Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
Friday comes and no one hands you a paycheck, a performance review or even a compliment. A weekend break is not looming. The kids have chicken pox, the teens are issuing a declaration of independence, and the baby just learned the word “No!” When, oh when, is payday?
Mothers soon learn that the beautiful child in her weary arms is not the perfect child she envisioned. For some this comes immediately, when a doctor tells the parent that something is wrong. For others, the realization comes gradually, when the beautiful baby keeps you up all night, laughs when you scold or likes Daddy better than you for a little while. Our child’s personality becomes clearer as the days progress, and we begin to know that children did indeed live before they came to our home, and packed their pre-formed personalities into their celestial suitcase.
Even that knowledge, however, doesn’t keep us from doubting ourselves. When we do everything “just right” and our child doesn’t respond “just right” we wonder where we went wrong. Why can’t our children sit quietly in church, the way Sister Matthew’s do? Why don’t our children keep their rooms clean the way Cathy’s do? Why don’t our children get good grades, the way Alexandra’s do? We begin to suspect that everyone but us has a secret method of raising children, and that their methods are all better than ours.
The truth is, however, that there are no perfect parents and no perfect families. That perfect family on the front row of the church may have challenges you can never guess. In fact, it’s certain they do. They have sorrows, and worries and days that don’t go right. We all do. Every child, every family that really tries, does some things right, and some things wrong, and children put forth their own personalities and practice free agency no matter how hard we try.
The child who drives his Primary teacher crazy because he won’t stay in his chair may also be the one who notices an older woman standing in a corner and brings her a chair. Sitting still might not be his strength, no matter how hard his parents tried to teach it to him. The messages about kindness, however, got through. The child who can’t keep his room clean may create breathtaking works of art. The neatness lessons didn’t take, but the ones about valuing your creativity did.
We send hundreds of messages to our children every day. Some take. Some don’t. While we must continue to send all the proper messages and take the proper actions to turn our children into good, moral, loving adults, we know that our children will choose which ones they will adopt now, which they will remember and keep later, and which will simply never be a part of their lives. Our job is to teach real children, not to create robots.
So when is payday? Payday comes in small doses, here and there, when we least expect it. It comes when we overhear our child, who would never say so in front of us, tell a friend that her mom is totally cool. It comes when our child gets lost in a good book. It comes when our child shares a heartfelt testimony of those principles we hold most dear. It comes when our child puts aside his natural tendencies to selfishness and helps another.
Sometimes our children are adults and parents themselves before they appreciate who we are and what we did. Our best paychecks come when our children are grown and we can see who they have become. It’s only then, many years after you think you have retired, that you get that perfect paycheck: “Mom, all those years…you were right.”
Happy Mother’s Day.
The Model Mormon Mother's Notebook