Easter Thoughts – My Children

Seth - April 12, 2009

We hold our Family Home Evenings on Friday evenings. Kind of an acknowledgment that, as parents of young children, we have no social life. Things went well with songs and prayer and a treat waiting in the wings for afterward. Then it was time to sit down with daddy while I read a Gospel story to my young children.

We’ve been working our way through the New Testament for Beginning Readers, story by story. As it so happened, this one was on the Last Supper and then Jesus death and resurrection. This close to Easter, the coincidence was too good to pass up. Yet I hesitated. Here I had my oldest daughter age 7, my second daughter age 4, and my son at age two all snuggled up for FHE story time. And here I am about to read them a story about how this wonderful person we’ve been learning about was beaten half to death, had nails hammered through his hands and feet, and was hung until he died.

What would they think about it? I’d always managed to focus on Jesus life up till now and avoid taking about his death. Yet, here we were, and I just had a feeling it was time to wade in. So I did.

My 2 year old son wiggled off my lap soon enough and went to “help mommy” with treats and coloring Easter eggs (he managed to dump most of the yellow dye). But my two daughters sat through the whole thing. Since I couldn’t leave the story with Jesus dead, we moved into the portion about the resurrection as well.

The girls were subdued, but interested as well. I could almost hear the wheels turning in my oldest daughter’s head, but she responded quite well to the story. I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t sat down and read this story with her earlier. She is 7 after all, and has certainly heard this story before more than a few times in Primary. The sudden realization of her age and maturity hit me hard. It made me feel guilty for missing so much of her childhood in the rushed blur that young parenthood seems to be.

Guilt. There’s so much of that in young parenting – when you slow down enough to where you have the luxury of feeling guilty, that is. I regret how strict I’ve been with my oldest, and what a wonderful daughter she really has been. I regret how I haven’t noticed that. And she’ll be baptized a little under a year from now… Missed opportunities, lost childhood. I think I understand what Jacob meant when he declared that their lives passed “as it were a dream,” and why those words always seemed so sad to me.

How could I have missed this eventful and action-packed little life that has been going on right under my nose?

So the regrets linger on with me tonight.

But that’s what the Atonement was about. It was about those missed opportunities, those moments of indifference and neglect where I was less of a father than my dear ones deserved. It was, and is, about mending what I have left incomplete.

It is also remembering that I am not the only father who has regretted lost opportunities. In Gethsemane, two millennia ago, another father was torn with regret over the short time granted to his little one. How proud he must have been of his precious son. How much potential he must have seen in him. How eager he must have been to see all the other wonderful things his little boy could do.

I wonder if the God of all the Heavens looked down, and found himself surprised at how fast his son had grown. I wonder if he too regretted that their time had not been longer.

20 Comments »

  1. Mom Blogs – Blogs for Moms…

    Trackback by Anonymous — April 12, 2009 @ 1:56 am

  2. I know those feelings of regret well. My 3 kids are about the same ages as yours. I remember it hit me hard one day when my second son was two or three and I realized that I hadn’t read books with him nearly as much as I had with my oldest. The wave of guilt and the sense of lost opportunity were painful.

    Comment by Tom — April 12, 2009 @ 4:36 am

  3. There is not very much reason for feeling regret over lost opprtunities at those ages. You still have time. Wade in and enjoy every minute. You’ll be looking at your daughter at 17 all too soon. My oldest is 15 now and I have no idea where the time went.

    Comment by MCQ — April 12, 2009 @ 6:12 pm

  4. I wonder if the God of all the Heavens looked down, and found himself surprised at how fast his son had grown. I wonder if he too regretted that their time had not been longer.

    Priceless. Thanks Seth.

    Comment by MCQ — April 12, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

  5. Here’s something I’m curious about, Seth: how did you cover why there needs to be an atonement at all? How do LDS children under the age of 8 make a personal connection with the atonement and what it does for them when they technically aren’t guilty of any sin yet according to LDS thought? Do they understand it in terms of what it will mean for them when they do turn 8 and become accountable for their sins, or is its power to grant resurrection emphasized?

