Sunday, March 29, 2009

Romance the Hearts of the Children

I was momentarily dumbfounded.

“The LAST row?” I gasped to the usher.

“Nooo,” he smiled reassuringly. “The TOP row.”

Even from this vantage point at base camp, I could see that our seats butted against a cement wall at the summit far, far away. It made me woozy just thinking of getting there. However, my honey and I are good sports (after all, we’d come for a sporting event) and since our “group” was already ensconced at the zenith of Section 316, we began the assent.

We fell naturally into a form of “lead climbing” where Dale tugged me along by the hand in lieu of a rope around the waist. I needed it. I had a hard time focusing on the steep steps I was so distracted by the carnival environment. The Rose Garden Arena on game night is like any other professional sporting venue I’m sure, but I’ve not been to many, and not for a long time. The faces spray-painted red and black, the helium Ford floating overhead, the pounding rock music, and exposed mid-riffs of the “stunt team” had me on sensory overload.

Just to show how dizzy I’d gotten, when the announcer boomed that everyone would get a free chalupa from Taco Bell if the Trailblazers racked up a hundred-plus points that night, I was stupefied. My mind conjured up the image of a crazed kitchen staff churning out 20,000 chalupas while a frenzied chef kept tabs on the action: They just hit 99!”

Dale told me we’d get coupons.

The Blazers did score well over 100 points that night, but we didn’t get our coupons because we left before the guys in baggy shorts had swooshed their fifteenth basket. You see, we weren’t there for Greg Oden or Brandon Roy. We were there for Matt Erickson.

When Matt strode to the center of the court, microphone in hand, everyone stood up. The raucous rank-and-file shushed and stood still – thousands of eyes and ears zeroed in on Matt. I couldn’t get over how his face glowed with confidence (as seen on the Jumbotron from Section 316) even as he began singing a cappella in a key I was SURE was too high for his range: “Ohhhh, say can you see?....” Lucky for Matt, there was magic in the air – the man could do no wrong: he was in his element. Every note billowed with bravado:

“The laaand of the –- “
(here it comes) “--FRRREEEE-“

He nailed it! THE- CROWD- WENT- WILD!

When I was a teen and young adult, everyone assumed I was Broadway bound. As it turned out, my audiences have averaged around two, three, or four loyal fans. On a big night I might pack the house with six or eight. They are the same ones also (well actually, the only ones) who go “wild” over my performances. Interestingly, they all have the same last name as I do and have all been shorter than me for most of my off-Broadway run. No sir-ee, I cannot ask for a more illustrious career or a more ardent fan club ‘cuz when Mommy sings, she can do NO wrong.

Feeling good about that began many years ago when I attended a keynote presentation at a Florida homeschool convention I’ve never forgotten. The speaker, a beautiful young father with a guitar slung over his shoulder and a pony-tail dangling down his back, appeared unconventional to be sure, but I was intrigued with the message. He and his wife, in-between their folksy musical numbers, were telling ten thousand parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents that we needed to romance the hearts” of our children. The phrase was lovely: “romance the heart” - but what did it mean?

This dad explained that there is joy and family unity in “dazzling” children with our gifts and talents. Win their love and loyalty, he said, by sharing with them your genuine passions.

It’s true, I thought. Little children are arrested, if not beguiled, by unadulterated, authentic enthusiasm. They can resist or dismiss counterfeit zeal, forced fervor, or rules-without-reason, but they are easily caught up in anything presented with true delight and excitement. Suddenly, I saw child-like wonder as a precious window of opportunity. The Spirit whispered; Thrill your children with your real, best self. Who needs the world?! Memories of singing and drawing and cooking and gardening and throwing and catching and dancing and reading and racing and praying with my children flooded my imagination. How many times had their eyes glistened with gratitude and admiration: "I love you, mommy” or "Good job mommy!"

How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams
With its illusions, aspirations, dreams!
Book of Beginnings, Story without En
Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend!

