A Perfect Mother

perfect parent (1)In honor of National Adoption Month

For me the catchiest tune in primary is “The Family is of God.” I can’t get it out of my head. Along with the tune come images of families from my time as an adoption social worker that contradict the lyrics as written. Images of nurturing fathers and mothers that provide and preside. Images of the most needy and rejected children.

Too often as an adoption recruiter I observed that the more a child needs a parent, the more terrible the behaviors they express, making the neediest children the least adoptable. As the tune trips through my head I keep thinking about the children that I struggled most to match with an adoptive parent/parents.

Anthony’s life was a series of disasters. An unexpected pregnancy to a drug addicted mother placed him in foster care upon her testing positive for methamphetamine at his birth. His mother lost custody of his two and three year old brothers before Anthony was born. Infants are generally easier to place for adoption, but Anthony was part of a sibling group and it took some time to find a home that would adopt the sibling set of three boys.

The four and six year old brothers were legally adopted by their foster parent, but three year old Anthony’s adoption had not yet finalized when awful physical abuse was uncovered. The older siblings with the adopted last name were removed from the home and sent to one foster home, while Anthony with his birth name went to another home. Unknowingly, the siblings with different last names were assumed to be unrelated and separated.

The older boys were legally freed from their adoptive parents and fortunately went almost directly to the home of a young single woman who fostered the boys for about a year before adopting them. Anthony was not so fortunate. In his new foster home he became the victim of an older teenage boy who befriended him and brutally raped Anthony repeatedly for over a year before the sexual abuse was discovered.

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Childhood Myths

Childhood Myths

“…and that Mother Earth and Father Sun and Grandmother Universe will take care of us and watch over us…”

That was a line in the prayer my six-year-old gave for our nightly family prayer earlier this week. We go to church every week and my kids get the same standard Primary lessons, but I love how they interpret beliefs for themselves. My daughter has gone to a Waldorf class for over a year now and the teacher likes to tell stories about “Father Sun” and “Mother Earth” and the “star children” (us) who have come down to earth. Earlier this week, we had been discussing the Maya Creation myth and talked about the similarities and differences between it and the Genesis Creation myth. She told me she thinks the Maya myth is wrong and that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and Jesus made the earth. I smiled and said that everyone has their own story for how the world was made. While her beliefs have a Mormon base, they have a strand of her own understanding and interpretation.

Mother EarthOn the other hand, my four-year-old believes in a very different vein of Mormonism. Like he’s been taught in Primary, he believes he’ll be with Jesus in heaven after he dies, but that’s not where his vision of the after-life ends. It’s not uncommon for him to start a conversation with, “When I’m born again…” He believes in reincarnation and that after going to heaven, he’ll be reborn back to earth.

Both my daughter’s and son’s beliefs tickle me a lot. It’s amazing to see how the same teachings are interpreted through the minds of children. I know some parents would be quick to “correct” these sorts of thoughts, but I like giving them space to explore their own spiritualities. Why not believe in Grandmother Universe watching over us? Or that we’ll get another lifetime on earth to be with our loved ones? It reminds me of how I used to ask Heavenly Father to hand the prayer receiver to Heavenly Mother so I could talk with her.

The beliefs of children underscore the human desire to be connected and cared for by someone greater than us and to know that there is something for us after we die. I have one other child, who is too young to really share her beliefs (or have them?) but I look forward to learning what they are and to watch another person try to reach the divine.

Do you remember what your beliefs were when you were little? How have they shaped you? 

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Relief Society Lesson 15: Eternal Marriage

a mother's love

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

Introduction:

I would begin this lesson by mentioning that the topic is eternal marriage, and that this can be a difficult (or maybe just uninteresting)  topic for some people who are not currently sealed to a beloved partner. So as we discuss, let’s be sensitive to the fact that many of the people in this room don’t have this right now.

Starter question: In your own experience, or from what you have observed in others, what are the key characteristics of a successful marriage? As they are thinking, tell them a couple of your own insights or stories relating to this question. Personally, I might mention the idea of respecting my spouse’s desires and dreams and doing what I can to support them, as he does for me. That phrase from Marjorie Hinckley comes to mind, as she talked about what kind of husband President Hinckley was: “From the very beginning he gave me space and let me fly.” I think this applies to dreams and desires, and I also think it applies to conscience. My husband and I are not exactly on the same page on certain things ideologically, and after several years I think we are getting better at learning to honor the journey of the other person and allow each other space to follow our consciences. Giving each other this kind of space and respect has been key to the success of our marriage.

Other things people might say: love, kindness, consideration, helpfulness, respect, words of affirmation, quality time together, service, etc. As people mention kindness and consideration, mention that the manual points out how kind JFS was as a husband and how helpful he was. Read a few sentences describing that from the intro section.  Encourage a good discussion on this question – people should enjoy sharing their insights. 

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In Light

IMG_6199

By Ash Mae.

The day the missionaries came to our house in 1988 a rainbow fell across the sky in our neighborhood on the hill.  I stood on the ledge of the bathtub and curled my fingers on the windowsill to pull my scrawny body up to see.  I could hear their voices, fresh as orange juice, through the open window.  The way I see it now, the rainbow is brighter than any rainbow I’ve seen since.  The sky more orange and small. The fresh puddles on asphalt reflect two shimmering missionaries, pressed shirts and black pants, my mom, my dad, my little white haired brother between them, and somewhere in the background, me, watching it all.  Documenting the magic, cataloguing it for some future time.  Surely they all came in to eat dinner then, and I reached up on tiptoes and pulled down my best dress, because I always did when the missionaries came, and we must have all celebrated my mom. After so long, she’d decided to be baptized.

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Earth Mother, Part II

Mother Earth - Caitlin Connolly

Mother Earth–Caitlin Connolly      For A Mother Here art and poetry contest

by Alicia

Read Part I here.

I believe that the substance of our bodies comes from the earth.

Maybe we are looking for Mother in too far a distant place, maybe she is here with us. Maybe she opted to come with us through our mortal journey. Maybe her role of loving and protecting and providing for us are evidence of her faithfulness to orderliness and her obedience to righteous principles. I love that scripture that talks about our peace being like the river and our constancy like the waves of the sea (1 Nephi 20: 17-19); that in so emulating Her, we see the face of God. Can God have a female face that looks like rich deep brown furrows of dirt?

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