Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pride and Parenting Part 3

For me, often just having my eyes opened to a problem works wonders. So it has been with my pride. Once I began to understand the real root of my unrest, disappointment and often anger with my two oldest children, it was almost as if it evaporated. For many years, I had been trying to treat the symptoms (unrest, short temper, disappointment, anger, generally all of the things listed in the previous post) and the treatments always fell so painfully short. Once I understood and began treatment for the real disease, my pride, the healing began and the symptoms were almost immediately alleviated. 

Why didn't I recognize this earlier?

The problem with that question is the word I. Pride is always all about self, and my desires for my children were just that - mine. I cannot tell you how many sleepless, tear filled nights I spent counting all of my mistakes and be baffled as to why everything was going to badly. I cannot tell you how many prayers ascended, begging for help, begging to be changed, pleading for my children. It was almost as if I had to empty my entire soul in order for it to be filled with the understanding and the perfect light of healing that our Father in Heaven was so anxious to give me. I had to have the wicked spirit of pride rooted from my breast. Any earlier and I'm not sure that I would have been in a place where I could have allowed every single, last, and solitary root to be pulled. My Father in Heaven knew that. And He opened my eyes the very second He knew that I was ready to receive. 

I have no doubt that He has been trying for a very long time to help me understand, but I just wasn't willing to concede my pride. 

I hope that no roots remain, but I am certain that I am going to need to diligently weed each and every day, to root out any shoots of pride that now arise and most certainly will arise throughout my life. 

How is this practically done? I still have teenagers whose behavior has not changed one iota since my realization. When faced with the multitude of situations a mother is faced with every hour of every day, I try and ask myself - "How does a prideful parent handle this situation? How does a humble and charitable parent handle this situation?" This helps, this helps so incredibly much. 

But what helps the most is the repenting almost continually. The immediate recognition that a particular situation didn't go well, the acknowledgement of the manifestation of pride, the asking for forgiveness, and the power that comes from the atonement. 

I am learning, albeit significantly later than most, that as I lose myself in the service of my children with a humble heart, that is when the Lord helps me to become whom He wants me to be. I find the life the He has in store for me is so much more beautiful that I ever could have imagined. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pride and Parenting Part Two

I am the oldest of eight children and I probably fulfill just about every oldest child stereotype there is. I feel the most safe when I am in control of whatever situation I may be in. I don't have to be in charge of the situation per say, I just need to feel like it is under control. This tendency mellowed when I had the twins and my life was throw almost totally out of control with absolutely nothing I could do about it. But it is still there to some degree, and it was especially strong when my oldest two were young. There was a certain way I felt they should behave, learn, perceive etc. and I was going to make sure they behaved, learned, perceived, etc. that way, no matter what. 

I still strongly believe in a well behaved, self-disciplined, well mannered child. I think we, as a society, are miserably failing in that regard. But I think I, especially with the older kids, went about achieving these goals in the wrong way.

Now that I have a teenager and an almost teenager, they are testing boundaries and are not as willing to go along with mom as they once were. I recognize that this is totally normal behavior, but it still has thrown me. Especially with my oldest. 

He also fulfills every oldest child stereotype :). And over the last few years his certain perception of the world and how things ought to be done often differ from mine. Countless times have I pulled the - "I'm the mom, this is how it's going to be, deal with it." We have had more yelling battles than I care to admit, none of which are particularly productive. I have been unsettled for quite some time about it, but honestly just didn't know what to do. I was trying so hard to treat the symptoms, that I was missing the disease itself. 

My disease became so abundantly clear as I studied President Benson's Beware of Pride address. I was a prideful parent.

I was a prideful parent.

I was so concerned with my son growing up to be a happy, productive, intelligent Priesthood holder that, without even being aware at first, I had begun to govern him as the adversary seeks to govern us, with enmity. My son was going to make it back, but I was going to control every step of that process and disregard his agency entirely. A chilling realization.

Our relationship had become one of annoyance, argument, and difficulty. We were losing our son.

As I studied the address, the following words kept ringing in my ears -

Pride Destroys

President Benson gave a very lengthy list of the manifestations of pride. As I went through the list, thinking specifically about my relationship with my son, I realized the following applied directly -

Looking Down
Never Enough
Witholding Gratitude
Withholding Praise
Power Struggle
Self Pity
Worldly Fulfillment
Self Gratification
Self Seeking
Unrighteous Dominion
Generation Gaps
Easily Offended
Holding Grudges
Witholding Forgiveness
Justifying Injured Feelings
Does Not Receive Counsel
Not Easily Taught

These were characteristics on my side of the relationship specifically. At this point I felt it was important to ask, "Lord, is it I?" instead of focusing on what I felt were my son's weaknesses. 

As I spent the week before my lesson, I found my eyes were opened. What before would have been a normal parenting interaction, my mind was now firmly instructing me, "that was a manifestation of pride", "that was prideful", "pride, pride, pride!". It was an unbelievable experience. 

Clearly, the error had been manifest, now it was time to begin the repentance and change. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pride and Parenting Part One

Ever since I was a little girl, all I ever really wanted to do was grow up and become an attentive wife and loving mother. Over the last few years I have struggled with depression, in part, because I felt like I was a failure of a mother. Even though I had dedicated my entire heart and soul to this endeavor, I felt like I was always doing more harm than I was ever doing good. I was impatient, prone to yelling and far too critical of my older children. It seemed that all I was ever doing was disciplining and our family just wasn't all that happy. Every so often I would seriously think about how my children would be far better off with someone else as their mother. Unfortunately, they were stuck with me and things seemed to be getting worse instead of getting better. 