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as quoted by Pres. Thomas S. Monson in “A Lighthouse of the Lord”, Ensign, Feb. 2001)

As I thought on my gifts, I knew my greatest passion was my love of the gospel, my happiness in Christ. It was suddenly clear that if I relished my callings and praised my leaders with sincerity; if I “delighteth in the scriptures” so that Restoration doctrine spilled out all over, “speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up”; if I “gloried” in "my Jesus", my soul “delighting” in the “things of the Lord”, who could deny that it would be to the “learning and profit of my children”? (2nd Nephi 4:15-16, Deuteronomy 11:18-19, 2 Nephi 31:6) THIS, I realized, was the most precious opportunity of all to “romance the hearts” of my children.

As we drove home from the Rose Garden Monday night. Dale made the observation that singing the National Anthem at a sporting event is just a tad different than strutting your stuff on American Idol. In the latter case, he said, you’re being scrutinized and shredded by millions of couch critics, while at a ball game, every spectator in the arena is cheering you on, humming along -- your voice belongs to them. So it is with our kiddos, I thought -- times a hundred.

Imagining a little child in the lap of the Savior, I realized that His commandment to “let your light so shine” (Matt. 5:16) applies nowhere more than in our own homes, where EVERYone has a court-side seat.

Muse with me: what is your experience or take on sharing your talents, gifts, passions or testimony with the children in your life?

A Grandstand Living Room Performance
by mom


Kira said...

After years of naming off flowers and shrubs we pass by and searching out those I didn't know, we finally have a yard and get to plant something, anything, a million plants we delight to see. In a few weeks, my girls and I will plant everything we can and hope it grows. I don't have a talent for raising plants, but I can sprout almost any seed from what I cut up in my kitchen. My girls love plants because I determined to tell them the name of everything I could and teach them to relate to the earth. I am excited to watch their interest continue to bloom as our pennstemons do this summer.

Olivia said...


I HAVE to know this song. It could very likely be my theme song!! It’s funny how much I have cared. Why? It’s my life afterall. But, alas, I have spent so much time ‘caring’ about what others thought or how other might have perceived me that I buried ‘myself’ in a sea of masks. But now I am realizing that “I DON’T CARE!”

Oh, believe me …this is not easy. Years of ‘dress up’ have taught me how to hide and letting go is really tough. But so refreshing.

My passion, as you know, is music. It’s always there. Always has been. My voice has been on ‘mute’ for quite a long while but thank goodness I found the remote! For years, the last 9 to be precise, certain members of my extended family and told me time and time again that I needed to be different. That my pursuits were ‘self absorbed’ that I was acting like a ‘diva’ and it was time to ‘grow up’ and ‘act like an adult’ Translation, “Get a life!!! A new one! This ‘dream’ you have is rubbish and it’s not good enough” So, in order to please the beast, so to speak, I did just that. I struggled for years to try to reshape myself, to hold back my passions, to attempt to redefine my dreams, goals and aspirations. Sometimes my true self would leak out and I would be met with gossip, glares, and scorns. So, back in the box I went.

Did I succeed in become this ‘perfect someone’ that was ‘good enough’ for them. No. What I became was ANGRY and DEPRESSED! …Depressed to the point of wanting to die. I contemplated death a lot and tried to decide how I could do away with myself with the least damage to my family. Thank goodness for a superhero husband who swooped down and protected me from myself many times.

I have overcome a lot of that depression and the wounds have started to heal. Albeit slowly. Until one day I found an amazing book my Anita Stansfield, my literary hero, which spoke of a musician named Jayson Wolfe and his struggle to define himself. Tragedy struck time and time again in this characters life until he came to the point of putting all the pain and hurt in an emotional ‘Pandora’s Box’ which was kept closed by his music …until one day he injured his hand and was no longer able to use his music and turned to prescription drugs. …which in turn developed into an addiction. Sound like anyone?

