Last week I had one of those moments you pray for, watch for, and occasionally are blessed to have. My second daughter and I were standing in the kitchen and we were talking about how she has been having problems with her ear holes and didn’t know if she wanted to keep wearing earrings. She had gotten her ears pierced at age 8, because her older sister had done so the year before. You see, this daughter is a major follower. She won’t do anything at home unless she sees one of her sister do it first. Her teacher tells me it’s the same at school. She never initiates any activity. She always waits for other students to begin an assignment, line up for lunch, etc., before she’ll do anything.
So she and I were talking about whether she should take her earrings out, let the ear holes close up, and get her ears re-pierced when she’s older and better able to take care of them. She said, “Did my sister take her earrings out?” This was a typical question for her. I looked at her, could see I really had her attention and proceeded to tell her earnestly that she was a unique girl and that she didn’t need to do what her sisters or anyone else would do in her situation. I pointed to her heart and then to her head and said, “Listen to these. And listen to Heavenly Father. What you want, and what He wants for you are all that matter.”
“I don’t know why I follow my sister,” she said then. This self-reflection of hers was a big one. I could see the wheels turning, and I could tell that she took what I said to heart. She didn’t shrug me off, she wasn’t walking away. She was fully engaged, listening, and actually hearing me. I was in one of those magic teachable moments that don’t come along very often. Since that conversation, I have tried to bring up the topic again at appropriate moments to be sure she was still reflecting on why she’s a follower. I want her to understand that she’s entitled to make decisions for herself, that she knows her true worth. I think I also need to help her to know how to make decisions on her own. Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
So how do we find these teachable moments? I believe it’s through prayer, listening to the Spirit, watching your kids, listening to them, and waiting for openings. I pray daily for help parenting. I know for a fact that I can’t do this parenting thing on my own. And as a single parent, it often feels like I am. But there have been countless instances where an answer was provided to me when I needed it that allowed me to reach a child in a way I could not have done as effectively left to my own devices.
Paying attention to our children is key. You need to be keenly aware of what their needs are if are to help them. Watch how they interact with each other. Watch when they do their homework. Are they struggling with something? Is there something you’re missing? Along with watching them, you need to have regular listening opportunities. One of the best times I find to listen is in the car. They don’t realize that when I ask them how school went, I am hoping to hear what their concerns are. They think I’m just making conversation. These conversations often lead to some nugget of information passing to me that I can then store away to be addressed in the future, when one of those openings comes up. And when your kids approach you with something they want to say, put down whatever you’re doing and let them see that they have your full attention. Even if it’s something trivial, really pay attention. They will remember this when they have something important to say.
Then you need to watch for openings. If I had been too busy with my phone or something else when my daughter gave me that opening, I would have missed the chance to say some really important things to her. I’m afraid I have probably missed many such openings. I pray that more will come. I trust that they will as I know my Heavenly Father loves me and loves my children and will give me second, third, fourth, indeed endless chances to help them. I think as long as I keep trying, Heavenly Father will keep sending me help.
Pray. Watch. Listen. Take the openings when they come. Repeat. Heavenly Father will bless you as you do your best to watch over your little ones. They are His little ones as well. As are you. He cares deeply about how you raise your children. He cares deeply about you. Allow Him to guide you in your most important work on this earth.