Thursday, September 7, 2017

We Can Finish Hard Things

Elder Lynn G. Robbins addressed employees at BYU-Idaho yesterday. I was inspired and grateful for the message he shared. There is a significant trend in higher education, and in other post-high school opportunities, showing remarkable and growing drop out rates. In addition, many institutions are also seeing a rise in mental illness, particularly fear of failure/anxiety.

Elder Robbins focused on the Christ-like virtue of resilience. Some refer to this as 'grit,' or the ability to bounce back. We watched this awesome TED talk by Angelee Duckworth that started the conversation.

Following the clip, he posed several questions, including:
  • How can we, as teachers/ those who support students, stress the importance of giving something new a chance, or something old another chance?
  • How can we teach them about follow through on commitments and the joy this integrity brings?
  • How can we separate the behavior from the person, so we can truly minister with no barriers?
He said that often we hear the popular phrase, you can do hard things. He thinks this is a great phrase. However, in this idea of resilience and grit, he suggests that we need to encourage others that they can finish hard things.

He then shared the following paraphrased story: Once upon a time, there was a man stuck
in the middle of the ocean. He was in a rowboat, had plenty of supplies, and ores to paddle. At first, there was hope that he would not be stuck in the middle of the ocean, so he rowed and rowed. After a while, he stopped rowing. He had given up; it was too difficult. What was his purpose anyway. All that he hoped to achieve drifted.

But then, the man spotted land. Do you think he picked up his ores and started rowing again? YES! 

It is often that we are headed on a journey and hit a major roadblock or something we need to overcome. When we lose sight of that vision (island) it is harder for us to be resilient and carry on. Elder Robbins suggests that we have the opportunity to restore vision to those who are up against a rock and a hard place.

To provoke thought and discussion, he asked: what is the ONE perfect parent doing for us to help us become more resilient?  What else can we do to help raise children or teach our students grit? Below are some suggestions from the employees at BYU-Idaho.
  1. Allow them to see and understand natural consequences of their actions.
  2. Teach reverence and humility toward God and the gospel. 
    • For example, Nephi wasn't trying to 'run the show' as they made their way through the wilderness, but he was humble enough to know that God wouldn't let him starve. This allowed him to persevere when things got tough.
  3. Teach patience and respect toward our children and recognize that they were adults before they came to earth - see our children as they really are - sons/daughters of God also on this journey.
  4. The only way to learn how to ride a horse is to get back on when you are bucked from it - finish the ride.
  5. When we focus too much on the do's and don't's we stop focusing on the 'become'. 
    • He gave an example of a close friend who wouldn't let the baby feed themselves as a baby because it was messy. As the baby grew older, the baby (now toddler) demanded that his parents feed him, because that was the only thing he knew. When we are focusing on the do, we are not focusing on the be - letting them do hard things so they know they can finish, and loving them enough to tolerate messes at the high chair.
  6. Praise their diligence and hard work. If you say things like 'you are smart' they may not know HOW they are smart. But when you praise their diligence and hard work, hey can make the connection.
  7. Teach that if they start something, they need to finish it
  8. It is not a reflection of parenting if your children fail - it is a natural consequence of agency. Our Heavenly Father does not base his success on if we fail. He know that we grow as a result of our suffering.
  9. Teach them how to fall well. When you teach failure as an opportunity, teaching them HOW to take it is just as important.
  10. Communicate their potential to them and remind them of who they really are and what they are capable of.
  11. Encourage them to take risks even if they might fail.
  12. Let their hands go so they can learn.
  13. Express confidence in their ability and show them by example. Praise them for their efforts.
Our Heavenly Father never forces us to do anything. He will not give us a decision to make if it is not in our power to decide. He will inspire us at the crossroads when we are living worthy of the Holy Ghost and seeking direction.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mommy Tales: Being Nice to Myself

Church today was particularly difficult with Little Bundle. First, we are traveling and his sleeping habits have been off. We are sharing a room right now, and I think my snoring is keeping him up. He has been tossing and turning a lot more than usual.

