Twice a year we have the wonderful opportunity to listen to a church conference that is broadcast from Salt Lake City. We stay home and watch the conference talks on the computer, all snuggled together in our jammies. It can be challenging to get the kids to sit still and listen, or to stay awake and listen (you can count the adults in on that second one!).
During the first two hour Sunday session, the little kids jockeyed for the best lap space, arguing over who touched who, while Ethan pretended to be “resting his eyes”. Adam and Ellie squabbled, and in general everyone was in a rather snotty mood.
I wondered if it was worth it… trying to get the kids to listen to “a bunch of old people”, as the boys put it, expounding on gospel topics. About halfway through, I sort of gave up on getting Ethan to stay awake, and just felt grateful that Jonah was staying asleep. 50% ain’t bad.
It's in moments like these that I begin to question how, as a parent, I can possibly teach my children the values that I hope to instill in them. How can I compete with the noise of the world, it's media, and it's call for excitement that puts them in peril? Will the lessons I try to teach them be heard above the din?
In the break between sessions, Guy made a brunchy table-full of food, including gluten free pancakes for me (and just in case you were curious, yes, you can use gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free pancakes as rubber insoles). Jonah woke and had his first cry-fest of the day, and everyone else woke up a little bit, too.
When the second session started, we settled in to listen. The kids began making paper airplanes, and as long as they were quiet, I figured it was okay. Perhaps some of the words floating through the room, over the sound of crumpling paper, would be able to penetrate their ears.
And then, there it was, evidence that it was not all in vain; Ethan began reciting aloud from memory the scripture being quoted by the speaker. The choir and congregation began to sing, and the kids all joined in; “I am a child of God, and he has sent me here, has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear…” Well, I don’t know how kind and dear we are, but I for one was feeling my heart swell as I saw my children casually folding paper airplanes and singing about needing to be led by faithful parents... "lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way; teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday".
The best came later as a speaker began telling a story, and the kids shushed each other, then grew more quiet and still to listen. Once in a while one of the boys would even comment, proving that indeed, something was getting through to them.
And again, Jonah slept quietly in my arms.
As the teenage years zoom toward me, I grow more fearful that the world will have a tighter grip on my children than I will be able to have. And though I know it is really up to them, and I have no real "grip" at all, I still wish I could hold them tightly and not let the world have it's chance with them.
Am I teaching them enough? Am I leading them and guiding them?
Today Tessa came into the room singing to a picture that she held in her hands. "A song I made up about Jesus" as she put it. Then she said, "Mom, Jesus is the son of God." (the phrase that she was assigned to recite in an upcoming program at church).