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — April 12, 2009 @ 11:29 pm

  6. Seth:

    Wait until they approach the age of mission/college/marriage. In my experience it only gets worse.

    Bridget:

    It is because of the atonement that little children are covered. See Moroni 8.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 13, 2009 @ 11:43 am

  7. When I talked to my kids about the atonement when they were little, I just told them that Christ died so that we could all live again after death and so that we could repent for our sins. I told them if it weren’t for Jesus, we would never rise again after death and we would never be able to repent, all our mistakes would be permanent and we could never live with God again. They seemed to understand that pretty well, despite the fact that they were not yet accountable. I don’t think you have to have the need for repentance personally to understand that people need repentance in general.

    Comment by MCQ — April 13, 2009 @ 11:48 am

  8. I don’t know, how do you explain an event to kids that’s supposed to be a mystery?

    Comment by Seth R. — April 13, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

  9. Hi , seth. I love this time of year. It’s a wonderful time to teach children about Jesus and His sacrifice. On Good friday, the kids and I sat in the living room and read thru all gospel accounts on the crucifixion of our Lord….. I thought it was fitting that we just ‘happened’ to be reading about it during the hours the Son of God himself hung on Calvary… 12pm – 3 pm……. At one point I began to weep. My kids all became super quiet and as we continued to read, I could tell they really were “getting it”….
    It’s never too young to share with our children about Calvary.. let them grow up knowing what our precious Lord did for us…… let them know that yes He bled, was scouraged, smitten and scorned.. all this did jesus not only for us, as parents – but for them as well.
    In my opinion the earlier you teach them the better.
    Sincere regards,
    gloria

    Comment by gloria — April 13, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

  10. What age are your kids gloria?

    Comment by Seth R. — April 13, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  11. As a father this Easter, the message of the Atonement has weighed heavily on me more so than at any other time in my life. This weekend my 17 year old son, my first born, my name sake my pride and joy has told us he is gay and I don’t know how to handle it. I’m stunned and all I can do is grieve for the loss of my dreams and expectations for him. This in uncharted territory for me I Love him greatly but I don’t know how to counsel him. I have always looked to a future with a mission, education, marriage and family, sure in the knowledge that the gospel would lead him in the right direction. Now I try to imagine his future and all I see is darkness and despair and I can’t quit grieving for the loss.

    Comment by Todd — April 13, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

  12. Todd,

    I’m not sure being gay disqualifies you for a mission. It’s inappropriate sexual relations that do that.

    At any rate, I’ve worried how I would react if my 2 year old boy ended up in a similar situation. It’s rough. But the only thing I can think is – I wouldn’t want to make it worse by making his loving participation in the family conditional.

    Focus on values you can come together on. Whether you agree with homosexuality or not, I think both camps can agree that teenagers should be having respectful relationships, and sex shouldn’t be a part of that at this stage.

    Also keep this in mind – you child is not “broken.” He’s not a defect. He is still capable of an incredibly joyful and fulfilling life (regardless of whether or not his state of “being gay” ever changes).

    Help him have it. Take goodness where you find it.

    Comment by Seth R. — April 13, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

  13. Seth R.
    Please don’t interpret my sadness as rejection, I love him very much and I would never reject him. He is a good young man always willing to help and serve and he has a testimony and a good heart. But knowing how hard it would be to deny your sexuality would you risk your sons soul further by ordaining him to the Melchizedic priesthood or helping him make temple covenants?
    And yet thought that I will never see him give his mission return address, witness his sealing in the temple or hold his new born son in his arms breaks my heart. I only know the type of life I have lived and the one he may be choosing is a complete mystery to me but to me it can have no lasting joy and I wish he would not go that way.

    Comment by Todd — April 13, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  14. First Tom’s post almost makes me laugh, and now your post almost makes me cry. That’s why I love you guys.

    Comment by Susan M — April 13, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

  15. Thanks, MCQ and Eric. My daughter will be 3 in June but I have not done a lot of thinking on how to teach her about the Cross, especially in my interfaith situation. Protestants usually emphasize that all individuals (even children) have a personal need to have their sins forgiven, but we get criticized for teaching children that they’re sinful and need to repent. The question on how my husband and I might disagree on what to teach our daughter about the atonement hasn’t really occurred to me until now.

