Today was amazing. Our invisible driver cooked us eggs with ham and spinach, the kids were great, and we got out on the road without problems. I made lunch while he made breakfast, so stopping for playtime and food was also easy, and we were able to just keep going pretty quickly. We had all the kids again, then, and they were still so good. They all slept three hours! In fact, they even listened to the whole conference sessions today from the day they were naughty while we were gone, and so good that we gave them an extra treat and also bought everyone their own apple juice! We got to our campsite for the night, and they played nicely while we warmed dinner up, and I was excited to surprise them with popcorn and cookies to celebrate.
Except then everything fell apart, and I don’t know why.
Like two kids in screaming tantrums falling apart.
Like two kids in screaming tantrums for almost two hours falling apart.
I’m not even sure what happened.
I review it over and over, and try to think what Nathan and I could have done differently or better. Maybe had more patience longer? Maybe given in to everything they wanted and just hand over all our money and food? Maybe tried to be more gentle earlier? It definitely feels like a parenting failure right after four days of parenting lectures.
I cried and cried, and even while I type this, one of them is mostly quiet but still being mean to his neighbors and making just enough noise to keep waking up the babies, and moving around just enough not to fall asleep. It baffles me, and it’s one thing to wrestle their tantrums at home and try to be all therapeutic, but much harder with eight of us in one room and so many little ones that get each other all worked up so easily.
All I know is that parenting brings out shadows we didn’t even know we had, and that I’m pretty sure that’s part of why the family is ordained of God and part of the plan of salvation. Nothing teaches us more or better than our own families, and clearly it’s part of my repentance plan.
And some nights it takes a whole lot of repentance to even remember that it’s a plan of happiness.
Sometimes it’s just hard, and the children feel like strangers, and then you remember they are, and maybe you are foolish and naive to think you can help or make a difference.
Once things are almost calmer, there is nothing left to do but remember the talks from conference and just do you best. You kick the devil out of your safe-space trailer, and read scriptures to fortify the walls, and then pray the family prayer to model repentance and asking for help from a Father in Heaven who surely must know what He is doing to have commanded all this, right?
I do love them, and most of the time enjoy them.
But I have a long way to go to learn this:
We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation, who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment; women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly.
You have to be fearless to adopt six children with the issues ours have, and fearless to pile them in a van and take them across country hoping to make it back home alive. You have to fearless to parent intentionally, to set limits and say no, to believe in children that no one else can. But you also have to be fearless enough to show mercy when it’s time, to show compassion when you are exhausted, and to grant forgiveness when it feels like the whole day was ruined.
Or maybe you have to be fearless to just keep trying.
And sometimes, finally, longer than you would have tried on your own, you can make it to the increase of love.