Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Toddler Testimony

I was what felt like fifteen months pregnant with my third child. I also had a toddler of about three and a half, plus a two-year-old. Hormones raged through my bloodstream, my back hurt, I could hardly walk, and I had a pregnancy-induced migraine.

But even without all that, the day would have been ugly.

My husband was gone all that Sunday morning at church meetings. The kids fought and screamed and threw tantrums. My cute little two-year-old decided she was mad at me—likely for something along the lines of not letting her beat up her older brother again—and in retaliation, smugly left puddles of pee all over the house.

She was potty trained by this point but knew exactly how to push Mommy’s buttons.

The house was a wreck, the kids wouldn’t listen to me, and I was holding down the fort alone. How in the world could I be expected to get the crew ready for church? Why should I bother getting them ready for church, when I was such an obvious failure as a mother?

I collapsed on one of the bottom stairs next to the kitchen and burst into tears. I had two kids I was already failing at raising, and a third ready to pop out. What was I thinking?

The future looked bleak. From here on out, things could only get worse.

I needed some sign that the choices I had made were good and right, and that I wasn’t crazy for wanting to be a mother. That I wasn’t a total failure of a mother. That these little people I had been given charge of wouldn’t regret having me to be the one to nurture them. I was teary-eyed as I cleaned up the messes on the carpet and wrestled with the kids and my abundant self to get us ready for church.

When we arrived, the family filed into a pew and sat down. I’ll never forget the opening hymn: “Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth.”

Someone is mocking me, I thought, unable to sing as my throat constricted and tears blurred the words in the hymnal. "Home" and "heaven" didn’t belong in the same breath, as far as I was concerned.

As the meeting went on, I gave my almost four-year-old son some crayons and paper to doodle on to keep him happy and quiet—a Herculean expectation for a rambunctious little person.

Near the end of the meeting, a woman spoke. I don’t remember much about her talk besides how she bemoaned that her brother had lost his faith in God and now challenged hers. She quoted him repeatedly saying, “How can there be a God if . . .”

After she said this phrase several times, my little guy popped his head up from his artwork and leaned toward me. With a shake of his head, he let out a scoff, then whispered, “Mom, we know there’s a God.” With another sad little shake of his head, he returned to his crayons.

I sat there, an unexpected joy shooting through me that was so strong it was almost painful.

Who cared if he never put his breakfast dishes away as he’d been taught to for months?

Who cared if his sister kept making puddles out of revenge?

The most important thing I could possibly pass on to my children was a belief in a loving God.

Somehow, I’d given that to my little boy.

A single thought came to mind, and this time I believed it:

You’re doing fine.

I wrapped my arm around his little shoulders and kissed the top of his head. “That’s right,” I whispered back. “We know there’s a God.”


Janice said...

Motherhood: pain and joy in one. Thankfully, those moments of joy far outweigh and compensate for the hours that are not so happy. Your vignette shows this perfectly. Thanks!

Gary Loren McCallister said...

I left my Mother's church to become a Latter Day Saint. My Mother never got over that, even though it was perfectly clear that she was the one who raised me to know there was a God and to seek after him. She has past on but I wonder if she understands now that I am LDS because of her righteous, if misguided, influence.