I felt like the Lord had given up on me as a mother, for I had given up on myself. I continued to diligently try, but most evenings I found myself recounting each and every failure and shortcoming as I fell asleep, pleading that the Atonement would make up the difference in the lives of my children.

In the beginning of September, my sweet husband gave each of the big kids their school blessings. Later that evening, after the kiddos were tucked in bed, he asked me if I was ready for my blessing. I hadn't asked, nor been expecting to receive one, but I readily accepted.

The blessing was so loving and powerful. While I will not give details here, the Lord spoke to my heart with words addressing things that only He and I knew concerning my mothering insecurities and issues.  

The blessing also spoke of the fact that when I received a calling (I was theologically unemployed as we had just moved into our new ward) that it would be very specific to what the Lord knew I needed at that time in my life. I didn't think much of this at that time.

I walked away from the blessing feeling as if the Lord hadn't given up on me. It was an amazing feeling, and I lived on that feeling for several days. 

A week or so later I was called to be a Relief Society Teacher. The first lesson I was assigned was Lesson 18 from Ezra Taft Benson manual - Beware of Pride. Though I had read the talk several times in the past, and twice already this year, this specific studying of the talk fundamentally changed me, hopefully for good.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I wonder why

I wonder why I keep coming back to this blog. I'm really not sure. But I am. Maybe as a way of journaling for my daughters? I am not sure how long this will last, but, for tonight, I am here.

It's been a bizarre last few months. Lots of ups and downs with our moving to a new home, ward, town, schools etc., not being able to sell our other home, financial stresses of starting a brand new job, etc. etc. etc. Basically just the stresses of life all crammed into one summer. But we pushed through it and were on the other side, or so we thought.

Shortly after moving into our new home, we found out I was expecting. To put this news in better perspective, our fertility doctors had told us we would never be able to get pregnant without doing IVF again. In fact, we have two frozen embryos from our previous procedure several years ago. We were absolutely, 100% blindsided by the news. We were excited and scared and in shock all at the same time. But it was wonderful and we were happy.

I was very sick, much sicker than I had been with my other singletons, which made me a little nervous that multiples were on the way again. Our twins are absolutely delightful, they were just a little tricky at first. :) I was also gaining weight and showing far earlier than I had before, but we just figured with baby #5, that was bound to happen. Initially we decided to hold off telling our kiddos until about 12 weeks, just to be safe. We did tell our parents and a handful of others out of necessity because I was so sick. 

Still in the first trimester, I found myself needing maternity clothes. At this point, we didn't feel we could hold off telling the kids any longer. They may have been totally oblivious to how sick I was (love my teenagers, but they are teenagers) but surely they would notice when I was wearing maternity clothes. So, one Saturday morning, we sat the whole family down and shared our happy surprise. Everyone was excited, especially my 12 year old daughter, who adores babies. She immediately started throwing out names.

The following Tuesday I went to the doctor for my first ultrasound, as sick as ever, and excited to see our little one for the first time. During the ultrasound my doctor's face fell. Our baby no longer had a heart beat. And our world crashed around us.

I had had no physical sign that there was any sort of difficulty at all. I was so sick and so very much growing as a pregnant lady is apt to grow, that, once again, we were totally blindsided. I was diagnosed with a 'missed' miscarriage. This is where the baby dies, but my body missed it and still was progressing as if I was pregnant. 

An additional ultrasound was scheduled the following week (6 days later) with a D&C scheduled for the day after that. I was advised that I may begin the process of miscarrying any time before that. 

I called my husband from the exam room as soon as the doctor left, my mind was a total blur. What was happening? Wasn't this our miracle baby? Wasn't this the baby that was 'meant to be' as our parents and others had said? 

I won't go into any details of the next several weeks, but they were difficult. The hardest part was telling our kids. How I wish we would have held off on telling the kids. But I suppose that it was better that they knew, better they had those few days of excitement than to never had had them at all.

We were very quiet about the whole miscarriage and resulting D&C. I am only sharing here because no one I know reads this, and I needed somewhere to begin again with my thoughts.

I was very morning sick up until almost the morning of the D&C, my body never did really recognize that something was wrong. I have had a D&C before when I was in my mid twenties with a very easy recovery. I expected the same this time around, but it was not the recovery I expected. It took much longer to physically recover than before. Maybe because of my age, or the type of miscarriage? Who knows. Just as I was beginning to feel somewhat normal again, my whole family came down with the nasty fall fever and cold. We passed that around for about two weeks, and now, at last, I am starting to feel like a regular human being again. It's been several months. And I have learned so much. And I have learned that there is still so much yet to learn and to become.

I am not here to even really talk about my miscarriage, I know that it isn't a unique situation and that so many of us have experienced this. I just give this as a preface to the journey of becoming I am attempting to make. 

Maybe that's why I'm here. Because I want my children, especially my daughters, to understand me just a little bit better. Maybe they will be more confident, more comfortable, more spiritually in tune if they can learn from my experiences. Learn to make better choices than I ever have, know that heartache can eventually fade and that the Lord will manifest His tender mercies always, but perhaps in even greater abundance during the stress and sorrow. Learn from my mistakes and become whom the Lord intends for them to become.