I think I might need to take a break from it all, because last night I found myself simultaneously cooking dinner, listening to the piano practicing going on downstairs with one ear and then listening to a podcast with the other ear. The phone rang and when I went to answer it I’d forgot I had a podcast going and as I hurriedly answered I kind of jammed the ear bud into my brain with the phone receiver like some pneumatic drill on a rivet. It wasn’t pretty. They should put a warning label on it or something.
So thank you–and curse you–for your great recommendations. At least I have two ears, right?
But I thought I’d at least share something that I found quite moving from one of the most recent listens. Thanks to Chocolate on My Cranium’s recommendation that I listen to Conversations on the Mormon Channel, in between my history and science and NPR podcasts I heard an interview with Julie Beck who heads the women’s organization for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It happens to be the largest women’s organization in the world (and one of the oldest) and she’s an amazing person. They interviewed her and her two adult daughters, Gerilyn Merrell and Heidi Shin, and they all spoke of their thoughts on motherhood and raising kids today and some of their own family experiences from years past. Here are a couple of the highlights as I’ve been able to transcribe them:
About her daughters and the role of a mother:
Julie: They came as they were . . . unique and wonderful and my blessing was to just unwrap the package, to see who they were and to help guide them to who they could be. I didn?t have to mold them or make them into someone different from who they were because they were so great when they came. It was a fun discovery to learn who they were.
On helping her children develop of a love of reading:
Julie: One of our favorite family activities when these children were growing up was Breakfast with Books. I just loved reading myself so I figured out a way to get my children to read and that was to get my children to bring a book to the breakfast table. I didn?t care if they dripped syrup on their books but we?d read. That was the usual Saturday morning breakfast, breakfast with books.
Gerilyn: I think I?ve been ruined, I don?t think I can eat without a book anymore. [Laughing] My father asked me once, ?Why do you drink out from the side of your mouth?? I figured out it was because I could look at my book while I was doing it. So, it has created a few little problems but it?s a life long habit now. In fact, my husband calls it a Reading Dinner and occasionally he?ll ask us to bring our books to the table. I usually know it means he wants some peace and quiet at the table but everyone will run and get their books and bring them to the table and we will have a very quiet, peaceful meal.
On helping her children develop a love of music:
Julie: I needed a way to teach them to work. We didn?t have a big family, we didn?t have a big home to keep up, I knew they were bright people, they needed to learn a discipline?taking responsibility for something that was theirs to do every day. They needed to learn winning and losing, thinking, problem solving, relationship building and the bonus was that they also got a little music and got some talent and ability.
The motivator for me to keep me going through the hard days?and there were hard days, the children called it ?combat piano??was my grandmother, Duella Hamblin, who had a real love and aptitude for music. She didn?t have the opportunities my children had. I felt like they were the generation where the opportunity and the talent met and that I would be accountable to her if I let it go.
I just thought, some day Grandma would say, ?Why did you give up so easy when I would have given anything for this chance?? So I?d think, ?Well, I won?t give up easy. We?ll just keep at it.? And if you have a hard day, tomorrow?s a better day.
On how the family views children:
Gerilyn: Grandma Bangerter always said, ?Children are people,? and that to me is a profound statement because it?s so easy to see children as their own subgroup that have no relation to people but she had a love for people and individuals . . . and we?ve learned that these people can be appreciated from when they?re born to when they die. . . . Grandma Bangerter knew every single grandchild and great-grandchild by name, by middle name, by birthday, by likes and dislikes because she doesn?t see them as a group, she sees them as people.
Heidi: Your relationship with your children changes when you look at them as people. They have feelings, they have emotions, they have needs and they have bad days and when you think about that and not just say, ?Well, you?re acting up? and think of them as individuals who may be having a hard time it gives you perspective during a temper tantrum.
On her Grandmother’s life:
Heidi: When I was in high school there was a project where I had to learn about my oldest living relative. My cousin picked my grandpa so I said, ?Oh, I guess I?m stuck with Grandma? but I did this interview with her and the more I got to know her I was fascinated with her life. . . .
For instance, her story of heading down to Brazil [to work as a missionary] when she was nine months pregnant with my Aunt Peggy. They got there right as she was ready to have this baby and another family was still living in the mission home, so she was trying to settle her family, she didn?t speak the language. She was homesick?homesick?and she recounts this experience of looking out the window and the rain coming down on all the cloth diapers that she?d just hung on the line to dry and she said, ?All I could see out there in the jungle was the mountains. All I could think about were the flea bites on the children, the rats in the yard that I couldn?t get rid of and the fact that I couldn?t speak the language, I couldn?t even go grocery shopping.?
?It looked bleak,” she said, “I didn?t know how I was going to do it.”
Then Grandpa came skipping into the room, totally excited that he was back in Brazil, and he said, “Isn?t this beautiful? Aren?t you excited to be here?”
She said, ?Honey, I don?t see it. I don?t see what you?re seeing,?
And he said, pausing, ?Well . . . we can either enjoy it now or we can come back to the United States in five years from now and laugh about these experiences and enjoy it then. So which way shall we do it? Shall we enjoy it now or enjoy it then??
A lightbulb went off in her head and she said, ?You?re right, I?m going to enjoy it now, today and laugh about my soggy diapers hanging out on the line and the fact that we have fleas.?
?You?re a smart woman,” he said, “You can figure out all these things. You can find a way to fix the vacuum that?s broken. You?re a nurse, you?re can heal the flea bits on our children. You can find a way to get rid of these rats. I have every confidence in you.?
And that?s the kind of person she is. She takes difficult tasks and says, ?Well, let?s just enjoy it now instead of laughing about it later.?
And on raising her own three children:
Julie: I wanted to raise people who would be my friends when I was old. That means we had to do some things when they were young that would build them into the people I would enjoy being with when I was older.
We had to teach manners–you have to be clean, you can?t be stupid, you have to have something in your head we can talk about. I wanted to be around thinkers when they were older and people who could laugh and enjoy life and do some fun things. That meant I had to be a parent when they were young so I could be their friend when they were older.
It is difficult to parent on a day-to-day basis with precision. You?re never perfect at it, it takes a lot of revelation and help to know how to get through a situation day by day and know the needs of a person–a unique person–who is developing and you don?t know who they really are inside and how to get that out but you?re working toward building somebody you want to know when they?re older.
If you can?t build those characteristics in them when they?re young then you won?t like them when they?re older.
Anyway . . . I enjoyed the interview and if you’re interested in hearing the whole monstrously long 1 1/2 hours of it you can download the mp3 file here. They also have an interview with Stephanie and Christian Nielsen who you might remember were severely burned in a plane crash a couple years ago. Stephanie’s blog has famously recounted their story and continuing recovery and though I haven’t got to that interview yet I’m sure it’s good too.