How Activity Time Helps Our Family

Several months ago I was busy with canning, gardening, a part-time job at home and many other things of which my church callings were no small part. It seemed I had no time for my children, two boys ages two and four. Caught up in my “important” work, I was ignoring my boys, who consequently went to great lengths to get my attention. However, the only attention they received was in the form of anger. Soon everyone was upset—even my husband who came home to the unpleasantness.

One day while washing dishes I began searching for a solution. I thought I had to get away from the boys for a while. And yet, even as I thought it, I knew it was not the solution. What I needed was to make being with the boys a pleasurable experience for us all.

The light clicked on. Heavenly Father hadn’t given up on me; how could I give up on my boys? By the time I was through with the dishes, I had a new and exciting plan. It would begin the next day.

Previously, we had been doing well to have everyone dressed and breakfast over by 10 A.M. That was changed to 9 A.M. After breakfast, we have an “activity time” that lasts for 1 1/2 hours. We open with a song and prayer and usually do some circle songs (such as Ring around the Rosie). Following our opening, we play with clay, color, write letters to grandparents or engage in other fun activities for the boys. The boys then watch a children’s show on television while I do my housework.

After the children’s show and a nice lunch, the boys take a nap. While they sleep, I spend time on private interests like sewing, crafting, writing, or reading. I thoroughly enjoy these quiet hours. At times I take advantage of having no distractions to work on my part-time job at home. I feel it very important that we have our own interests and develop our talents. We must give ourselves time each day for personal growth; as we do, our self-images will be strengthened, and this ultimately affects everything we touch, especially our families.

When the boys arise from their naps, they have an indoor or outdoor play period and occasionally help me with additional housework. On a fairly relaxed day, I like to leave extra time for preparing dinner or a dessert and enlist the aid of my boys.

After dinner and dishes, the nighttime schedule varies as to circumstances. I find it relaxing to get out of the house (at least once a week) to go to choir practice or an adult education class. This gives our children the special chance of being with their daddy. Of most importance is to regularly spend time with my husband—alone. Even a walk around the block proves rewarding.

Many blessings have come to us from having activity time. First, I noticed that my two-year-old felt brave enough to begin saying prayers during activity time. He soon graduated to saying family prayers. My four-year-old became much more interested in singing and he began saying prayers all by himself. I was amazed at what a little love and attention brought about!

Second, it helped me get much more accomplished. Having some structure in our day meant that I wasn’t up until 11 P.M. finishing the housework, so we got to bed earlier. We then started getting up at 6:30 A.M. to read the scriptures!

Third, my self-image has blossomed. Through the use of my private time, I have learned to enjoy sewing, have been able to complete my four-generation program, and am “dressing up” the dinner table more often.

Fourth, and most important, I have become closer to my children and am able to control my temper more. I take more time out to listen to them, because I know if I don’t listen now, they won’t come to me with their problems later on.

Activity time can be as diverse as your imagination. Your circumstances and interests will be different than ours, so suit activity time to fit your needs. Pray about it and be guided by the Spirit.

Your schedule must be flexible. However, if it is “flexed” out of shape, as it occasionally will be, make sure it doesn’t stay out of shape. Resume your schedule as quickly as possible. If you have older children, obviously they will be in school during most of the day, but you could reschedule activity time after school. Incorporate activity time during the summer or on weekends, too. If you are working mothers, you need to spend some time with your children before bedtime.

Use your family’s ages and interests to guide you in your planning. Have several options available so children don’t get bored doing the same things over and over. Your time is a small investment for the rich rewards your family will enjoy. Judith Rose Barrett, Havre, Montana

Legible Lamentations

It always bothered me to hear disapproval of the menu before I even turned on the stove, or to spend mealtime hearing how much someone didn’t like the food. I decided we needed a new rule at our house: all complaints must be in writing.

With this new system, complaints are cut to a minimum and I find that when I do receive a letter listing the vegetables my family prefers or a recipe they don’t want repeated, I sincerely try to take their suggestions.

And I try to do likewise. I do my nagging in writing. On our bulletin board, I keep a list posted. But I find that it isn’t a long one because I evaluate carefully before adding each item. Writing it down takes away the emotional overtones and forces me to be exact and specific, to think through the problem, and to examine consequences. My husband and children like to quietly surprise me by doing the chore and then crossing it off the list. I find, with the passing of a few days, that many items resolve themselves. Ruth N. Dickson, Salt Lake City, Utah

Savoring the Sabbath

A few years ago I decided I was tired of waking up Sunday morning thinking, “Oh no, another Sunday! Will I endure to the end of this one?” I would hear other people say how they looked forward to the Sabbath, yet I felt guilty because that wasn’t the way I felt. After thinking quite a bit about it, I decided to find out what was wrong with my attitude, and do something to improve it.

I began by looking back at past Sundays. I would go to sacrament meeting, Sunday School, and Relief Society and hear over and over again the things I should be doing on the Sabbath—genealogy, letter writing, visiting the sick, reading the scriptures, resting, keeping a journal. I wanted to be obedient and I felt I was doing my best to accomplish these things.

I remembered the time I had the kitchen table all covered with my precious old letters and pictures as I did some genealogy. I was just off to a good start when the phone rang. I returned five minutes later to find that my two small children had decided to glue grandpa where they thought he looked best—which was on the kitchen wall—and write their own letters over the top of my personal, precious old ones. Needless to say, the spirit of Elijah, along with the spirit of the Sabbath, had left me.

Other Sundays I had tried faithfully to write letters and keep my journal. But anyone who has more than one child at home knows that the minute you sit down to write, pre-schoolers suddenly become fascinated and want to write too. It is difficult, to say the least, to concentrate when they keep asking you how to spell grandma.

Visiting the sick had been suggested as a good Sunday activity, so my husband and I decided to go one Sunday. A good friend of ours was in the hospital, so we got the house in order and left our oldest child in charge. Our friend was glad to see us and we enjoyed our visit with her. On the way home I felt so good inside I thought, “This is what the Sabbath should be like. I did something useful today.”

But when I opened the front door, I was shocked to discover that some hurricane must have passed through my living room. At that moment, our oldest daughter ran past us in tears and informed us (as she slammed her bedroom door) that we were never to leave her at home with the little boys again, and that if she had boys when she got married, she was sending them back!

As I thought of these experiences, I began to recognize the problem. It was as though a light had gone on in my mind, and I wondered why I had been so slow to see what was wrong. I was trying to do “my” genealogy, visit “my” friends, write in “my” journal, read “my” scriptures and write “my” letters. What about my children?

Now whatever we do, we do as a family. We do genealogy, but it consists of gathering the kids around and telling stories about when we were young. Our children enjoy stories about their grandparents and looking at old slides, and photo albums. We read scriptures, but we do it as a family even though we may get only one chapter read. We tell Bible stories in our own words and act out Book of Mormon stories. I don’t write in my journal, but I help the children write in theirs. We don’t visit anyone on Sundays unless we can take the whole family. We go for walks, and watch films we have checked out of the meetinghouse library. Selected TV has also been included.

Sundays are now my favorite days. I love them because I no longer try to do only what I personally want to do, but spend the day with my family. I still try to do the other things I should be doing, but I don’t do them on Sunday. Someday, when my children are grown, all this may change and I can go back to more personal interests on Sunday. But for now, we savor the Sabbath as a family. Tonie Wilcock, Powell, Wyoming

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch