worry of her small children will pass as quickly as summer’s refreshing storms. Then autumn will arrive and memories will be sweet as they recall those cherished summer days of growing.
Many memories with young children are easily forgotten unless some care is taken. Here are some ideas for recording memories of their growing up.
Keep a written journal for your child. Even before your child is born, you can purchase a journal and begin the entries. Write about your pregnancy—your feelings and experiences. After the baby arrives, write about his birth, his firsts, his holidays, his birthdays. This journal can be given as a gift to your child when you feel it is time that he can continue it on his own.
Make a memory quilt. This can be made from scrap pieces of clothing that the child has worn, or embroidered with names and dates and pictures of important times for the child.
Store items that will recall memories. Get a trunk or special box of some kind in which to keep special clothing, toys, quilts, booties—anything important to the child. This is a good place for gifts from grandparents.
Record experiences on tape and film. You can use tape recorders to record your feelings for your unborn or to record the child’s cry, or laugh, or parties. With a camera, you can take slides, moving pictures, or snapshots. When taking pictures, don’t take pictures just of the children. Include pictures of yourself, grandparents, friends, and brothers and sisters.
Use whatever talent you may have. Be creative. You can embroider or paint or exercise any talent you may have to prepare a history for your child. Think of something you can work with and stay with something you like. Don’t try to do everything. Pick one idea that is best suited for you and then keep with it.