Sunday, January 26, 2014

BE PRESENT: Making the Most of the Early Years
Class by Audrey Buchanan

Has anyone here ever been in a sensory deprivation tank? They are domed tanks, like a huge egg, filled halfway with water, really only big enough for one person, set at exactly body temperature, with 800 lbs of Epsom salts in the water.  Once you climb in, you pull the lid closed and you are floating in total darkness. You have earplugs, so there’s no sound coming in, and you can’t really feel anything because the water is exactly body temperature and you’re floating, and you float in there for an hour and a half.  They’re supposed to promote relaxation and deep thought. For me it just promoted claustrophobia.
   Well my brother gave me a gift certificate to try one for Christmas. Before I got in, the attendant gave me some tips and one of them was this: “When you get in and lay down, feel around the walls with your feet and hands. It will help you get your bearings and feel oriented.” So I did, and it did help me feel like I wasn’t just floating out in space.
I would submit to you that as mothers, we are like those tanks for our children. In the same way I had to feel around the walls to know my boundaries, our young children look to US to create their environment, to establish their boundaries and their comfort when they are young.  When they are very small, we ARE their world. What kind of world will we create for them? WE are their first teachers.
I hope the Spirit will be with each of us today to help us make personal application of the concepts we share with one another. Some of my thoughts today will be taken from Margaret Nadauld, former YW general president.  I want to focus on three main points, and being present within those:

1.       Point our children to the Lord.
2.       Carve out and guard meaningful family time and individual time with your kids.
3.       Focus.

Be thinking of the ideas that work in your own family that you might be willing to share for the benefit of others. Not everything we share will work for each of us, and that’s ok. It’s not about guilt or comparison, it’s about finding tools that work for your family.

I remember a year ago, after the Newtown shooting, feeling like, “There are no words for this, there is no comfort I can give regarding this subject.” We do our best as parents but the comfort of the Spirit is unmatched by any other power. Children need to turn to God for the ultimate guidance, ultimate knowledge, and ultimate comfort. We need to show them how to do this. 

The good (and scary) news is this: our most effective teaching is done by example! President Hinckley’s father used to tell him, “More religion is caught than is taught.” What we do as parents is contagious! So whatever programs or incentives we choose to implement in our families regarding the Gospel, most of our teaching is done by example.  Each time a child prays with her mother, that child is taught. When scriptures are a prime part of teaching in the home, a child is taught, both by the Spirit as well as by the word.  When a child attends tithing settlement with his parents, that child is taught. When a child is read to and cherished, that child is taught, and seeks others in life who will cherish him/her in the same way.  Pray in front of your children. Show them you turn to the scriptures in good times and bad. Show them that you seek the Lord, guidance.  When they come to you with questions, ask them first if they have spoken to their Heavenly Father about the issue.

There was a study done a few decades ago of youth in the Church, and what the best predictors of missionary service and temple marriage are.  It was done by the church evaluation division and then reaffirmed by work done at BYU. Is anyone familiar with it?

The best predictor of missionary service and temple marriage is private religious observance.  It is not attendance at meetings, participation in church basketball, or girls’ camp attendance. Those things are important, but only inasmuch as they bring the Spirit and strengthen testimonies.  In his talk, And a Little Child Shall Lead Them, Pres Packer said, “Too often someone comes to me and says, “President Packer, wouldn’t it be nice if …?” I usually stop them and say no, because I suspect that what follows will be a new activity or program that is going to add a burden of time and financial means on the family. – Pres Packer J
All experiences with the Gospel are valuable, but personal, experiential moments with the Spirit, seeking the Lord through prayer, (personal and family), fasting, scripture study, personal Sabbath day observance and paying tithing are where the pedal really hits the metal.  

So point your children to the Lord.  2 Nephi 25: 26 teaches: “And we atalk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we bprophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our cchildren may know to what source they may look for a dremission of their sins.” Our testimonies to our children should probably be the biggest component of our relationship with them.

?? What are some unique ways you have found in your family to Point your Children to the Lord?

 For me, we’ve tried scripture study at all times of day, but the time I’ve found when the words actually stay with us is the morning. And a little Trader Joe’s Almond Croissant never hurts as a motivator for sleepy kids. ;)

Example: “I am a daughter of royal birth, my Spirit was born in the courts on High, my Father in Heaven is Lord of the earth, Daughter beloved, a princess am I.”
Highlight the simplest words in the scriptures for non-readers (Lord, Jesus, Christ, Messiah) so they can search for them themselves.

Even before little ones can fast, they can pray for those the rest of the family is fasting for.

We have to be intentional about family time. So many good things, as well as wasteful, superficial things compete for our time. We are all hardworking mothers. Busy callings, volunteer or paid work, extended family responsibilities, digital distractions, overbooked schedules—it can be overwhelming. 

Fortunately, the Lord knows all and has already instituted principles to make this easy on us.  It begins with Sabbath day observance and Family Home Evening.—time dedicated to the family and to the Lord. And yes, we will look peculiar to others when we turn down parties and other get togethers during those times, but when we make those priorities known and we hold firm, people will understand and remember and that time will be secure.

In this day and age, many of us are just overloaded. I know I often feel that way. Elder Maxwell shared the following in a 1985 talk: “Obviously, family values mirror our personal priorities. Given the gravity of current conditions, would parents be willing to give up just one outside thing, giving that time and talent instead to the family? Parents and grandparents, please scrutinize your schedules and priorities in order to ensure that life’s prime relationships get more prime time! Even consecrated and devoted Brigham Young was once told by the Lord in the D & C to “Take especial care of your family”. Sometimes, it is the most conscientious who need this message the most!”

