Thursday, June 30, 2005

More service and self reliance

Yes, I am going to beat this subject into the ground...

Actually, I first want to say that when I wrote that the other day I was very tired and feeling rather UN-Christlike. I have now repented, and while I still struggle a bit with where to draw the line, I do know that erring on the side of service is the way to go. I try my best to just go and serve without judgment or bad attitude.

But all of my thoughts have led me to thinking of this topic as it relates to parenthood. Maybe what I was trying to say before will be more clear, and maybe I'll understand myself better after putting these thoughts to "computer screen" as well.

Okay, so as a parent, I am here to serve my child in many ways. I cook them dinner (sometimes, I realize Joel does this more often than I do), I do their laundry, I buy them clothes to wear and toys to play with, I concern myself with their educations, I teach them lots of important stuff, and the list could go on and on. But isn't another part of my parenthood to teach my children to function on their own? To develop self reliance? Isn't that the greatest service I can give them? To raise them so that when they leave the nest they are able to make a life for themselves and not need to come running to Mommy because they can't cook their own dinner or balance a checkbook?

In order to help my girls develop self reliance I give them chores. They both have set chores they are to do every day. Now I am the first person to admit that I do not always enforce the doing of said chores, but I honestly try. Because they have these chores, my 2 year old is already capable of loading a dishwasher and my 4 year old can make her bed pretty decently. They can both fold towels, match socks and put their own clothes away. They are both able to pick up the playroom and put toys where they are supposed to go, even though they cheat at this a lot and just put them wherever.

So, what if I were a parent who felt that children shouldn't do chores, because, after all, I am the parent and my sole purpose on this earth is to serve my children? So what if I made the beds every day until the kids are out of the house? Wouldn't I have actually done them a huge disservice when they leave home and discover that they don't know how to make a bed? Or at least they aren't in the habit of doing so, and as a consequence they drive their roommates bonkers because of their messiness? What if I decide I will never make my children help with the laundry? Would they even know to wash the whites, lights, darks and towels seperately? Would they know which temperature to use? Will they ruin all their clothes by putting things in the dryer or turning a favorite white shirt pink because they put it in with something red?

To this I do know the answer! It is a huge disservice to children to do everything for them...they won't learn and will be moochers for the rest of their lives. I don't want my children to be like that, so I make them do what I know they can do for themselves. That will continue to change as they get older, obviously. And every parent will have a slightly different idea of what is important for their own children to know and be able to do. That's okay, as long as we are teaching them to do for themselves.

So, the answers to the questions posed in my last entry are still somewhat ambiguous, but I do think we shouldn't do everything for people. We need to teach them to be self reliant. If they are having financial difficulties, we need to teach them to budget and live within their means while we are giving them the food they need and possibly helping them to pay their rent. We need to teach them how to be successful at finding and keeping employment. Those that expect the Church to clean their house for them need to be taught to do it themselves when possible. And then we serve as best as we can, because we don't have ultimate judgment. But I do think we might be judged if we don't teach self reliance while we are serving.

"Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime." This is the answer. It is just such a fine line, and like I said before, it is always better to just err on the side of service.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Service and Self Reliance

This post is really going to be more of a rant than anything, so I apologize in advance.

I am the Relief Society President in my ward. We are an extremely poor ward, as we are living in the cheapest housing that exists in Arizona, most of us are students and living off of government money and those that aren't are barely on their feet enough to rub two nickels together. When I went to a Stake Leadership meeting they were talking about the correct way to write food orders from the Bishop's Storehouse and I was the only one who had written very many and was pretty competent at it. I do at least 6 in an average month, sometimes more, sometimes less.

So I've been thinking quite a bit about self reliance. I mean, Joel and I are just as poor as everyone else in the ward. Yet we have never had to ask the ward for financial assistance, and I don't even think we are the best example of self reliance, either. But we get by. And I'm not saying that the people who ask don't need the assistance they are receiving or that they shouldn't have it. I'm just wondering what really put them in such a situation in the first place? Was it circumstances beyond their control, or could they have prevented it by making better choices?

