I loved my role as a mother, but lately, my almost-four-year-old daughter, Jennifer, was giving me more “adventures” than I had bargained for. After decorating my bathroom—and her hands, arms, and legs—with bright lipsticks and nail polish, writing on her bedroom walls and furniture with markers, throwing increasingly frequent tantrums, cutting her hair and clothing with scissors, creating a war zone in her bedroom just 20 minutes after I had cleaned it, ripping wallpaper, and sculpting her lunch instead of eating it, Jennifer was wearing out my patience—quickly.
I didn’t think that a child of mine would ever act like this. “What am I doing wrong?” I asked myself. Friends offered their best advice in the form of questions: “Have you tried time-outs?” “Do you believe in spanking?”
Frustrated to the point of crying, I called my husband at work. Was this ever to end? Was she always to be rebellious? Had I spoiled my child without knowing it?
Well intended as their suggestions were, my friends weren’t helping, and my husband needed to focus on his work during the day. “Jennifer adventures” continued, and so did my tears. Then one night, after a temper tantrum of my own, I thought of a scripture: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
I thought about how our Heavenly Father is the perfect father, about how infinitely patient He is. I decided to go to Him with my parenting trouble, and I fell to my knees to ask for guidance. The answer did not come immediately after I finished my prayer, but I felt calmer. As Jennifer adventures continued, I continued my pleading. Then one night, I had a dream.
I was sitting on a bench in a peaceful park. I was enjoying the serenity when, to my surprise, my grandmother joined me. She was dressed in white, and her face radiated happiness where before it had been worn. Even so, I was initially nervous. However, the love I’d always felt toward her overcame the fear as she began to speak.
“Lori, you must play with your children,” she said wisely. “You’ve simply forgotten how to play.” Grandma told me I was a good mother and reminded me of when I had rolled with my children in the grass, tickled them, given them horsey rides, and lost at checkers. She reminded me that my older two children had also passed through this stage but that I had simply forgotten. Parents often make the mistake of focusing on their exhaustion, Grandma told me. “To have happy children, you must play with your children.”
After I woke up, I thought about the dream and realized that Grandma had been right. My life had become so much busier since my beginning days of mothering. Somehow, between driving my kids to their various activities, maintaining our home, and serving in the Church and in the community, I had arrived at the point where I no longer played with my children. Could the answer really be so simple?
As I began to remember what it was like to be a child—getting my hands dirty, becoming covered in dough while baking cookies, visiting the zoo, and painting with watercolors—Jennifer’s tantrums disappeared. There was no more unwanted mural work—or frustration. The power of prayer enriched my understanding of motherhood and gave me rest, as well as Jennifer adventures to truly enjoy.