Here Lies Mom
Keeper of the Stuff
Keeper of the Stuff
(…as in “Mom, hold this ” or “Maaahm, where’s my shoes?”)
Not wanting my headstone to look exactly like hers, I imagined mine would say:
Here Lies Mom
(…as in “Mom, she took my __!” or “I had it first!”)
Bickering between siblings was considered an inescapable fact of family life by everyone I knew. Still, I hated it. I wanted a family of peacemakers, not rabble-rousers. It was frustrating that I was following the counsel to teach my children to follow Jesus and all else that we are commanded to do in order to invite the Spirit into our homes-–yet the daily, even hourly, disputes continued. The “natural man” aspect of it grated my spiritual nerves raw. It just wasn’t right.
One day as I was reading King Benjamin’s address, he started talking directly to me:
“And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14-15)
Even as the rightness of it flooded my heart, I knew that another Family Home Evening lesson on the evils of contention wasn’t going to cut it. What more could I do in my little vineyard? Wait a minute--I told myself--you may be clueless, but you are also creative! Sit down, think it out, pray it out – be proactive. A glimmer of hope lighted a distant corner in my brain. I knew the answer was in there…just a nudge or two from the Spirit and I might yet come off conqueror!
I recently conducted a workshop on creativity called: “A Gift for Expression”. The room was full of musicians, but what we learned about the subject applies as much to moms and musicians. Elder Dean L. Larsen points out for instance, that Father expects all of us to cultivate our creativity: “It may well be that this aspect of our development in mortality is as important in the eyes of a creative Heavenly Father as many other attributes that receive greater attention and emphasis.” We ought to be focusing on becoming more creative; the way we concentrate on becoming more patient or humble or forgiving - or, as Mary Ellen Smoot (former General Relief Society President) puts it: “…we are children of God. Shouldn’t we be about our Father’s business? Shouldn’t we be creators as well?”
Becoming a “creator” for the first time at age 21, I remember being more afraid of the potential hurts I’d cause as a young mom, than of the hurt I would pass through in childbirth. With multiple personalities to deal with as my family grew, there was no way I had enough education or experience to handle the complexities of “people-making.” My pre-natal worries were eventually subdued in prayer: “You have the Holy Ghost,” I heard. “Use him.”
Crawford Gates, LDS composer, suggests something interesting about the gift of the Holy Ghost as it relates to creativity: “How does it make us different? May I suggest that one of the ways the Holy Spirit helps us is that it makes us more creative?” President Uchtorf verifies that this is true: “The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create.”
That doesn’t sound like the Holy Ghost will dictate to us though, does it? “Heavenly Father wants to help us find the creativity within us. It wouldn’t encourage us to do that if he were to say, “Get a piece of paper and write this down” (Jack Weyland). Remember: “…you must study it out in your mind: then you must ask me if it be right…” (D&C 9:7-9) That little tidbit from church history would certainly bear out the presumption that the answers are within us–if we employ a little perspiration before inspiration, as Elder Maxwell puts it, or in another turn of the phrase: “Inspiration complements our creative efforts” (Crawford Gates).
So where do the creative solutions really come from? Elder Maxwell says that they “spring out of our seeing possibilities we have not seen before, seeing connections between patches of truth and beauty, and responding to them in ways we have not done before.”
Alright then: back to my homespun warlords. I rolled up my sleeves, took out a piece of paper and wrote down the following:
The problem: Kids clashes.
(The truth) They shouldn’t be doing it.
(The beauty) They don’t have to be doing it. We can learn a better way.
What I needed next was to “see” or “create” the connection between this patch of “truth” and it’s corresponding patch of “beauty”. Hmmmm…. I thought and thought about it for quite a while. I eventually reasoned that the munchkins needed to learn to settle their own spats…and that boiled down to…communication skills! Ah-ha! Now we’re on to something! A crazy idea started to piece itself together in my imagination and a whoosh of light gave me the tingles.
I rearranged the living room so that Grammy’s big, round, rag rug was front and center. Then I called the kids into a “come-to-Jesus” meeting, (as my Christian friends in the South would say).
“Here.”I explained, “is The Rug”. From now on, any parties suffering a disagreement will be immediately referred to “The Rug”. The parties in question will face each other, sitting Indian-style, knees touching (absolute rule). You will have to decide who presents his case first. The other will have to listen without interruption. When Party One is completely aired out, then Party Two speaks his mind – same courtesies applied.”
Now came the clincher: NO ONE WOULD BE ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE RUG UNTIL BOTH PARTIES AGREED ON A RESOLUTION.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that they were intrigued, even enthusiastic. It sounded more like a game than an unhappy consequence. It wasn’t long of course, before the first “players” presented themselves, their whines competing for my attention. “STOP!” I covered my ears. “On The Rug!!!” They marched off and I watched them from a crack in the door. Quietly and with childlike reasoning, they established their defenses. Within ten minutes the two of them ran off together to do something completely different. Wow, I marveled. It worked!
And it continued to work for the next several years. It got to the point that all I had to say was, “On The Rug!” and they settled on the spot, one or the other acquiescing. Sometimes the litigation morphed into more of a contest of who would be the peacemaker first.
After discovering “The Rug”, I became innovative in dealing with other mommy-dilemmas like getting chores done and keeping toys picked up. I testify that as mothers and fathers we can—and ought—to be creative as we mold our ideal family life. Elder Ballard laid down the gauntlet this way:
“People [insert ‘your children’] deserve quality alternatives that YOU, with the influence of the Holy Spirit, are capable of providing.”
I'm having so much fun with your comments and emails! Let me know about one your creative “mommy” or “daddy” ideas, or one your parents used, or even just your thoughts on the subject. This will get you started: Follower Laura’s creative solution for toy clutter: "Making Bread: Toy Catalog".