Whoever said “Life is what you make it” didn’t have children.

Moms try so hard to create happy, magical family moments.  We run ourselves ragged trying to get all the little things done that will somehow set the stage for an enchanted family co-existence.  The problem is, children don’t make magic.  They make messes.  They make noise.  They make unusual smells.  They make conflict. And, honestly, some days they make me crazy.

For example, the last couple of weeks, I have dreamed up a cozy, lovely Family Home Evenings where we would go together as a family to these inspirational spots where we could look at an art exhibit about Jesus Christ or the lights on Temple Square, talk about what they mean, and of course all have our testimonies grow exponentially while we relished our time together.  (I admit I’m being a little dramatic for effect, but I really did think it would be great.)  On both occasions, Matt and I were considering putting up our children for adoption before we were even halfway to our destinations.  There was so much squawking and bickering and nonsensical noise that we were quite sure that, once again, Satan had crashed our FHE party.  Results:

Week one:  After breathing fire and other threats, we made it to the museum.  Late, of course.  They said they would still honor our tickets, but then all the children had to go to the bathroom.  Fifteen minutes later, and now really late, we made our way into the exhibit.  Repeat the following phrases 46 times and that will be represent the next 30 minutes:  “You can’t run.  Don’t touch the paintings! Stand back.  Use your quiet voices. You can’t just step in front of people.  Please stay by mom and dad.”  Even if you say them in your most calm clenched-teeth whisper, it gets old after a while and you wonder why you even came.

Week two:  The children were being SO loud in the car that we couldn’t stand it any more.  I turned on the Christmas radio station and cranked it up loud enough that it drowned out their noise.  They were only rallied by the competition and started screeching and hollering and making alien noises at the top of their lungs.  Matt turned up the volume even higher and then sang “O Holy Night” in the loudest, most bizarre soprano I’ve ever heard in my life.  I laughed so hard I cried, but when it was over, I think we all had a headache.  At Temple Square, everyone ran in different directions constantly.  I spent 75% of my time “herding sheep.” They fought about who got to throw a coin into the fountain and cried if the results weren’t “fair.” They have no sense of proper crowd navigation and walked right into the path of on-comers over and over again.  That makes me nuts, and I had to apologize on their behalf dozens of times.  Some sister missionaries tried to talk to us in the tabernacle, but half the time our children were running in and out of the benches.  Clark and Natalie kept opening and closing my umbrella.  I think I managed to get out one sentence at a time between barking out child-control commands.   Grant pulled M&Ms out of my purse and spilled them all over the bench.  We moved on.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Please tell me it does.  I know the logical response would be “Don’t go in public with your children.”  But any one who is a stay-at-home mom of young children knows that you simply HAVE to venture out occasionally in hopes that the change of scenery will improve your sanity.  I said “in hopes.”

Now.  You know the purpose of my blog is to seek for the divinity in motherhood, so as I write/purge/dump, I try to pay attention for the “meat” of my experiences, and you know what?  It’s almost always there.  I can see it when I look for it.

Week one:  At some of the paintings, the children sat quietly and stared.  They asked some questions and we got to retell many of the stories from Christ’s life.  They each had a favorite painting, and they will probably remember it.  At one point, I pulled Grant aside and showed him a sketch of Christ and the adulterous woman.  As I retold the story and quoted the Savior saying “Woman, where are these thine accusers? …. “Go thy way and sin no more,” I felt overcome with love from the Savior and tears came to my eyes.  I told Grant it was one of my favorite Bible stories.

Week two:  During the conversation with the sister missionaries, we were able to share some of our life stories and testimonies.  At the missionaries’ request for contacts, the children suggested that we send videos about Christmas to their grandparents.  One sister was from Uruguay and I got to have a conversation with her in Spanish.  She said my spanish was “perfect,” which I know wasn’t true, but it made me feel good anyway.  We walked over to the visitor’s center and climbed the ramp to the Christus statue.  The children all sat next to each other on the floor and stared up at Him.  Grant had his arm around Natalie and I saw him point out to her the nail-marks on the hands and feet.  Clark stood close and craned his neck up to gaze at Him for a brief, quiet pause.  The room was very crowded and not very quiet, so I suggested to Matt that we leave and come back another time.  We called the children and started to leave, but Grant was flustered and said he wasn’t done yet.  Matt told him go back and finish.  As we looked back, we saw him kneeling down in prayer about 10 feet in front of the statue.  His eyes were closed, his head was bowed, his arms folded.  As he got up and ran back to join us, I saw tears in his eyes.  Clark wanted to copy his brother and later sat quietly on a bench and prayed.  When he finished, he smiled and hugged me.  I asked if he could feel how much Heavenly Father loves him and he nodded yes.

I guess the magic happens after all.  It’s just totally different than what we imagine when we try to wave our wands.  And frankly, my life is hardly ever what I try to make it be.  Sometimes it’s better.

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24 thoughts on “Whoever said “Life is what you make it” didn’t have children.

  1. {Gulp} I’ve got tears in my eyes at the last story of Grant. You’re right — motherhood is filled with moments that make you want to cry, whether it be tears of frustration or tears of happiness.

    I’ve decided that this month over breakfast I’m going to pull out the Gospel Art Kit and talk about the birth and life of Christ. The boys don’t choose their pictures anymore. I don’t think much has soaked in yet, but I’m hoping that if I do it everyday for a MONTH, something will.

    love you, lady. You’re a great example and an even better mom.