I identified with this character on such a level that I realized what I had done. I knew it was time to open the box and heal. So, that is what I have been doing. Healing. It feels GREAT! My remote is recovered, I have been unmated and I am singing again. I am still not used to being applauded. That is still uncomfortable, for my music is not for entertainment and praise, it is for the soul. It my form of communication. It is the way I say, I love you. The way I share my testimony of Christ. The way I share my love of life, rhythm and harmony. It is uncomfortable for me to hear, “you did a good job” I would much rather hear how it touched there soul for that was the purpose.

It always reminds me of a boy I dated (not for long…after this) in college. I had invited him to my choir concert in hopes that he would share in the passion and the life altering experience that was before him that night. But right before I went on stage and he to his seat. He said to me, “Ok! Well, if you do a good job I’ll give you a cookie!” ARE YOU SERIOUS? AM I DOG? I was more than slightly offended but instead just said ‘thanks!’ with as much enthusiasm as I could muster and went on to perform.

I will work up to that part, I suppose. Baby steps. In the meantime, I can’t help but sing…often. My oldest son keeps rolling his eyes at me. This morning when I was pouring his cereal I broke out into “Popular” from Wicked. He rolled his eyes and said that was really annoying! Oh well. ;) Someday he will appreciate the spontenaity. He does have his favorites. If I had broken out into “Journey to the Past” from Anastasia I would have had his rapt attention. …I digress.

So,…what talents do I have that I can Romance the Hearts of my children with? Music. Plain and simple. Someday I will learn how to actually hold the drum sticks and guitar instead of just ‘air playing’ and then I will really jam! I think they could dig that. In the meantime, I will continue to sing and sing often in public and in private so that I can overcome my past…awake from this deep, muted sleep, and say to the world.


Sara Lyn said...

Morgan's teachers in college encouraged him to play his instruments for his band kids when he got to be a teacher. During his student teaching, I went in one day with him and we played a very beautiful Rachmaninoff piece--he on the oboe while I accompanied him on the piano. The kids were not only dazzled and wanted to here MORE, but respected him more as a musician. Okay. This guy who keeps going on and on about how I hold my mouth and how loud I play, etc... can make me sound like that. Wow!

Thanks for sharing what that dad said about romancing your children. I never quite put together what Morgan's teachers taught him about teaching and how we can do that with our children too!

I loved doing talent shows with your family and ours. To this day, I don't find performing very nerve-wracking. I think I got a lot of self-confidence about my playing from all the compliments I got from y'all. Thanks for that! I loved playing for my dad while we sang around the piano. That was a great way for him to share his love for music. And mom is a great one for music too. I'm excited to continue the tradition.

Lois Brown said...

When I was younger and 1st married and starting to raise our family singing and performing where very important and I felt it was who I was as a person. I was in the Murray Symphony, I was a soloist for the Messiah Sing-in, it meant everything to me in my Jury in college when they told me "Sweetheart you should be marjoring in perofrmance not Education" and I was on stage a couple of times in some musicals. These are all worthy persuits and at the time were very important for me to feel that I was an individual not just a mother.......then all of a sudden, none of it matter anymore! All of a sudden being called a mom was the best title I could ever think of and that my singing to Aileen, my disabled daughter, every morning while getting her ready for school and watching her smile and gaze into my eyes was my most important performance of my life! My girls have all done theatre, voice lessons, piano lessons etc... and they have gone on to do and have great accomplishments in High School and College...and I know they got that love and drive and ambition from me. And I have enjoyed any accomplishment and performance that either of them have done way more than anything I did or ever did in my life! But even now, my most important performance is the songs I still sing every morning to my sweet 24 yr old aileen who is still like a 18 month old and having her look in my eyes and wish that she could sing along too! I know that I have Romanced her heart and she mine!

Larsen's said...

Bravo!!!Great performance. My son is sitting next to me with a big smile on his face. He said,
"That was funny!"

