Posts Tagged children

Doing It Right: Teaching the Men to Be Better Fathers

When a month has five Sundays, the fifth is given to each individual Ward to make a lesson for the adults based on the needs of the people in that Ward.  We’ve had lessons from the Bishopric (who is in charge of the lesson) on food storage, families, and other more general topics such as tithing and temple attendance.  Most of the time, this goes fairly well since the Bishop has a unique perspective on the needs of the Ward he has been called to watch over.  Being mortal, there have also been failures.  I’ve heard of one ward where the Bishop spent time instructing the women (and only the women) on the need to be more sexually available to their husbands.  In our ward, we had something I’ve never seen before – a lesson from the Presidents of the Primary, Young Women’s Organization, and Relief Society (all of whom are women, for those who don’t know) to all the men of the Ward on how they can be better fathers.  This covers a broad spectrum of men, from those not yet married to those with grandchildren.  And, though it was the same lesson to all, I suspect that what was learned was different for each one of us, no matter what our circumstance.

First, we heard from the Primary President.  She is the head of the organization within the Ward that teaches the children to age 12.  First, she quoted The Family: A Proclamation to the World“:

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

Next, she shared some sobering answers to some questions she posed to the children in her care:

How do you know your father loves you?

  • He plays with me
  • He helps me
  • He shows me
  • I don’t know

What are things you want to do with your dad?

  • Go play
  • Hike
  • Spend time

How do you know your dad loves your mom?

  • He does things for her
  • Hugs & Kisses
  • I don’t know

It’s these last answers, “I don’t know,” that are the most sobering.  While we are doing some things right, if some of our children don’t know we love them or their mothers, we’re doing something wrong.  Next, we had the President of the Young Women’s Organization, who has charge over the young women, aged 12-18, in our ward:

What is the greatest mistake in raising a daughter?

  • Not understanding your significance in your daughter’s life

Your daughter sees how her father treats her, her mother, and other women.  Daughters are not limited to your own family – you have influence as Home Teachers and even as friends of the family.  Daughters who feel fathers care have less problems with stress, eating disorders, depression, etc., and more desire for education, independence, and growth.  They make better decisions about sex and how others should treat them.  Daughters see in their father what to expect in future relationships.  Their experiences with Heavenly Father will be a relation of her experiences with her mortal father.

What can a father do?

  • listen without criticism
  • notice her mood
  • be willing to talk 1 on 1
  • spend quality time
  • be there when needed
  • show his love, even when she is not treating him well
  • says and shows his love
  • praises kindness and other good, intrinsic values
  • shares his testimony and talks about his hopes and concerns

A father should be a guardian of virtue.  Do not back away in those times when she is pushing you away.  She may not always listen or make the right choices, but she will appreciate that you cared enough to try, and especially that you care enough to welcome her back with open arms, no matter how old she gets or how much time has passed.

 

We concluded with a few remarks from the Relief Society President, who is over all the women 18 and over.  (She didn’t get much time):

Knowing her fathers love can help carry her through adulthood, and can be an example of the love of her Heavenly Father for her.  Love her mother.  You have ways to effect [your daughters] life in a way no one else can.

 

This concluded with a group of the Young Women singing “If the Savior Were Beside Me”

 

I thought it was a good lesson, all in all.  Full of things to think about and inviting the spirit to help teach more than what was said.  Thinking about it later, though – what if this were a lesson to the women, by the men, on how they could be better mothers?  Would that have been as well received?  I don’t know.  I do know, however, that this felt right, and I’m glad the female Presidents in our ward had a chance to teach the men in a way we would not have usually gotten.

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Bringing out my inner househusband

It’s been no secret to my wife that any time she wants to go back into the workforce (or if she gets her book published and becomes even mildly famous and needs to go on tour), I would be most glad to stay at home, full time, with the kids.  It’s not that I think housework and childcare are easier, but I think I would prefer it to the regular 9-5 (with commute additional) daily grind.  Today she has a writers conference, so I scheduled a day off and get to stay home with the kids while she goes to work.

So, I get to keep three children (3yrs-5mos) entertained, one of them to preschool and back, lunch, general house cleaning, maybe some repairs if I can work it out without having to go to the hardware store, and evidently some light blogging.  One of the things I was also thinking of doing was some (gasp) cooking.  The trouble I have with cooking (and probably food in general) is that I’ve never given much thought to why things taste the way they do.  I mean, I enjoy good food, I just don’t know how to make it.  I can follow a recipe, but never have any idea what to do with ingredients “to taste”.  When I make spaghetti, I tend to just throw in whatever is at hand, vegetables, some tomato paste if it needs thickening, but no spices.  Taste, therefore, tends to be a bit of chance.  Never been bad, but never really what I’d call very good, either.  I want to do -something- to show I can do this, so my wife doesn’t think we’d starve if she had to go to work.  Maybe a try at a few things that would help her with lunch for the kids when it is her day to stay at home again.  Hmm . . . macaroni salad?  Pigs in a blanket?