I just want to give a couple of examples:

Example #1: Right now there are several families in our ward who are moving for one reason or the other. One family is having to move to another house that is wheelchair accesible (still within the ward boundaries) due to a series of unfortunate events. It is such a long story I don't think I will even attempt it here, but basically the husband is in a rehab center with two broken legs and can't come home until the house is wheelchair ready. He is expected to be in bed/wheelchair for at least six months because of the nature of his injuries. There were other events more than six months ago that started a downward spiral, so that the wife is stretched beyond her limits and can barely function with what is on her plate (an autistic child and another with bipolar disorder, among other things). Having to move came as a big surprise to everyone and the ward really jumped in and helped. There is still much to do, but I feel we have lifted a great burden off of this family's shoulders. I also feel that there is no way in the world they could have done it without our help. I also feel that it was completely appropriate to help, and that our lives were blessed for doing so.

Example #2: Another family who was planning on moving a month ago found that the wife would need to go in for emergency back surgery during the time when she would normally be packing up and moving. She ended up being in a rehab center as well for several weeks and once out could only walk with the aid of a walker. While she was in the hospital, we asked the family multiple times how we could help, but got no response. We brought in a few meals, but that was it. We found that there was a lot of extended family there to pack up the house and move everything. I found out yesterday that they are expecting our Relief Society to clean the house they moved out of almost a month ago. Nobody asked me, these are people who weren't especially active, and yet they expect us to just go and do it for them. Their family has helped enough, they say. After discussing this with my Bishop, we have decided it isn't appropriate at all to help this family and they need to find a way to do it themselves. She does have a perfectly healthy husband and five children. Two of which are teenagers and perfectly capable of cleaning a bathroom. Also, I would have been more willing to help out when they were actually moving and I was calling to find out what we could do. Yet nobody bothered to return my calls, so I was left to assume that they needed no help.

Why do some people take so much advantage of the Church and the willingness of its members to serve? There is even another lady we deal with who is not a member, but thinks the Mormons are just there to serve her. When the missionaries talk to her she is very definitely not interested. Why are the same people the ones who show up to every service project time and time again? Why?

It is such a fine line and a difficult decision to make. When is it appropriate to serve and when are we enabling people by doing so? When is it more appropriate to leave it to them to figure things out for themselves? Sometimes, they really made the mess because of bad decisions, so why should others have to clean it up for them? I got another phone call tonight from a single sister who is being evicted. She has to be packed and out by noon tomorrow. I went and helped her for a little while tonight. Yet, this is her own problem really. Why did she let it get this bad? Why did she ignore notices? Was it appropriate for me to help her tonight? I don't know. I try to think what Christ would do, and sometimes I just don't know. I guess it is best to err on the side of service, but I wonder if I am really doing them a disservice by doing so.

I guess I'll never know the answer. The other thing I'll never know is where all the people are to clean my house this week since I've been cleaning everyone else's but my own. Do you think I could arrange something?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Perspective and the learning curve

So I was teaching a voice lesson the other day and I was a little (okay, a lot) frustrated. I mean really, it was so obvious what she was doing wrong and just so easy to fix, but even though I talked myself blue in the face and demonstrated the concept hundreds of times she just plain did not get it.

And then when she left I really thought about it. For a minute I decided I was a horrible teacher because I obviously wasn't conveying the message. I quickly threw the self-degradation out the window when I remembered just how difficult this concept really is and the fact that it took me quite a while to get it. My student is only 14 years old and really trying. I am 30 years old and I have been doing this a while now, so obviously I have a much better understanding than she does. Because she doesn't know what I know and doesn't have the experience I do, what is totally easy breezy for me is quite difficult, if not impossible, for her. (But still incredibly frustrating...because it seems like she is not even getting 1% of it.)

It's perspective. From my vantage point I can see exactly what she is doing wrong. With the knowledge I have I can also see exactly what needs to be done to fix the problem. She does not have this same perspective. The problem is too close to her for her to recognize it is even there. It's like the experiment you do when someone holds something up right in your face and you have no idea what it is until you step can maybe tell what color it is, but that's it. When you do have the right perspective it is always surprising to see what the object actually was.

