I have to say, I am not the mom who worries about the distant future. I'm the mom who worries about why my kids are so hard to get to sleep, why they don't say more words, if they are getting enough vegetables, if they are watching too much tv. But this week I've been worried, almost more than my heart can bear, about the world my kids will grow up in. When I was a kid, I walked to and from elementary school every day with my friends. I don't ever see a time when I'd let my kids do that. I worry my children will not have the same sweet simple innocent childhood I had. I worry about the way they will be treated because of their beliefs. The world is changing rapidly, and people with certain beliefs and opinions, even when filled with love for their fellow men, are labeled bigots and haters. I dream of a world where my daughter can say she believes in this and this, and someone else can say they believe in that and that, and they will respect and love each other despite their differences. But as I watch everything unfold, I worry my children will face so much more adversity than I did, their faith will be challenged and they will be scorned for their beliefs. My heart aches for them, and I pray I can give them a strong enough foundation to face the storms that will surely come.
In that context, I've been reflecting a lot on my firstborn. She is smart and perceptive. She is wise beyond her nearly-four years. She picks up on things, she grasps things. She says so many funny things, but it is the deeper conversations I find myself having with her that have brought me comfort this week.
A few excerpts.
When kids are doing something I have told Carly not to do, I tell her, "No one told them not to do it. I am your mommy, not their mommy, and I am telling you not to do it." She gets that. I've slowly started introducing the concept of modesty to her, like keeping her dress down, wearing sleeves at church, and not showing our tummy in swim suits. We were looking at her Disney Princess book:
"Why is Jasmine's tummy showing?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," I answered. "But it would be good to cover up her tummy, huh?"
"Yeah. I think no one ever told her to cover her tummy."
I was putting make-up on and she said she wanted to put make-up on "so I can look pretty at church." The last thing I want is for her to think beauty comes from make-up. I told her that I don't wear make-up to look pretty. "Why do you wear make-up then?" she asked. Isn't that a question? "Its just how mommies get all the way ready to go, just like you brush your hair and put on your shoes." Just then Chris was coming up the stairs. I said, "I bet daddy thinks I look just as beautiful with no make-up on as when I have make-up on. Should we ask him?" She smiled excitedly and agreed. Chris came in and, bless him, didn't miss a beat. I asked and he stressed how beautiful we both were without make-up and Carly had the biggest smile. And on the days where I don't manage to get make-up on (there are a lot of them) and she asks why, I tell her I don't need it all the time. Its ok to not always wear it. I want her to remember that.
Carly has been noticing differences in people more and more. There have been embarrassing moments, like when she saw a large person at the grocery store and commented loudly on her "really big tummy!" Oh, dear. Another time at the grocery store, we saw a little boy with only one arm. She was starting to point at him so I pulled her away. I knelt down to face her and she asked, "Why did that boy only have one arm?"
"Heavenly Father makes everyone different," I told her. "He made you with yellow hair and me with red hair. He made you with two arms and that little boy with one."
"But why would He do that? You need two arms."
I was caught off guard by this. What a question. Why, indeed, do people experience the challenges that they do in in life?
"He knew that boy could do things just as good with one arm," I said. "And He will help him."
I was trying some clothes on in a dressing room, and out of the blue Carly asked, "Why did Jesus get nails in his hands when he died?" I had no idea where it came from, but it was one of those times you don't give a quick answer in the rush of a shopping trip. I sat down and had her sit on my lap. I explained there were mean people who didn't know how special Jesus was, so they put nails in His hands. I told her the nails left marks on His hands, just like an owie, so when people meet Him now, they can look at His hands and know it is really Jesus. "When you die, will you get nails in your hands?" she asked. "No, just Jesus," I answered. "Because He is special and He loves us so much. But then, the nails came out and what happened?"
Her face lit up. "He got resurrected! And you will too."
These conversations seem small, but these conversations mean everything. Listen to her. She is smart and logical. She is figuring things out. She is learning important principles like valuing herself as a daughter of God, loving and accepting others, and faith in her Savior. She has a perfect faith, but even at three years old it is not a blind faith. It is an observant faith.
Some day, someone is going to tease her for not dating until she is 16. She is going to be pressured to give up her virtue. She is going to be challenged because of her standards. She is going to be called ignorant because of her faith. It is these conversations and the thousands more to come that remind me of her goodness. They remind me that if we continue to teach her, if we continue to help her feel the spirit and live close to her Heavenly Father, she will be comforted even in her loneliest hours and she will be strong enough to be a shining example to those around her.
In all my motherly worrying this week, I look at her sparkling little spirit, her innocence, her goodness, her love, her faith, and I hear the prophet's voice reminding me: "Her future is as bright as her faith."