Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fire Swamp Parenting

The other day I was in my bathroom, madly brushing teeth, racing between appointments. I had precariously thrown my large hand bag on the counter.  It was perched awkwardly atop random odd shaped items, such as a bulky make up bag and bottles of whatever.  

From the corner of my eye, I glimpsed the heavy bag slightly dangling.  Then, even with water blasting full bore, I heard a faint creaking noise. Ever so faint. And ever so slow.  Suddenly I turned to face the bag, just in time to see it falling off it's rocky foundation.  I instinctively leaped to catch the bag, toothpaste dribbling down my chin.  Feeling a little proud of myself for recognizing the quiet creaking sound, I was immediately humbled by a thought about parenting.

Have you seen the movie, "Princess Bride?"  If not, stop whatever you're doing right now and GO WATCH IT.  (One of the greatest,  most quoted movies of all time!) 

However, since I'm assuming most of you have seen it, I'll refer to it now.  Remember the fire swamp? Remember, "It's not that bad really...Well, I'm not saying that I'd want to build a summer home here, but..." Yes, THAT fire swamp.  

Three things made the fire swamp a treacherous place.  You'll recall there were R.O.U.S.s (rodents of unusual size), quicksand, and fire blasts out of the ground.  These fire blasts, though daunting at first, eventually were no problem to handle because they were preceded by a distinct crackling/popping sound.  These sounds allowed enough warning time to get out of harm's way before damage was done.

In that moment of just barely catching the heavy bag with spit involuntarily spewing out of my mouth, I realized how close I'd come to a downfall (it's a really big bag with my whole life in it: planner, phone, keys, money, ID, diapers, wipes, socks, everything). Such a simple moment, but it taught me an important principle.

If we listen, truly listen, our children will send us quiet messages when they need our help.  We will be warned, sometimes, just in the nick of time, when one of them needs us to turn around and "catch" them before they fall.  Maybe it's a tiny feeling about checking on them once more before bed, or of checking a Facebook post, or leaving a note on a pillow.  Maybe you hear a slight change in their voice about coming for family prayers or scripture study.  Perhaps the phone rings less, friends aren't calling as often.  There are a million examples which occur every day in family life.

When my children were very small and we were living on the East Coast with no family close by, I had one dear friend with many young children of her own. She lived an hour away from me and it was a real treat to go to her home. But whenever I did, I came home with nuggets of truth that she shared.  One time, a young boy was acting up (can't remember if it was mine or hers), she just smiled and said, "It's time for him to learn a new skill!" She explained that she had learned that when her children became crabby, she knew they had outgrown their current knowledge and were ready for a new challenge in life. She'd teach how to tie a shoe, scrub a toilet, or sew a button, etc; something to make them think, use their coordination, and fill them with the pride of accomplishment. What brilliance!

If we listen to the ever so faint warning sounds our children make, we will know that they are in need. As we pray, listen to the spirit and our heart, we will soon become experts at predicting needs and preventing damage before it's too late. 

The problem arises when we as parents are not "tuned in" to those quiet precursors. Sometimes we fill our lives with too much busyness.  Sometimes our world is too loud with constant media streaming.  Sometimes we fear the future so much, we ignore the present.  There are many reasons to miss the warning sounds. 

The moment I caught my bag, I suddenly thought of my family.  Was I listening to the warning sounds? Was I facing them? Was I "catching" them in time? 

Each one is so precious. Each one is growing at their own pace, each one has different needs. But I have learned that when I have my eye single to the glorious calling of Mother, I am better able to hear those quiet warning sounds and sense those needs. 

Then it takes humble prayer, and time set aside for the precise purpose of just, listening. Just being still long enough to discern the best way to "catch" them. Sometimes, the answer is to let them "fall" on their own, sometimes the answer is to swoop in with a net! Sometimes the answer is to cushion their fall with a big fat pillow. But whatever the answer, it requires time, attention and intentional parenting to discern.

Sometimes the answer is as simple as FEEDING THEM! Or getting them to bed on time! Or changing a diaper!  I learned that great lesson once while reading Mosiah chapter 4.  Since then, I have tried to at least cover the basic needs, even on busy days.  If I don't at least cover the basics, contention abounds! and no wonder! 

But when laundry is clean, meals are predictable and sleep schedules are respected, other issues might be to blame for the warnings we hear and feel.

I'm so grateful I had this "fire swamp" lesson.  It helped me make a very big and very painful decision this week.  I will write more about that later when I have more time and strength!

In the meanwhile, I'd love to hear your experiences! Anyone willing to share a "fire swamp" experience they've had? What warnings did you hear? How did you respond? We can all learn from shared experiences! I know I do!

Thanks in advance for anyone willing to share.  It's time for me to put some little ones to bed ON TIME for once this week! :)

  And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
  But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.
Mosiah 4:14-15