“Breakthrough,” Liahona, Dec. 1999, 40


I used to think my mom didn’t understand me. It seemed all she cared about were her rules. How could she understand me? She had never done anything wrong in her life.

I decided I could do better without her rules, so I started to define myself in opposition to her. She always wore nice skirts and dresses; I always wore big, shabby jeans. She followed rules of etiquette meticulously; I ignored them. She did everything she could to invite the Spirit into our home; I listened to counterculture music. She worked to avoid even the appearance of evil; I hung out with kids who were in trouble. Even though I wasn’t participating in serious transgressions, Mom knew I was on the edge.

Mom spent many rough nights worrying about me. One night she got up to check on me and found under my covers a pile of pillows shaped like a sleeping form. She spent a long night calling my friends, the police, and anyone else she could think of. When I got home, she told me I was grounded until further notice.

Soon after, feeling angry and rebellious, I found myself in the principal’s office at school. Knowing I could identify the culprits of a recent prank, he explained to me that if I didn’t tell him who the guilty parties were, he would suspend me instead of them. I defiantly kept silent. So he called my mom and told her I would be staying home the next day.

This time she was really angry. As she considered appropriate punishments while waiting for me to come home, she went to get a box out of our unfinished attic. Distracted, she took a wrong step between the beams and suddenly came crashing through the insulation, drywall, and plaster of the ceiling, landing on the floor below. Still gathering her bearings in that painful pile of rubble, she had the thought come to her: Your relationship with Michelle right now is as fragile as the ceiling. One wrong step and the relationship will collapse from under you and will be permanently damaged.

When I got home from school, I expected a lecture. Instead, when Mom greeted me, she explained what had happened and gently expressed her love for me. She said she had been prompted to take special care of our relationship and needed my help. I looked at her legs, black and blue from the ankles up and covered with some bad scrapes. All I could think was how amazing it was that as the ceiling gave way beneath her, her first thought was for me. Even I was humbled. We prayed together for help in learning to love and accept.

It wasn’t easy. I really had to work to change my attitude. Looking back, I realize that all along Mom had my welfare in mind. I eventually discovered she was really fun to be with. We looked for ways to spend time together in positive situations, doing things we both enjoyed. I learned to see her as something other than a disciplinarian. And most importantly, I changed my perspective. Instead of being embarrassed by our “old-fashioned” home, I came to love bringing friends over. I finally realized that I was equally responsible for the success of our relationship.

I guess I’m the one who should have fallen through the ceiling, but I doubt I would have heard the Spirit at that crucial moment. I’ll always be grateful for a mother willing to love me even while I learned to love her.

Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh