Today, as I was watching my sweet little ones play, I was so touched by the beauty of childhood. Watching them warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face. I love to see them interact. I love that they are best friends. I love, love, love to watch them play. I love to watch them enter make-believe worlds that only they can understand. I love driving in the car and hearing the cute things that they say to each other. It makes me smile. I find that I smile a lot. And I think it's because I'm enjoying my little people so, so much. I often even smile when they are naughty...not always...but often.
It hasn't always been so easy for me to smile at my kids. It's a learned trait and it has come with age, perspective, time...and prayer. I've always been a basically happy and optimistic person, but I remember when I was a young mom, raising my first batch of kids, that I used to get much more upset and stressed out. Yes, I still enjoyed my older kids and I loved them just as much as I do my younger kids...but I remember that I had way less patience and was way more stressed. And the result was that I was often quick to anger.
I remember one particular trying afternoon. At the time I had 5 kids and my oldest was 7. I had a lot on my plate. I was trying to organize a large community event. I had church responsibilities that I needed to get done. The kids were fighting and being mean to each other. There was lots of crying and screaming. One of the older kids woke the baby up from her nap. We had people coming over in the evening and I was trying to get the house looking decent. I was getting NOTHING done (in fact, I was moving backwards--the house was getting more messy by the hour) and on top of all that, the kids were complaining, fighting, and being disobedient. I had had it! I was feeling so frustrated, overwhelmed and angry! I had spent the whole afternoon clenching my teeth, speaking sternly and giving the "evil" eye. As I got more frustrated, the kids' behavior deteriorated and I was, in turn, feeling more angry. I think we all are familiar with that lovely downward spiral! It stinks! So, before I did something that I would regret, I ran to my bedroom and locked the door.
With the muffled sound of whining and occasional pounding on the door, I sank to my knees next to my bed. I was tense, frazzled and angry. I knew I was not being an exemplary mother. In my head I knew that it was wrong for me to be feeling annoyed and mad at my sweet kids. In my head, I knew that it was mostly my fault, not theirs. Yet, I just couldn't turn this day around on my own. I knew I needed help. I knelt at my bed and prayed. I pleaded with my Heavenly Father to help me. I couldn't do this alone. I wanted to be a better mother. I wanted my kids to feel unconditional love from me, not annoyance and anger. As I whispered my pleadings, I felt a quiet peace come over me. And then suddenly I had a very distinct impression. It was clear as day.
I could almost 'hear' the words in my head: "Smile at them.". What a simple thought! I immediately thought back through the day and realized that I had not once smiled at my children. I sat down on my bed and thought about the answer I had been given. I pray a lot and I believe that prayers are answered, but seldom had I witnessed such an immediate and distinct answer to a prayer. I knew that I had just received personal revelation from my Heavenly Father. I knew that He was aware of me and that He understood my situation perfectly. I still didn't feel like smiling, so I practiced smiling as I sat there on my bed. I said another prayer, thanking God for His wise answer to my prayer and asking Him to help me to smile. Then I unlocked my door and faced my kids with a smile on my face.
Fast forward 15 years and three additional children, and I find that I still remember that sweet answer to my prayer just as vividly. Now, as an older mother of young children, I don't let the little things bother me as much. I better understand that each beautiful phase of childhood is fleeting and precious. I realize that I need to enjoy each moment to its fullest...not only the moments with my little children, but also each beautiful moment with my teenage and adult children. I'm better now at seeing these moments as the precious gifts that they are. And when I consciously notice these precious moments, I smile. I have a hunch that my sweet Father in Heaven is smiling with me. And when I'm caught up in these precious moments of motherhood, I often think back to the sweet and tender lesson I was taught so many years ago: Smile at Them!