Would someone know, looking at my weekly schedule and how I spend my time, from the outside, that my family is the most important thing to me?  I go back to Elder Oaks’ Good, Better, Best conference talk when I feel I need a reset on my scheduling.  One of my dearest friends quotes Pres Benson frequently and I have benefitted from his statement time and time again:  “Whenever we put God first, all things fall into their proper place or out of our lives.”

So when we complete our calendars, let’s make the first entries be Family Home Evening activities, one on one dates to the temple grounds or on a cultural outing, Fast Sunday, etc. We can look to The Family: A Proclamation to the World for ideas on how to spend our additional time together—work, wholesome recreational activities, reaching out to extended family, serving one another, etc.

After looking at your own calendars, examine your children’s.  Make conscious decisions about how many extracurricular activities, play dates, etc are right for your child, for your family. Are the Best things taking first priority? Put them in first, and then use the remainder of the time. So revamp our schedules, would be my first point.

?? How have you guarded your family time?

Second, take advantage of ordinary moments together.
Table Topics in the car:  would you rather see a movie, a parade, or a magic show, what makes you feel better when you're sick, if you wanted to earn $50.00 how would you like to earn the money, what object would you like to be able to draw really well, if you could be a superhero which special power would you choose to have? 
                After school snack
                Meal times. This is why our Sunbeam teachers give the lesson DURING snack. J
    Meaningful dates.  Sometimes leisurely, sometimes challenging. Cultural pass to the Art Museum,                        set a hiking goal, do some service.
   Family Work. 
   What are the connotations you think of associated with Family Work? Housework, chores,                               tedious, etc.

In today’s world, family work is recognized as the province of the exploited and the powerless who have no other choice.

When the Lord speaks to Adam and Eve after they’ve partaken of the fruit, He gives us insight as to the purpose of work. Moses 4:23 reads, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake;”   Work was given as a blessing to the first couple. Think about the ways in which work blesses you and your family. Today it seems like the more abstract and mental our work, the more distanced from physical labor, the higher the status it is given.

Even the way we go about building relationships denies the saving power inherent in working side by side at something that requires us to cooperate in spite of differences. Rather, we "bond" with our children by getting the housework out of the way so the family can participate in structured "play." We improve our marriages by getting away from the house and kids, from responsibility altogether, to communicate uninterrupted as if work, love, and living were not inseparably connected. At every turn, we are encouraged to seek an Eden-like bliss where we enjoy life's bounties without working for them.

Ironically, it is the very things commonly disliked about family work that offer the greatest possibilities for nurturing close relationships and forging family ties. Some people dislike family work because, it feels mindless. Yet chores that can be done with a minimum of concentration leave our minds free to focus on one another as we work together. We can talk, sing, or tell stories as we work. Working side by side tends to dissolve feelings of hierarchy, making it easier for children to discuss topics of concern with their parents.

We also tend to think of household work as basic and boring. But because it is menial, even the smallest child can make a meaningful contribution. Children can learn to fold laundry, wash windows, or sort silverware with sufficient skill to feel valued as part of the family. Since daily tasks range from the simple to the complex, participants at every level can feel competent yet challenged, including the parents with their overall responsibility for coordinating tasks, people, and projects into a cooperative, working whole.

Another characteristic of ordinary family work that gives it such power is repetition. Beds get messed up, children get hungry and dirty, meals are eaten, clothes  become dirty. This often feels like a reason to hate home work more. But in reality, the frequency is  a new invitation for all to enter the family circle. The most ordinary chores can become daily rituals of family love and belonging. Family identity is built moment by moment amidst the talking, singing and storytelling, and even the quarreling and anguish that may attend such work sessions.

 Helping one another nurture children, care for the land, prepare food, and clean homes can bind lives together. It’s the simple, every day stuff of sustaining life.

In all of these, rely upon the Spirit to recognize teaching opportunities that are brought up in everyday conversation.

?? What are ways you’ve found to maximize the ordinary moments together with your children?

Maximize personal efficiency.  We all know not every meal can be a cooking lesson, not every bathroom cleaning can be done at a chatty leisurely pace. For those times when time is of the essence, I try to maximize my efficiency.  I recently bought a 16 quart stock pot in order to triple recipes and freeze 2 for future use, already prepared. A sister in our ward has said she gets up at 5 am to prepare all the food for her family’s day so she doesn’t have to think about it later.  I haven’t quite been able to implement that, but I admire it nonetheless. 

Find a partner: I have a close friend with whom I trade play dates once a week.  The kids love it and we each crank out more work or errands in that morning than we otherwise would.

?? What ways have you found to maximize your own personal efficiency?

When you do have time with your children, focus.  Speak their love language, not yours.  Look into their eyes when they are talking. Express physical affection. Do something they enjoy.  Be present with them, whatever their mood or situation.

 Job 2: 11-13  ¶Now when Job’s three afriends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.
 12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.
 13 So they sat down with him upon the ground aseven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his bgrief was very great.
Does this remind anyone else of our baptismal covenants to mourn with those that mourn and to comfort those that stand in need of comfort? What better place to stand as a witness of Christ, and to comfort and mourn with those who need, than in our own families?

 “Many things we need can wait. The child cannot. Now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, his mind is being developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today.”--
Gabriela Mistral

Better than any of this information, pray over your children. Pray to the God who knows your children better than anyone. As you seek His help, you will be given insights into the individuals He has placed in your care. There is no cookie cutter approach to parenting, and you will need personal revelation and reassurance regarding your children.