What we learn about parenting from God, our Father

Mormons or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that God is literally our father. He is the father of our spirits. He is the perfect parent and as I experience more of parenting, I am learning how He must feel towards us, His children.

 

Since I’ve lived longer, have more life experiences, and a more fully developed brain, I can see what my children need to do to be happy now and later in life. I see the bigger picture. ¬†Our father in heaven sees the biggest picture of all: eternity. “For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

 

In order to gain eternal life, we need to keep the commandments. Keeping the commandments also helps us avoid the consequences of sin. But when I set rules and suggest productive habits to my children, I often get an eye roll or a tantrum. My children don’t like to be told what to do. They want to make their own choices. I don’t like to be told what to do either. I want to make my own choices. Sometimes I have an adult tantrum. I may not want to be the parent my children need because it’s too much work or I have other things I’d rather do or it’s not fun.

 

As my children have grown bigger, I’ve learned a shocking truth. I can’t force them to do anything. When they were littler, I could pick them up and take them to their rooms. That’s not the case anymore. Our father in heaven knows he can’t force us either. One of the essences of our life on this earth is the ability to make choices.

 

Since I can’t force my children to make the choices I know will bring them happiness, I need to follow the example of my loving father in heaven. I need to teach, listen, and love. No matter what my children do, I will always love them. No matter what we do, God will always love us. He is ready to listen, always. And after we’re done throwing our tantrum, He has provided a way to return to Him: a savior. His very own son, His flesh and blood, Jesus Christ, atoned for our sins so that when we choose to return, we can, and our Heavenly Father will be ready with open arms to receive us.

Runny Noses: Empathy as we progress

Before I had children of my own, when I saw children with runny noses, messy hair, and rumpled clothing, I knew I would never have children who looked like that. How hard can it be to wipe a nose, comb and fix hair, and keep clothes tidy and clean? Then I had my own children and learned that I was wrong, so wrong.

 

Recently I’ve experienced another awakening about runny noses, metaphorically. And I’ve been wrong, so wrong. I knew the steps for fighting colds. Wash your hands often. Eat your vegetables. Get enough sleep. Teach your children to wash their hands, eat their vegetables, and get enough sleep. Yet still–runny noses. Only at this stage it’s not just raw skin under the nose and a baby who jerks her head away from you when you try to wipe the snot away again. Now it’s heartache and questions and learning, deep learning. And really that’s the best part. I don’t understand exactly how a virus spreads and I can’t protect myself completely from germs, but I can turn to the Savior. I can pray to know how to learn from these experiences. I can experience the gift of the Atonement. I can have faith that even if I don’t understand everything, what I believe is enough. And I can be open to being taught by the Savior through prayer, outside resources, and supportive friends and family.

 

I used to think–just a few weeks ago–that we should share our runny nose stories more. That we shouldn’t keep our mistakes and failures hidden. But I didn’t understand, because I didn’t have kids with runny noses yet. Now I’m learning that I need the support of others even if they don’t know why, and I need to support others even if I don’t know why. Runny noses are visible to everyone, but much is not. And in the end, the only One who can completely heal us is the Savior.