Monday, December 15, 2008

Forgive Me, Forgive Me Not

Okay, so a few weeks ago, in the midst of stress and frustration, I sat down and had a good cry. Then, I got a hold of myself, wiped my eyes, and thought long and hard about what I was doing wrong as a mother. My children seemed to be out of control, whining at nearly everything, disregarding what they didn't whine about, showing little to no respect toward me or each other. I was emotionally, mentally and physically worn out, and regardless of how hard I tried not to, I was also feeling a bit discouraged.

As I tried to to wrap my head around the root of our problems, I couldn't help but think of each of my dear children, and as always, a smile began to spread across my disheartened face. Regardless of their misbehavior, I realized once again how fiercely I loved them and how much they were teaching me. I shook my head as I came to the conclusion--as I have many times--that they were teaching me far more than I've ever taught them. I recalled different experiences throughout the years and even grabbed a pen and began making a short list of the most important things four little children have taught me. Feeling meek, I began with humility. Five attributes later, I now end with forgiveness.

In the scriptures we are counseled to be as little children, and I am certain one of the main reasons is because there are no people as forgiving as children. It doesn't matter how many times I lose my temper in a day, how many times I forget to put a lunch in my school children's bag, how many times I just plain blow it as a mother, when I tuck my little ones in to bed at night, they wrap their arms around me and tell me how much they love me. It never ceases to amaze me.

And then there's the number of times in a day when I am forced to forgive them--or be miserable. I usually choose the first, but I reserve the second as a backup option :). It's just that motherhood demands forgiveness because, just like adults, children tend to make a lot of mistakes in a day, and they have a nack for being just plain naughty at times. I have had days when I was sure they were ganging up against me, that they had secretly plotted to make me miserable, days when I thought I would lose my mind, days when bedtime seemed it would not come soon enough. Then a wide-eyed child would peek his/her head around the corner of my room and say, "Sorry, Mom." What else could I do but forgive and move on?

How grateful I am my childen are teaching me the principle of forgiveness. If ever I become the woman I hope to be, I will owe a great deal to four blue-eyed Conger kids!

Monday, December 8, 2008

What Could Be Greater Than Love?

"Mom, do you love me? Do you love this little girl standing right here?" Such was the question I received from my three-year-old as I was brushing my teeth the other morning.

A chuckle in my throat, I responded by leaning down and wrapping her in my arms. "I sure do. I sure do love this little girl standing right here." And I meant it. I held her in my arms a moment, relishing in the joy of little arms around my neck, thinking she could never possibly know how deeply I meant that simple phrase. She released me from her grasp and ran off happy, leaving me to wonder what had prompted such a question and how I could ever adequately show my children how much I love them.

Love. I thought I knew what that meant as a child who was lucky enough to grow up in a family with parents who told me they loved me daily and who made huge sacrifices on my behalf. Then I became a missionary and found new meaning in the word, developing love for people I barely knew and yet felt touched by. Soon after my mission I married an incredible man and love took on a whole new meaning. But not until I had children of my own did I really begin to comprehend the immensity of what love really is. Now I know that motherhood is all about love. I have never loved more or been loved more.

There are many times in the midst of unpleasant situations with my kids, times when I am full of frustration and seeking for answers, that I am reminded simply to love them. And there have also been numerous times when I have been discouraged and irritated, enjoying a good pout, determined to stay mad, when one of my children has offered their love to me, and it has changed everything. Children are full of many things--mischief, humor, cleverness, unlimited energy--but mostly, they are full of love. I never cease to be amazed that my children, who know my many weaknesses, who often see me at my worst, love me anyway. I think that's really what life is all about--loving people anyway.

So, I've decided this week to concentrate every day on letting my kids know how much I love them--no matter how naughty they are--and hopefully, they'll do the same for me!:)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Empathetic Heart

Have you ever had someone criticize your parenting or your children’s behavior? Has it ever been you who was critical? I know that, before I had children, it was easy to look at other mothers and feel certain I could do a better job. I mean, how hard could it possibly be to comb a toddler’s hair or dress her nicely before showing up to church or the grocery store? What’s so difficult about teaching children manners and obedience? Now, four children later, I can only laugh at my naiveté. I had no idea!

I truly believe that unless you’ve been a full-time mother, it’s just not possible to really know how physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting and difficult the job can be. I can only say, motherhood teaches empathy. I used to feel disdain for a mother whose two-year-old was screaming down the isles of Wal-Mart; now I am simply grateful that toddler isn’t mine! I flash an understanding smile as I recall our last grocery store visit with two children whining by my side and a baby screaming in the cart.

I recently had the luxury of visiting Wal-Mart without any children--an amazing experience! I felt as free as a bird. Gliding through the front doors I ran into my son’s former soccer coach trying to push a loaded cart out to her van while balancing a small child on top, holding an extra gallon of milk with her “free” hand, and keeping an eye on the two older children by her side. It was wonderful to be able to help. I moved the milk jug to the bottom shelf of the cart and pushed the entire load across the parking lot, explaining the whole way there that I totally understood how she felt. (The milk still wobbled off when I hit a bump, but at least I was there to retrieve it). My friend seemed very grateful, explaining that she was watching extra children that day and trying to get ready for a party as well as do the regular grocery shopping. As I hurried after the runaway gallon I realized that if I hadn't had children, I probably wouldn't have been so eager to jump in and help someone I didn't know well, but since I had been in a similar situation multiple times before, I immediately knew her needs and was able to help without reservation.

I'm so thankful for the empathy I am developing from finding myself all too often in less-than-desirable situations with my children. I have often had the thought run through my mind, "I hope those people know I usually look better than this, or my children usually look better than this, or we usually have things together better than this," but motherhood is forcing me to realize that 1) it doesn't matter what others think; 2) no one has it all together all the time, leastwise mothers; and 3) gaining an empathetic heart is a wonderful blessing because I can see other women struggle at times with all they are managing, and I can feel love and understanding for them--something I may not have done before.

I guess that's just one more thing to thank my children for.