Dress and feed the children, answer the phone, fix lunch, prepare Sunday’s lesson, admire a child’s drawing—is it evening already? In a mother’s full day, children often bring work and worry. But Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminds us that even amid our Savior’s tremendous responsibilities, He “found special joy and happiness in children and said all of us should be more like them” (“This Do in Remembrance of Me,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 68). From their uniquely unseasoned perspective, children often unexpectedly present their parents with insight and invaluable lessons in becoming like Jesus Christ. Here three parents share lessons they have learned.
They gathered at the starting line, 120 shoving, pushing, excited 10-year-olds. Our son Scott was among them. The annual cross-country race concluded months of anticipation and training. First Scott ran laps around the one-third-mile loop of driveway on our small farm. Then he began running three miles to school in the morning and finally five miles into town. When Scott struggled to feed the animals, go running, and still get to school on time, my husband would encourage him with comments like, “A champion is made of persistence.” Soon our neighbors and friends noticed Scott’s persistence, and even the coach at school couldn’t outrun him. As the race neared, we heard predictions like “Scott is sure to come out of the race a winner” and “First place already belongs to him.” Scott felt confident and prepared as he waited on the starting line for the three-quarter-mile race to begin.
The nervous chaos of the starting line contrasted with the calmness we had felt as we knelt in family prayer that morning, asking that Scott might do his best and feel good about his experience. The gun started the race, and anxious runners surged forward in one huge scramble. But before Scott even started, he was down. In the mad melee to start, he tripped, falling beneath the crowd that pounded over him. He managed to pick himself up, scraped knees, bleeding elbows, and all, but he was the last of the entire group.
We watched as he passed a few stragglers on the first hill and sprinted on, but it wasn’t good enough—those in the lead had too much of a start on him. As they came into the last stretch, Scott gave everything, crossing the finish line and collapsing into our waiting arms. He had finished in 21st place.
Amid our tears and questions we struggled to accept the lost victory. After months of training, the hours spent anticipating this day seemed wasted. What was gained? Where was the victory? I imagined the moment must be especially bitter for our exhausted runner.
“Well,” said Scott, “I guess next year I’ll have to train by running shorter distances at a time. I ran some long distances this year but didn’t always do it my fastest.” His voice was not dejected or low. He sounded happy, glad it was over, and glad for those who had won. “This race is for those who can run fast in short distances,” he said. “I’ll have to change my style of training next year.”
I was amazed that a boy only 10 years old could be so wise. He didn’t even blame those who had tripped him. Suddenly I understood the promise in the Doctrine and Covenants: “And let your diligence, and your perseverance, and patience, and your works be redoubled, and you shall in nowise lose your reward, saith the Lord of Hosts” (D&C 127:4). Scott taught me that victory does not always mean coming in first and champions are those who never give up! Scott had found his victory that day.
Kathleen P. Dunn, Grand Junction Eighth Ward, Grand Junction Colorado West Stake
“Where’s Jeremy?” The question flashed instantly into my mind as I prepared to leave after a particularly tiring Sunday at church. Jeremy, my then six-year-old, freckled, rough-and-tumble little boy, had been left behind before, and his tears had stopped only when I promised to not lose him next time. I instructed the children to wait outside while my oldest daughter and I searched the church. Sending her off one way, I stopped quickly by the Relief Society room. Inside, the baptismal font had been filled, and a baptism was just starting. I quietly stepped in, and to my amazement, there sat Jeremy on the front row, arms folded, his excitement evident. Briefly I considered motioning him to leave, but his shining example convinced me otherwise. Sending my daughter to invite the other children in, I watched as Jeremy sat through the entire baptism without so much as a wiggle. When we sang the closing song, “The Spirit of God,” he sang with an expression on his face that revealed his simple faith.
I have since thought of two parents long ago with a child who also was once left behind:
“And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
“And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple. … .
“And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding” (Luke 2:45–47).
I too was astonished by Jeremy’s understanding, and I resolved to let his sweet influence direct me as I try to become more like a little child.
Susan Langdorf Walley, Riverside Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont Stake
“What a disaster!” I exclaimed, staring at the toys, books, and clothes scattered helter-skelter throughout the house by my three children. I could hear the baby crying in his room down the hall. Could he be awake already? Walking wearily to his room, I could smell from the door the reason he woke up crying. Diapers and disasters, I thought. So this was motherhood.
Hearing the doorbell chime, I hurried to the door, only to find that no one was there. Instead, a tattered basket sat on the doorstep, stuffed with daffodils, a praying mantis egg sac, rocks, bunches of fresh grass, and a folded piece of paper. “To Mom,” read the blue crayon scrawl. “We love you.”
I lingered a moment, halted by emotion and questions. I had chosen to leave behind a satisfying teaching career to become a homemaker, but now I wondered, Was I becoming a joyful mother of children or a martyr? Did I consider my children a blessing or a burden? Gazing at my children’s basket that spring morning, I realized that in fact I was in a classroom of sorts. But this time my children were teaching me. Our course of study? Becoming like the Savior.
The lesson of the daffodils and praying mantis eggs was reinforced late one evening as I was busy finishing my remaining tasks. “Come see the sunset, Mom,” my daughter begged, rushing into the kitchen. In annoyance, I started to say, “I can’t, I’m too … ,” but she grabbed my hand and pulled me outside to see a brilliant sky exploding with crimson and gold.
“Sunsets don’t wait,” she said.
While learning the ABCs, my children teach me laughter and joy. Digging up newly planted bushes or assembling a band to serenade our neighbors, my children teach me patience. Through daily, affectionate hugs, they teach me love. Along with diapers, messes, daffodils, praying mantis eggs, rocks, sunsets, and scrawled love notes, my children daily give me gifts of love and insight that tutor me toward becoming more like Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.
Trisa Martin, Bountiful 30th Ward, Bountiful Utah East Stake