|Greg and Ashley, August 2013|
Last night, I sat on Ashley's bed while we talked and laughed. I was soaking it all in, knowing that in the blink of an eye, I won't be able to do this everyday. I knew I should let her get to her homework, but I didn't want to let go of the moment.
As I watched her smile and listened to her words, I was struck by the beautiful young woman she has become. Is she this beautiful to everyone, or is it because I know her heart so well and love her so dearly? I thought about the road that made her who she is: the cumulation of many small experiences - the good and the hard, combined with the spirit and personality she was born with.
She was telling me about one of her teachers, who had a habit of using foul language in the classroom. It made her uncomfortable and she had been debating what to do about it. Finally, she approached him after class and told him that she had a concern. With her heart pounding in her chest, she boldly yet respectfully told him that she found the use of such language unprofessional and unnecessary. To his credit, he thanked her, saying that he was so glad to hear this from a student, rather than an administrator. He agreed to clean it up, and asked her to give him a nonverbal signal if he slipped.
|Ashley's First Day of Kindergarten|
I thought about the first time I saw her employ this benevolent boldness. In kindergarten, some of the children had taken a teddy bear away from a disabled boy in the class and were playing keep-away with it at recess. I was told that Ashley quietly went and snagged the bear, returning it to its owner without saying anything to the boys that had taken it. That courageous desire to do what is right has always been a part of her, and it was fun to see how that quality had developed over the years.
|Joseph as a newborn|
One of the things I have enjoyed the most after the birth of each of my children has been getting to know them: finding out who this little person is that joined our family, seeing those first glimpses of character, and imagining what they would become.
|Cameron at the height of his "whirlwind years"|
I remember being at wits' end with a very headstrong little redheaded preschooler. Cameron was a daily whirlwind of independent adventure, and my every day ended in exhaustion. If it wasn't his idea, it wasn't happening without some serious convincing. On the other hand, if it was his idea, he often forged ahead without thinking or permission.
One day, exhausted and frustrated, and feeling like a total failure as a parent, I was reading my scriptures looking for a little peace and direction. The thought came into my mind to study Peter. I began to read the stories in the New Testament about the valiant fisherman turned apostle. As I read about him jumping out of the boat to walk to the Savior on the water, and cutting off the ear of the Roman soldier, I realized that Peter, like my son, was impulsive at one point in his life. I wondered what he was like as a little boy. Understanding dawned as I saw my son with new eyes. Maybe, as Peter, the impulsivity and independence I was seeing now was simply leadership in its infancy. Maybe these qualities that were causing me so much distress would become a great strength to him later.
|Cam, Ashley, and Isaac - July 2013|
Today I received an email from a teacher at the high school. She had just put a note in Cameron's school record, commending him for his leadership and good example to his classmates. My heart filled with joy at this boy who has grown up in so many ways. He is strong both physically and spiritually. He still has an overdeveloped sense of adventure, but I can deal with that for the most part. I realized that despite all of those hard early years, I would not change a thing about him, as I truly love and appreciate who he has become.
So to all parents of little ones: during those long days of early childhood, when you feel like you are doing everything wrong, take a new look at those qualities behind it all. Imagine them in 10-15 years. What will that energy, defiance, or sensitivity look like when that little one is grown? Maybe your little drama queen has the heart and compassion of Mother Theresa. Then, find joy in teaching them what to do with it all. It's a heck of a lot more fun than trying to change them, and I promise, the view from the other side is awesome.
|Ashley and Cameron - Best friends then...|