    Thankfully, I still have time to think it over. She’s only 2 years old.

    Seth ~ I don’t know, how do you explain an event to kids that’s supposed to be a mystery?

    Best I can say is, you try. We’re all making this up as we go along, aren’t we?

    Todd ~ Love your son for who he is. Let him know what you would like him to be, but his choices have to be his own. If he still wants to go on a mission or anything, great, but don’t try to force him if he does not want to; that never works out well.

    Becoming a homosexual is not the worst thing that could happen to your child, and it is not the worst choice your son could make. His life doesn’t have to be darkness and despair; just different from what you thought it would be. And I don’t want to sound homophobic, but I have seen people go from being homosexual to being straight. Don’t discount the possibility for change.

    We will pray for you both here.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — April 13, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

  16. Hi, seth. I have 10 kids — ages 16 yob, 14 yog, 12 yog, 11 yob, 11 yog, 8 yroldtwin boys, 6 yog, 5yob, & last but definately not least, our ‘baby’ … 4 yr old girl!

    Even my littlest one, will thank God in her prayers that ” Jesus dwied on the cwoss for me”… precious moments.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

    Comment by gloria — April 14, 2009 @ 7:45 am

  17. Dear Todd,
    MY heart goes out to you. I will be praying for you todd and your son. Praying that despite his choices he is making you may love him all the more. Jesus calls us to love one another and it’s so very hard to do that when a loved one is making choices that just break our hearts…..
    Praying,
    gloria

    Comment by gloria — April 14, 2009 @ 7:47 am

  18. Jack,
    I appreciated your remarks. I too have met men who have gone from being homosexual to being strait. God is still in the business of miracles, and can definately change hearts. I think it’s times like these when our “love” for our fellow beings is really put to a test… it’s easy to love those who do what we wish them to do…. but the real test of love comes when we are called to love those that are radically different or doing things we deeply oppose. May God grant each of us a full portion of His agape love.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

    Comment by gloria — April 14, 2009 @ 7:51 am

  19. Seth, I don’t think the event itself is a mystery. It’s actually pretty easy for kids to understand the event of Christ’s death and resurrection. I think the mystery is how that death and pain actually paid for our sins and how it gives us the power of immortality and repentance. I don’t know the how, that’s a mystery, but I know it’s a fact and I can tell my kids that. They have yet to even ask the how question, and they’re teenagers now.

    Todd: My sympathies to you and your family. I understand your feelings somewhat but I think you are perhaps overreacting just a bit. I have a 15 yr old son and I have thought about what I would think if he made the same announcement. I don’t think I would feel te same as you do.

    First, a lot of 17 yr olds say things without knowing what they’re talking about. He may be wrong in his assessment of his sexuality. It happens, so don’t make any drastic assumptions, and try to talk him out of any final conclusions on the subject until he explores his feelings a bit further.

    Second, even if he is right about his feelings and he chooses to live the rest of his life as a gay man, there is still hope that he can have all of the things you want for him, provided that he still wants them. He can still serve a mission, he can still go to the temple, he can still have children. I have gay friends who have done all of these things.

    His life may be different than you planned, but there is no reason to abandon these dreams if he still has a testimony of the gospel and a desire to see these things happen in his life. God bless you and your son as you work through this difficult issue.

    Comment by MCQ — April 14, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

  20. Todd–I know how it feels when it appears that your child has shut himself off from the life you hoped for him; I too have children whose choices are not the ones I would have chosen for them. One of my children has turned himself around with the Lord’s help and that helps me feel better about my own parenting.

    The choices our kids make are more about them then they are about us. We taught them as well as we could at the time and now they get to make their own choices. Try not to mourn too deeply. Your son isn’t done yet–and neither are you. Heavenly Father is still working on you both.

    For an LDS perspective on living righteously although fwwling same gender attraction, you may wish to read http://how-i-deal.blogspot.com/ It is by an active, temple attending woman who deals with this.

    Comment by Norma P — April 15, 2009 @ 12:05 am

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