My talent that I give to my children is love and empathy. I also have a talent of knowing where they put things. :-)(most mom's develop this talent, it comes in handy for dad too) I have a great enthusiasm for the gospel, being a convert, I have a lot to learn...when we have FHE I learn just as much as the kids. I try to teach them in an enthusiastic way. With role play, games, and anything hands on. They love it!!!
My mother is a nurse and she taught me about empathy. As with most children and their mothers, my kids come to me when they are sick, hurt or troubled. I love tending to them, whether it be just kissing a boo boo or helping them when they are throwing up. My husband says, "mom is for comfort and dad is mostly for playing."
Hopefully, they see how much empathy I have for others too, and learn Charity and love.

About Romancing their little hearts. I love music too! It can really touch the soul. I don't have the best voice but they love me to sing them a song at night. It is too true that they do not care what mom sounds like...I can do no wrong in that department.

I think that I try to romance their hearts by also reading to them. I don't do it as often as I should but I like to think that they enjoy this.

The best thing that I think I can do to Romance their little hearts is just to give them ME! Love them and be there for them!

Mona said...

Darling ffriends! I am thrilled with your musings! I am on a plane today cross country but will respnd to each of you tomorrow evening. Till then....keep musing.... :)

Christy Carlson said...

This week I had the fun of sharing a sport talent I use to have. As I have gotten older the pains of injuries are to much of a risk to have continued playing basketball but I still enjoy the rush of the game. While waiting for someone to walk thru our home (It still has not sold) we went to shoot some hoops at the church. Annika was enjoying making baskets her own way when Rich and I started sharing how to shoot, dribble, etc.... This all lead to work outs and such I had to do in HIgh School. I had never realized that I had not shared this Talent with Annika before. I was showing her the drills I did and she was very interested. She thought it was great.... The last drill was one Rich wanted to teach Annika, it was running lines. He told her what to do and she did a good job and kind of just trotted along. This is when I decided to show Annika just how you where suppose to run lines. I ran a set of lines. The whole time Rich was watching. I finished and Rich had this look of awe in his eyes..... RIch had actually never seen me run lines before either.
I am glad to hear about the sharing of talents and sharing with your children. This week has really opened my eyes not only the talent of basketball, but encourageing Annika to share her talents. Especially the piano. She is not enjoying playing the piano at this time, but boy the talent she has there is amazing.

Sue said...

I've always had a passion for life - creatures of all kinds. So our boys get plenty of chances to hold frogs, snakes, lizards, crawdads, and whatever I can catch (although I'm getting slower all the time - good thing they're getting faster!)

So, Cole (3) noticed a spider hanging from the ceiling at our Dr.'s office. I took it by the thread, carefully handing it to him. He took it outside, put it on the ground, and promptly smashed it! NOOOO! We're still trying to overcome the "natural boy" - that's what comes before the "natural man."

We developed B.E.A.T.A (Boys for the Ethical and Affectionate Treatment of Animals)about 18 months ago, so hopefully they'll "get it" over time, and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it like I do.

But, Mona - if our boys' dance skills are ever going to get beyond the "Deacon Shuffle," that will depend entirely on YOU!!!

Larsen's said...

you are so sweet! Loved your comments! You have a very loving heart! :-)

Kimberlee said...

What a great reminder that if we show excitement and passion for something our children will be more interested and willing to try it. I struggle with my middle child in getting him excited about sitting down to learn his letters and numbers, etc. He is so full of life and wants to be active and as I read your blog it inspired me to share with him my passion for things and try to teach him in more creative ways that will interest his active little mind and body.
I have seen my children love things that I love when I show excitement. I think that is why my oldest loves to plant flowers and veggies, play the piano and read the scriptures. My middle child loves to go for walks, ride bikes and sing. I think they love those things because those are things I love and do often and show excitement about. I think if we give our children a "taste" of all of the wonderful things in life and let them choose what they love and want to persue they will be happy and talented chidren.

Grant said...

Oh man, do I love my mom!

BTW, that was me doing the crash cymbal sounds at the end of the video (and that was before I even started doing vocal percussion seriously). I'll be for sure doing vocal percussion for my kids in the future and sharing my talents with them. Thank you mom for that message! I'm so inspired!

