“Things Learned as a Mother,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 27–29
As parents “rear their children in love and righteousness” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102), they not only teach but also learn. In the following article, mothers relate some lessons on patience, love, and perspective they received while fulfilling parental responsibilities.
One day my four-year-old daughter came into the kitchen with a handful of rose petals and laid them on the table. I could see she was frustrated and confused. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I tried to make the flower come out of the rosebud, and it all fell apart!” she said.
I took her into my arms and explained about patience and allowing things to grow in their own way and time. “Those flowers will bloom when they are ready,” I said. “Each day stop and just look at them. Slowly the roses will unfold and be beautiful.”
Years later, when she was 11, I found myself impatiently trying to change her behavior. Our relationship crumbled. I couldn’t sleep at night from worry. What’s wrong? I wondered. Why does she act this way? How will she turn out? Fortunately, I did some study of child development and discovered that my daughter was a normal 11-year-old. This time the lesson on patience was for me: love, be firm, but trust and let go. It wasn’t easy, but our relationship improved. Before long I saw her becoming a confident young woman, and I felt joy.
Patience is one of the most difficult requirements of parenting, yet it is critical to our effectiveness. At a fundamental level, patience is trusting God and accepting His guidelines for handling the frustrations and challenges of life. It may not be easy to patiently allow children the time they need to grow beyond their weaknesses and immaturity, but if we seek the Lord’s guidance, there is much we can do through Christlike love to encourage and nurture that growth.
Accept. Acceptance is taking our children for what they are right now, without comparing them to others or wishing they didn’t have their particular flaws. Acceptance is letting go of unrealistic or unfair expectations. It is understanding the seasons of our children’s lives.
The Savior is our example of patient, accepting love. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). Feeling His perfect love, we accept Him and invite Him into our lives, and through Him we receive motivation, direction, and strength. So it is with our children. As we truly accept them, they are more likely to accept our role as parents to support, teach, set wise limits, and provide opportunities that can give them experience and growth.
Allow. We need to allow children to meet the individual challenges and storms of their lives. Making some mistakes and experiencing consequences is part of learning and growing.
In our deep concern we may not want to give our children opportunities to pursue endeavors in which they might fail. Yet having the freedom to make choices and to use their own talents and insights is the only way they can truly succeed.
Appreciate. Someone once quipped, “Nothing improves my hearing like praise!” Like spring showers on a newly planted garden, noticing our children’s efforts and expressing appreciation nurtures growth.
Express gratitude for a job well done, and next time it may be done even better. Express admiration for a talent and watch it flourish. Patiently help a child discover and value the gifts God gave him or her to contribute to this earth, and in time those gifts may blossom.—Christy Williams, Somerset Ward, Renton Washington North Stake
It seemed there just wasn’t a spare second in my day. Besides attending to my responsibilities as a wife and mother and fulfilling Church callings, I was involved in rehearsals for a major dramatic production. Nevertheless, I managed to get things done, and my children, familiar with this pattern, seemed content.
As I quickened my pace one day in order to complete remaining household tasks before heading for another rehearsal, the thought crossed my mind, Look at your children. I dismissed it because I had just talked with them and they were fine. The prompting came again. Now, wondering if this was more than my own thought, I did look in on my children. They were still all playing happily on the floor together. I continued my work, and in a few minutes it came again. Really look … see.
I went into the family room and sat on the couch, and the children scampered over to sit beside me and on my lap. I talked with them, and this time I looked into the eyes of each child. Now I saw more than little mortal bodies that needed clean clothes and a hot supper before their mother left. I saw sparkling, happy spirits who needed to be listened to. Those few precious minutes to stop, to look, and to see made a big difference in my outlook. As my youngest threw his arms around me and said, “I love you too, Mommy,” I saw very clearly that my dramatic role was insignificant compared to my divine role as a mother.
After that, whenever I found myself slipping into a rush mode, the memory of this experience would flash into my mind and help me focus on the deeper, eternal images and potential of my children. I am grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who taught me that looking is not necessarily seeing and that we need to rely on more than just our eyes to perceive the worth of each soul.—Kaye Powell, Manhattan First Ward, Salina Kansas Stake
When my daughter, Jennifer, was two years old, after I had disciplined her or hurt her feelings in one way or another she would often cry, “I want Daddy!”
One day as she cried “I want Daddy!” over and over again, I explained to her that Daddy was at work. As she cried harder and harder for him, I became more frustrated and angry. Then, without prompting, she suddenly began to cry instead, “I want Mommy!”
I realized then that she had only wanted to be loved. I thought about how many times her cries for her daddy had really been cries for a more loving mommy. I took her into my arms and loved her, thankful for the lesson she had taught me that day.—Trudy Roberts, Woodruff Third Ward, Idaho Falls Idaho Ammon West Stake
“Mom! I need you! Hurry!”
Adrian’s frantic cry jolted me from my slumber. Heart pounding, I tumbled out of bed and dashed into his room.
“What’s the matter?” I croaked in my just-awakened voice, not sure what I might find.
My three-year-old son stood on top of his toy box, looking out the window.
I repeated an octave higher, “Adrian, what’s the matter?”
Adrian turned his shining brown eyes toward me. “Look! There’s ice on the inside of the window. How did it get there?”
My first reaction was irritation. He had scared me. But before a reprimand could escape my lips, I too noticed the intricate swirls of frost decorating the glass. Shown in relief by the pale dawn, a network of ice doilies adorned the entire pane.
This winter was the coldest of my young son’s life. Below-zero temperatures had created a wonder he had never seen.
Fear-induced anxiety evaporated as I cuddled my warm child. The precious time we shared studying lacy ice patterns was more satisfying than a few minutes of extra rest. I would have the chance to sleep again, but I could never recapture this glowing moment of wide-eyed wonder that my curious three-year-old invited me to share with him.—Sara Kuester, Brigham City 18th Ward, Brigham City Utah West Stake