After getting him ready, and getting ready myself, I packed my purse with all Little Bundle's needs, and started walking to church. I wasn't sure how long it would take us to get there, but it sure wasn't the 20 minutes I had planned. We arrived to our 9:00 a.m. church at 8:40. I walked in and the lights in the church were not even on yet. I didn't want to take Little Bundle in the chapel since we would be there for an hour. I walked around, went to the drinking fountain, but it got to a point where I just needed to set up shop in the chapel.

I always choose a pew with a wall. That way, there is only one escape route for Little Bundle. Guarding two by myself has always presented a challenge. How grateful I am, as a mom, to have a wall. It makes it seem like I am in more control somehow....even if I'm not.

On any given Sunday, I have a stash of bread and goldfish. The bread is for when the sacrament comes around so there is no fighting with the tray. The goldfish is for any other time I feel he needs a distraction. Today, Little Bundle spotted the bread right away. Before the opening services even started, he was halfway done with the bread. I was silently praying that he would be able to make it through sacrament meeting without too much fuss.

Minute 10 came and we were still on opening exercises. I knew I needed to be prepared to leave, something I haven't needed to do in the past. It has only been lately, as Little Bundle has become more mobile, that I have struggled. Helping distract him as much as I could, he had eaten his goldfish, proceeded to spit them out and create a mess with them on the seat. After cleaning up after him, he had enough and started to wail during the sacrament. I picked him up and started to go out, having not partaken of the water. I noticed that the water had been passed in the foyer, so I stood at the door as Little Bundle whimpered. 

I wasn't embarrassed, but felt bad for those who really came prepared to ponder and listen. I also didn't know how appropriate it was for me to stand at the door since the doors are often a space for the priesthood to protect during this sacred time. 

Side Note: I am trying to overcome this, but I often feel that when people glance my direction when Little Bundle starts to get fussy, they are really saying, Don't you know it is rude to keep a unruly child here....I am trying to feel the Spirit and you and your child are distracting me.

Maybe all mom's feel like this, but I really don't think Little Bundle is SO unruly that I have to take him out. I am at church to learn too, and will take him out, or stand up by the door if I need to.....I digress.

I received the water, gratefully, and made my way back to the pew. Afterward, Little Bundle was great for 10 more minutes. As he started to fuss again, I held him, reading silently to him. Then, I felt wetness. He peed through his clothes.

At this point, I knew it was time to leave. I didn't have an extra change of clothes (the first time I didn't bring any since he was born). I realized the irony, made my way to bathroom, changed his diaper as he cooed in the echoing-tiled restroom, and made my way to my stroller. He was naked, all except the diaper. 

As I left, I felt like I had to justify my son's nakedness in the church. I explained this to one mother in the foyer, and concluded I am not winning at mothering today.   

On our walk back to my brother's apartment, I thought about my last comment. How easy was it to blame myself and lack of mothering skills or parenting abilities? It was too easy. At the time, I didn't feel defeated in any way. I wasn't mad, or annoyed at Little Bundle. My leaving had nothing to do with me being a bad mom, it had to do with not bringing a naked baby back into sacrament meeting

I had the opportunity to partake of the sacrament, and renew my covenants. I went to church, even though I was on vacation. I went with a baby who was sleepy from the beginning. I whispered to Little Bundle about the reason we were there (a new tradition I started with him 3 weeks ago). I enjoy being obedient - it brings me peace. 

I showed up. 

I hope that not too many of you, my readers, get down if things don't go as smoothly as you anticipate. I often see phrases like "mommy fail" or "#notwinningatmom" or the ever sarcastic "#winningatmotherhood" floating on social media. 

Even if you are not being serious when you post those types of phrases, take caution that you don't start believing what you are saying

Showing up is all it takes to defeat those negative thoughts. It is high time we start being nicer to ourselves......starting, now.