Wendy said...

thanks for being at matt's performance. He was thrilled to have so many of his beloved family and friends there as fans that night. i love the concept of romancing the heart. matt always plays his music for the kids and sings openly. i am amazed at the love for music and diffrent kinds of music because of the exposure matt has given them. All my children sing all the time any where. people comment that it is so cute when Ian my 5 yearold is walking down the aisle singing or in the bathroom. Braden sang show tunes in preschool. Haley sings in the school choir. Why? Because their father has romanced their hearts. Thank you Mona for giving us the words for describing this concept.

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Ha! Funny you should post about this. I just posted something on my blog that goes along with this theme! Not that storytelling is a gift of mine, but hey, who cares! My kids LOVE my stories and that makes me feel like SuperMom!

Mona said...

Such wonderful comments, insights and experiences! I appreciate you all so much. I am not able this week because of travel and limited computer access to respond individually, but want you to know I'm musing with you!

Lilia H said...

What a performance! You are so much fun!

I enjoyed watching your home video, I'm sure it's a fun memory for your kids. Thanks for bringing up the subject, you are so right about sharing our talents with our children, or any child. For us now it means sharing with our grandchildren.

When my grandchildren come to visit, I like to invite them to cook with me. They enjoy it and think we are playing but they are actually helping with the meal. My talents are in homemaking, so when they come over I want them to feel at home away from home. They tell me they like it because coming to our house it's like going on vacation. We offer them as much activity as we can, they love the swing set we have in the back yard for them, the pool, the toys, special videos and books.
I make their blessing gowns so they can have something I specially made for them.
We just love having the children around and to know they are happy to come and see us whenever possible. I do believe we can influence a great deal of lives when we share our love and talents and when we do it for a child we are doing it for generations.

Heidi said...

I haven't had my own children to share my talents with. And I would say that my main talent is singing. But I have been able to use it with the nieces and nephews. When one was a tiny baby, her parents could never get her to fall asleep at Church. They had callings to go to during Sunday School, and I received charge of the little (though ornery) sweetie. I soon learned that my spirit spoke over her crying to her spirit through the Spirit. I chose songs I had always felt the Spirit with, and hummed or sang them. She always calmed and would doon fall asleep. It was a precious time to share with her.

I've also been blessed to share that talent with my sister around her children. Her daughter, the oldest grandchild, was baptized 1 1/2 years ago. We sang together--as we often did growing up in our house with 6 brothers. Though the song we sang is one I'd sung so much as a youth, it was very different singing to her, and seeing my niece's face register the message and what it meant for her mom and aunt to be singing it--because she knew we believed what we sang.

I think something else would be how we children affect our parents with our talents. I've never seen anyone more grateful to see me share my talents than my parents. I've heard my mother stop singing in church so she can listen to me. I've heard my father tell me how much the CD my sister and I recorded for the family has made a difference in his life. If anything, I sing for my parents--both the ones on earth and the ones in heaven.

Kelsey said...

Thanks for that, Ramona. I'm so grateful my kids are young right now and do light up when I give them attention. It's too hard to say what they might glean from me. My 1st grader recently wrote an "about Mom" paper that claimed my favorite things were vegetables and getting ready for guests.

I'm glad you were enjoying your grandson this week. xo

Elisabeth said...

I have been thinking about this post all week wondering what talent I have to offer my children. I am not musically talented or well developed in the arts. I am not athletic. I am of average intelligence. I tend to serve in leadership positions but I know it’s because the Lord is trying to teach me to be a good leader not because I naturally poses leadership skills. But the one thing that has come to me repeatedly is how I work really hard to teach my children the gospel and a love for living the gospel. I try to teach them the joys of obedience and of learning in general. I really enjoy learning and I hope they ketch on to that. I also hope they value obedience to the Lords commandments. And I hope to notice the talents they possess that I do not have and help them develop them even more.

Mona said...