So can you see where I'm going with this? I think Heavenly Father must look down on me every day and and shake His head because I'm just not getting it. He can see exactly what my problem is and exactly what I need to do in order to correct it, but I can't. Sometimes I realize that something isn't working, but I don't know what it is because I haven't stepped back enough yet. Other times I can identify the problem but not the solution. It takes a lot of trial and error to finally get it right. And then, of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I can look back and see my life so much more clearly than I could when I was living it.

It is so fun to see the lightbulb go on when I am teaching a student. It's as if something inside of them finally clicks and suddenly they can finally do what I've been demonstrating and explaining for ages. And they always say, "It's so simple! Why couldn't I figure this out before?" The student really teaches herself at this point...I'm just kind of a guide. I think that's how our Father in Heaven works, too. We have plenty of guides in the scriptures and the prophets, but until the lightbulb goes on we just don't see them or understand them. In the case of the student, if she isn't putting forth any effort to understand or practice a concept, that lightbulb moment probably won't come. Same with us and our gospel learning...gotta put forth the effort to understand and do our best to live the commandments, and eventually we will receive more light.

My conclusions? Basically, I am too hard on myself and perhaps too hard on others. Gotta remember that I am NOT perfect or anywhere close to it. I just have to keep doing what is necessary to be a little, tiny bit closer to perfection today than I was yesterday. And I need to apply this concept as a mother. My children's perspective and place on the learning curve is totally different from mine. I cannot allow myself to be frustrated because a 4 year old has not learned what I have. Pretty ridiculous when I think about it like that. Sheesh...gotta be better. Gotta do the hard stuff, like I always say, and someday I can look back with a new perspective and smile at my ignorance, glad that we are always given new chances to learn what we didn't get before.

Stinky Face

In our house we have a favorite story book: I love you Stinky Face. (Great book, I'd recommend it if you've never read it). We even have two very well worn copies of the book we love it so much. Somehow "Stinky Face" has evolved to be a funny face that Bria makes, but now even Chloe has learned it. Isn't she cute? I just decided I really wanted to post this picture. So there it is. Now I'll go write another post about what's really been on my mind! Not that I don't adore stinky faces...because I do.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The nature of nurture

So the Proclamation of the Family says this: "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." And that's it. Nothing else about what a mother is or should be. So I've been thinking a lot about what nurture really is, because I just always thought it was to love your kids, and kiss their owies, and just generally be there for them. Which is great, but so far, it's been my experience that there is a whole lot more to motherhood than that!

So I looked up the word "nurture" in the dictionary and boy was I surprised at just how much nurture actually entails!
  1. Anything that nourishes; food; nutriment.
  2. The act or process of raising or promoting the development of; training, educating, fostering.
  3. All the environmental factors, collectively, to which one is subjected from conception onward, as distinguished from one's nature or heredity.
Wow! That totally changes my view of what the Proclamation says. And I think that we can, as mothers, divide our responsibilities to nurture in much the same way as the dictionary does.
  1. We have the responsibility to nourish our children, both physically and spiritually. We must make sure that they are fed good food and are clothed. We must make sure to teach them the Gospel and help them to gain their own testimonies.
  2. We have the responsibility to educate our children. We must teach them about the world around them, to be good citizens in their community, to find and develop their talents, and a million other things.
  3. We have the responsibility to create a nurturing environment for them by patterning our homes after the temple.
So, when I think about it that way, I just can't believe how inspired our prophet is. Look at our world...women who choose to stay home and take the responsibility to nurture their children are looked down upon. They are told they are wasting their talents--even their lives--by choosing family over career. I am not saying that we should flip that around and judge the women who have chosen to have careers, because there are millions of different circumstances. And I think a mother can still nurture wonderfully even while working outside the home. Just because I have found a way to work from home doesn't mean that I'm a superior nurturer, either...especially since I throw the kids in their room and tell them they may not come out under any circumstances until I am finished teaching my lessons!

No, I have a very long way to go before I can call myself an expert nurturer. The Proclamation says it best, though, in the words "primarily responsible." Just knowing that I am the only one who has been given this divine responsibility for my two little girls gives me just the impetus I need to keep doing my best, day in and day out.