  2. So sweet. We’re looking forward to creating some magic of our own at those places next weekend. I hope our experience is similar to yours. (Minus the teeth clenched whisper, I did enough of that in Sacrament Meeting last week to last me for the month.)

  3. This was so great! Grant and clark are so sweet!
    On that note – after the Chirstmas devotional we watched as a family, Satan – I mean Porter – said “When I get big and I have enough power and money, I am going to shut down the church. And shut down Jesus Christ. Then maybe he will let me sleep!” Ummmm…..we dont know what to do with that.

  4. oh thank you, I thought we were the only family! Seriously, I love how you look at things. We really struggle with finding the “magic” with our children. We love them and maybe the “magic” will be that they survive to adulthood! Just keep doing what you’re doing and I’m sure we’ll be blessed and find happy moments. I am right there with ya!

  5. Thank you so much for offering an ounce of sanity and overflowing hope on a day where I was feeling empty of both. With a husband who often has to work 12 hour days, sometimes six days a week, I’ve been struggling to feel like anything I can manage to do by myself has any meaning or impact for my three kids. But I can find the moments… I just needed a reminder to look.
    Thank you for inviting the spirit, and inviting us as moms everywhere to be there too!

  6. Aren’t you glad you didn’t give up and actually put them up for adoption instead of finishing the drive to your destination? I am, because I loved reading about your experiences. The good and the bad.

  7. I too am tearing over Grant’s moment. Thank you so much for sharing. I sometimes get so caught up in how I think in my mind things should go that I don’t pay enough attention to how the way things are going might actually be better.

    And I’ve been feeling a bit anxious about all the festivities that are approaching, and the thought of hauling the whole family to and fro and to and fro. It’s just hard to do any wrangling right now whilst SO with child, and my kiddos are still small enough that wrangling is a very physical sport. This post gives me courage. I don’t want to miss any opportunity for moments of grace.

    Now if I can just remember to keep my cool. :)

  8. Sheep have to be way easier. I think it’s more like herding cats. Or chasing a bunch of marbles dropped onto a recently-buffed gymnasium floor. I could go on.

    Did you whisk my children away for FHE in temple square? Your description of your sounds pretty much spot on for my crazy kiddos.

    I’m composing a post in my head right now about how this is not exactly what I thought I was getting into. It’s way harder. And it’s way more gross. But the rewards are much greater than I ever imagined they would be, too.

  9. I love this post Stephanie. The magic really is there, it’s just camouflaged slightly by the mess and mayhem. Thanks for that reminder. We tried for a magic night tonight decorating the tree and yes, the magic WAS there, but so was some serious squabbling, tears, and children who refused to go to bed afterwards. Oi.

  10. I read this post to my hubby this afternoon and it made us both feel more normal. We always have such high hopes for our family outings and they never turn out like we would hope. We need to be better about recognizing the fleeting moments that make them worth it. Thanks for sharing and reminding me to cherish the moments.

  11. I’m so glad this had a happy ending. I’ve had a day that made my head spin in so many ways. I really needed to be reminded of the happy moments. You’re right. They are there. Even when they are blurry and fuzzy and hard to pick out, they are always there.

  12. I loved this post! Sometimes you wonder why you even try. But I have faith that in trying, the kids will remember. Memories right?

  13. Sounds 100% familiar, Steph. The preparation, the high expectations, the disaster, and the tiny moments that make it worthwhile. Motherhood. Yep.

    Someday you’ll look back and only remember the sweet parts. They are always there, if you take the time to find them. Good job.

  14. Somehow, it’s really fitting that I’m two days late replying to this post…

    Reminds me of decorating our tree this year. I was envisioning Christmas Carols playing in the background, sweetly sharing memories that go with all the ornaments, laughing as a family, etc. Yeah, didn’t happen. Our tree currently looks like a random Christmas store vomited on it, all of the glass ornaments were broken when the two year old pulled the tree over on himself, and I sat down and cried because of the mess while my husband slept.

    But thanks for reminding us of the beauty as well. My kids don’t care that the tree is ugly. Neither should I.

  15. It’s amazing how much those small moments can hold us over to the next one and make up for all the shinanigans that led up to said moments. I thank the Lord for them.

  16. Oh my goodness. I am SO glad my family is not the only one experiencing this strange phenomenon this Christmas. I too had these wonderful plans: candlelight, nightly readings (fun stories, but centered on the true meaning of Christmas,) baking sugar cookies together while singing carols in the kitchen, venturing out on a brisk Monday evening to select a Christmas tree from a REAL tree lot (read: NOT Home Depot.) And…yeah, it has gone about like you said. We even cancelled the tree-getting last Monday night because the boys had fought like animals ALL DAY LONG. No Christmas spirit there. I was not about to pick out a Christmas tree with my teeth gritted together, feeling more Grinchlike than Christlike. So… the boys spent the evening in separate rooms copying specific scripture verses into their notebooks while Mom, Dad and the 3-year-old played a board game. No tree yet.

    Sorry. Way more information that I’m sure you wanted. Just had to vent to somebody who’s been there! Thanks for helping me feel a little more normal!!

    And Merry Christmas! Whether the kids like it or not. :)

  17. I think a lot of times when we try to micromanage the experiences, our kids miss out on the greater lessons, like what happened with your kids. I don’t think you could have planned it to be that beautiful. But you are right, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the way things don’t work out and miss those precious moments.

  18. That is the exact experience I have just about every time I plan something for my family. I don’t do a lot of things because they end up in disaster. I just think I need to start looking harder for the “Gems” in the trash that I call an outing. You can always articulate what I am thinking without me even saying it.

    Thanks~

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