Okay everybody! I just hit the ground (running as usual)...and am back on my very own kitchen computer! Hurray! It killed me not being able to respond to every single musing of my friends this week. They are soooo rich! I learn so much from you. In fact, visiting my grandboy this week, I used some of the things YOU had taught me from past musings!

Lilia and Heidi: Thank you both for bringing up the generational aspect of "romancing the heart". It's so true that the concept will unify and strengthen families across generational lines.

Elisabeth: Your "average me" mindset just had me grinning ear to ear. I think you represent how we all FEEL - yet the reality is that you are one of the most impressive women I know (I MEAN IT) and your children are exceptionally blessed to call you mother.

Love again to you! Got to get writing tomorrow's may be a up a little later than last week... :)

Mona said...

FRIENDS: In Serene's comment, she mentions a recent post on her blog in which she exposes her gift for storytelling. I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend that you take the time for this post as well as the "part 2" post (which is the happy ending.)

It will tickle and inspire you to try your own had at the power of storytelling with the little ones in your life!!!



Mona said...

Kelsey: hahahahahaha!!!! I LOVE it. Like Elisabeth you are a gifted, remarkable lady who's most impressive talent is MODESTY.

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Ah shucks Mona! Thanks! I feel so special!

Mona said...

I received this excellent comment from my friend Mattye by email:

"I have always been a big pusher of singing to your children or any children entrusted to your care. They don’t care how you sound as long as you are having fun and are full of life. Children love music and they can learn all kinds of things through the gift of music. I think the best part of my family home evenings were when we sang songs. I taught pre-school and was a stake primary chorister. I always shared the idea with other teachers that singing isn’t about being the best singer, it’s about having fun and believing what you are singing about. The children love it. One of my favorite memories was when my two year old son climbed up on a picnic table in front of our apartment complex with his big sister who was three at the time and sang at the top of his lungs “I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” He was excited and he bore his testimony through his music.

In the talent area… my son was born with rhythm. He would dance to American Bandstand by holding on to the couch and bouncing up and down before he could let go and walk. Our stake had a street dance with a live band in the parking lot. Aaron was four years old and he was out there dancing, having a great time. He wasn’t much older when he started drumming with anything he could get his hands on. I use to take him to this great story hour at the library. There was a fabulous woman who was a great story teller and a man who would play all kinds of percussion instruments along with her stories. Aaron was mesmerized by the whole thing. After the stories were told the man would let the children participate by banging on all kinds of things. The last couple of weeks they made their own drums. Aaron was in heaven. He took up percussion when he got into middle school and I’ll never forget the comments from other mothers who said they loved watching the concerts because Aaron played with his whole body. He didn’t just stand there and tap his toe and play the drums. His whole body was involved in the rhythm of it. A couple years later he loved dancing at the stake youth dances with his sister. They would win dance contests every time they had one. Then when he got into high school he was playing percussion in the band and he also was the only boy on the dance team. He still has fun dancing and playing music."

John and Laura said...

I love that my kids try to copy my singing voice and my babies think it's calming, even though I'd never win an award for my voice quality. But I like to sing, and my kids like it, too!

pcNut said...

Oh the sacred initimacies of "romancing a heart" when it comes to spiritual gifts. I can't wait to see my children recognize them and what they need to DO with them.
Love you!

Kristy Lynne said...

Mona, I've been traveling and just discovered your post.

In all sincerity I am very impressed with your voice. Thanks for sharing.

Mona said...

Laura: It's TRUE isn't it! Our babies mimic our voices. Sing ladies sing!

PC: You have so many gifts -- Your children are sure to be as spectacular as you.

Kristy Lyne: When you said "your voice" I thought you meant my writing! hahahaha. I never even thought about my singing in this Musing! You're so sweet! Thank you!

Domestic Diva said...

There's nothing like singing "Summer Time" and letting that beautiful high B ring to the heavens, then looking down and seeing my son, eyes wide and wondering open his mouth and try with all his might to mimic the sound. THAT is why I learned to sing. I know now.