Sunday, May 15, 2011

Parental Compassion

I went to my new ward for the first time today and went to a really great Sunday School class.
It's a marriage/stronger families class taught by a brother in the ward. Welllllllll, it turns out he has a PhD and wrote a book about parenting.

...Which I happen to have on my bookshelf. Well, if my books were unpacked it would be on my bookshelf. Right now it's in one of the towers of boxes that looks like the NYC skyline....

Anyhoo, Brother Goddard shared a great example (that I also remembered reading in his book) about his daughter and her little friend going across the street to play at the elementary school playground. They often went, and they were reminded each time, as permission was given, to stop and look both ways for traffic before crossing. One day, their daughter's friend ran out into the street without looking and was struck by a (thankfully slow-moving) car. As she lay in the street, in pain and with multiple scrapes, Brother Goddard contacted emergency personnel and went to comfort her. He asked if it would be appropriate at the time, while she lay there bleeding to berate her for her foolish forgetfulness?

No, of course not.

But how often, in our parental omniscience, do we say to our children, "I told you so."

That is a natural, human response to say, "See, stupid. If you hadn't done that, you wouldn't be in this fix."

But, he pointed out, with a paraphrasing of scripture, "the natural parent is an enemy to the child and has been for all eternity".

We have been commanded by Jesus Christ to become like he is. And how is it that he responds to us in our times of need and distress? Does he respond with, "I told you so!"


Then he followed with a couple of scriptures that brought home his point. First is Alma 7: 11-12.

"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (emphasis added)

And next Hebrew 4:14-15

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."

He KNOWS us. He knows our deepest hurts and our greatest needs. And he has gone through the hellish experience of Gethsemane. Why? Not so he can sit back on his throne and say, "Yeah, yeah. I know. Life stinks. I've felt it too. Stop whining and get on with it already."

But so that he can say, "I understand. It hurts, doesn't it. I felt it. I remember. But I'm here with you. It will be okay soon. Just trust me. We'll get through this together."

The next verse in Hebrews (4:16) gives Paul's conclusion:

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

Jesus Christ is ready and waiting for us to come to him in our time of need. Not in our time when we deserve it. Not when we've cleaned up our act and have gone through a long enough 'time out'. We may find grace in our time of need.

Brother Goddard reminded us that so much of the time, words and behavior are a plea for emotional connection. We want to be recognized, accepted, appreciated,  loved and understood. When a child is coming to us whining or grumpy or says something outrageous, what will our response be?

Will we turn away? Ignore, put off or diminish their needs?

Will we turn against? Become irate and irritated that they are inconveniencing and hindering the very busy parent?

Or will we turn toward? Embrace and listen and seek to understand why they are coming to you.

That doesn't necessarily mean to do whatever they may demand.

A child may want to have all the flavors at the ice cream store. Instead our typical response, could we reply, "I know. That would be so fun. I wish we could too. But what one/two flavors would you like to try today?"

Then if the child can't decide on a flavor, don't lose your cool. (No pun intended) "It's hard to decide. Do you think you can pick one now? If you can't we will have to move on to another errand. Perhaps we will have time to come back when you have decided. But there is a chance we will not be able to come back. Do you know which you'd like to have."

Hmmmm. I'm not that mature, patient parent yet. Sometimes I am. But definitely not when I'm stressed or in a hurry.

Thank goodness for repentance. Thank goodness for the atonement. Thank goodness for a loving Heavenly Father and his plan. Thank goodness for a gracious Savior who walked the path before and walks with each of us throughout our journey.

So, when my son comes to me boldly asking for my love and attention and I turn him away, I may go to a loving Jesus, my Savior, and boldly ask for his forgiveness. I will ask for his grace and his guidance to become a better parent, a better guide for my own children.

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