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Connecting the family

In the Doctrine & Covenants, an explanation is given to the verse in Malachi about “turning the hearts of children to the fathers”:

Foreshadowing the great work to be done in the temples of the Lord in the dispensation of the fullness of times, for the redemption of the dead, and the sealing of the children to their parents, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse and utterly wasted at his coming. (D&C 138:48)

This is the reason for the work for the dead, baptism and sealings, that we do in the Temples. All the descendants of Adam will need to be bound together in family relationships. This brings up a variety of issues:

1. Forcing others to become Mormon
While we do baptize as proxy for all of our deceased relatives, whether or not they accept the baptism is their own choice. It is felt that it is better to do the work with the possibility of their rejecting it than to not do the work and have them remain clamoring for it. There was a time when the zeal for getting everyone baptized included random (and not so random) names from various lists, including places like death camps, but it has been repeatedly stressed that you should only do the work for your family, not strangers. Even for immediate family, it should be recommended to talk to those who are living about it before proceeding. If there are objections, then it may have to wait.

2. Sealings to parents or spouses you cannot accept
I’ve seen people worried that they are going to remain sealed to an abusive parent or spouse in the next life because of the sealings that were done at an earlier time. I am sure this is not the case. The Celestial Kingdom will be a place of ultimate joys, not of fear, hostility, or resentment. No matter what sealings were done, no matter what other ordinances were done, they cannot supersede the desire of the people involved. You will not spend forever with a person you cannot stand to be near.

3. Spiritual orphaning
We know that not everyone will accept the Gospel and desire to be sealed for eternity. This creates a minor problem for the others in the relationship. Since these sealings are necessary, it may be needed from time to time for people to be sealed as children to parents who were not their birth parents. I do not believe this will be done lightly, any more than the decision on your placement in your mortal family was done lightly. This should not be anticipated in mortality without all parties alive and in agreement, as we do not know the feelings of those who have passed on, no matter what documents they may have left behind.

Without a great number of records that do not exist or the personal recollections of those who are already dead, we will only be able to scratch the surface of all of the baptism and sealing work that needs to be done. It is, however, important that we do what we can now. It all needs to be done, or as it says in the scripture, the entirety of this world would be a waste.

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Waiting for the "next life"

One of the common complaints about any article or talk given about marriage or families is that those who are not in that category are ignored or pushed aside with the platitude “If you do not have this now, you will in the next life”. The feeling can be that those outside the ideal of having a temple marriage and children right now are ignored or reviled by those within the ideal.

Consider the following variations on the platitude:
Don’t worry if you don’t have children by the time you are 15, you will at some point afterward.
Don’t worry if you aren’t married by the time you are 20, you will at some point afterward.
Don’t worry if you don’t have children by the time you are 30, you will at some point afterward.
Don’t worry if you have not reached the ideal of your Heavenly Parents before you die, be it at 5, 50, or 100, you will at some point afterward.

How different is the platitudes’ request for patience in adulthood than when we tell children that they cannot have babies or get married until they are adults? The solution I see to this is the same, to place ourselves in submission to the timing given our lives by God, in the same way that children submit to adults.

Yes, waiting can be difficult. It can be full of heartaches from times where you thought you had reached the goal but found that it had moved to a seemingly impossible distance. However, because of the Plan of Salvation, because we know that life goes well beyond the limited number of years we have had so far, we can have hope that our attainment of the ideal, becoming like our Heavenly Mother and Father, will always be ahead of us and fully attainable, so long as we continue to pursue it.

On a related note, to reiterate what has been said many times, we should not judge the righteousness of others based on their progress in obtaining marriage, children, the Temple endowment, or any other point of their eternal progression. All of these points are commitments between that person and their Heavenly Parents, for the specific growth of that person in that manner. Your judgments, especially in these eternal issues, can injure others, but will also stunt your own growth, no matter what blessings you have previously attained.

Encourage, strengthen, weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and rejoice with those who have joy.

No matter what you do or do not have now, have patience with your own progress, and remember your Royal potential that lay ahead.

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Raising the age of adulthood

I’ve read in various talks and articles lately comments about the young adults in this past decade choosing to remain in a teenage/adult limbo state between the ages of 18 and 25. It has always been an interesting thought to me that when people had shorter lifespans, such as in the dark ages and renaissance, the age of adulthood, when it was permissible or expected to be married was much younger than it is now. Romeo and Juliet were 13, after all. In my often random musing, I wondered what the age of adulthood would have been in the generations after Adam, when lifespans were in the 700-900 year range. 50? 70?

So I looked up a couple statistics for the US over the last 100 years or so, showing that we have had some sort of unintentional rise, at least in marriage:
Life expencancy,1900:49 – 2000:77
Age at first marriage, 1900:24 – 2010:27

(It’s not much, but I’m not good (or patient) at research 😉 )

So here’s the theoretical question to throw out to y’all –

Should the political/cultural age of adulthood be raised to 25?

Others –

How would this affect rites of passage in the culture and in the church (e.g. voting, drinking, marriage, college, YM/YW, priesthood, missionaries, primary)?

Would this lead to stronger or more scattered/rebellious families?

How could this change even be accomplished without widespread riots/protesting?

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