When I became a mom I forgot how to sleep. It was like I just had no idea how much there is to worry about. Well, now I know. I know real good.
3 am seemed to be the magic time to wake up and visualize my kids living on a street corner strung out on heroin. It would start with me replaying the argument I had with my seven-year-old, then I’d think she’ll never really know I love her if we fight all the time, then I was like, if she feels like she can’t ever make me happy she’ll get a perfection complex, then that perfection complex will turn into an eating disorder and then she’ll turn to drugs and then…street corner…heroin, etc.
It’s stressful. And these are real things that happen to the children of real, lovely and good people! I felt like if I’m not a perfect mom, how could these three wonderful little wackadoos I’m raising ever have a chance of turning out okay in this really stressful, dangerous, sad world? Beyond that, with all my oh so so many imperfections, how will they ever be able to get deep, lasting testimonies of the Gospel in a world where so many are turning away? How does that even work? Is it possible? I can say and do stuff to try and teach them, but how do I get it to sink in and help them appreciate and want truth, goodness and light when so many can’t see the purpose of the light?
I spent about 6 years of 3 ams this way. Miserable. Afraid. Panicked (and consequently very very tired and grouchy during the day). But then two things happened:
1- Yes. I realized I have an anxiety disorder (so feel free not to diagnose me). But don’t we all anymore. Still knowing it’s there has definitely helped me manage it.
2- Dreams. But not mine. I’ll explain.
About a year ago my oldest daughter, Amelia, ran into my room early one morning. She bounced (she always bounces because she’s part kangaroo) onto the bed and with the glowiest smile told me she had “the best dream ever!”
What is the best dream ever when you’re six? Not a new puppy, or living in a cotton candy castle and riding a pet unicorn. She bounced around telling me how in her best dream ever she got to meet the prophet AND give him a hug.
That was the moment my 3 am anxiety induced panic over not being enough when it came to teaching my children the gospel straight up died. (We did not throw said panic a funeral. It was undeserving.) I suddenly felt total peace. I realized as the words left her mouth that I had been completely foolish.
I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and…drumroll…He loves my children too. I had cut Him out of the equation and forgotten to trust that He will help. I am not alone (I mean, I’m really not alone, because my good husband is also working to teach them the gospel. Not to mention grandparents and aunts and uncles and on and on) and just as I’ve had spiritual experiences that have built and sustained my faith in the Savior and in his restored church, my children will be given the experiences they need. I actually do not need to be perfect. I really don’t. I have divine help that wants my children to succeed even more than I do. I can put this worry at the feet of the Savior and I can move on and do my best. And, it turns out, that is enough.
In those moments, the spirit told me that hope is real. All those horrible outcomes could be possible. But if they happen, it’s not my fault for being imperfect. The most perfect teacher, the spirit, is working in my children and should they choose all the things that will bring them undesirable outcomes, it’s because they have agency. They really can choose, but, so long as I’m trying, those decisions are not mine to own. And, best of all, because I’m not alone in this, they’ll have the experiences and opportunities they’ll need to make good choices that will bring them joy and peace in a crazy bones world. This is a pretty perfect arrangement, if ever there was one.
A few weeks ago, Zoey, my five-year-old (non-kangaroo) daughter woke up and told me she had a really great dream. She met Jesus and it made her feel so happy.
I sleep very well now, thank you for asking.
Written by Becki Johnson for LatterDayWomen.com
Linda O. says
Wow! You wrote this! You are an excellent writer! This is really really good! This is so good! I love it! I love the message! You are very talented! ❤
I always love to read your writing, and how you spread your truth with humor, my twisted sister! 😉
I love this, Becki, and I completely relate. When I was at the Jimmy Carter museum, I heard a Sunday school lesson he taught. I expected to hear about his faith in relation to his leadership responsibilities. I expected to enjoy his experiences at a safe distance, but something he said hit me right between the eyes. He said that people with faith are willing to take risks. Because of their faith in God, they are able to lead fearlessly. I realized that as a mother, I don’t have to be afraid all that time. In fact, trusting in God will help me to lead fearlessly.
Nisha Riggs says
Great article Becky!
There are a few sacrament talks that I’ve heard over the last yr where the same sentiment was shared about our children, “They were mine [Heavenly Fathers] before they were yours.” This knowledge has brought so much peace to parents of wayward children. He knows them and He is also working to being them home to Him!