Author's note: The second article in the series on attitudes and paradigms for parents will be delayed a week so we can bring you this piece about discouragement.
We get a lot of letters and questions from parents, and the feelings range from wonderful to worthless.
We're going to combine and quote anonymously from a couple of very sad and discouraged recent emails:
"We feel like our lives have been laid waste by the unfaithfulness and rebellion of our kids. … We have done everything: family home evenings, 100 percent church attendance, family prayer. We even tried homeschooling and took vacations to LDS destination sites and did all we knew or learned how to do, and still they have strayed.
"Our hearts are breaking. Our children aren't going the Lord's way and show no interest in changing no matter what we do. We have been married now for 30 years and always active and seeking. Feeling pretty worthless."
No two stories are the same — and no two marriages and no two families — so it is so hard to say something empathetic and appropriate to discouraged and frustrated parents. (And aren't we all that way sometimes?)
But what we can do is tell two stories that may help a little, and give new perspective and perhaps a little new hope:
The first is a story we told in detail in an earlier column, about a bragging father in Sunday School who kept raising his hand and giving answers and comments that implied he had all the parenting answers and that all his kids were on the right track and high achieving and righteous and just about perfect on everything. Late in the class a small, timid fellow dared to raise his own hand. He got called on, stood, faced the big bragger and said something amazing.
"Excuse me sir, but God must not have thought much of you as a parent, sending you all those easy kids."
We need to remember that our children come as who they are, from a premortal life where they have already developed much of their personality and character. If you have a difficult and rebellious child, perhaps that same little man could say to you, "God must have thought quite a lot of you as a parent, sending you that tough challenge."
Story 2: We had just finished a parenting speech, and people were lined up to talk to us. One woman, back a bit in the line, was just sobbing. I (Richard) wondered what I might have said to hurt or offend her. When she finally got up to us, she was still crying and I asked what was wrong. "I've lost my son," she sobbed.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, he's just gone. He's 18 so the police say he can do what he wants. He says he hates his family. We know he has drugs, and he's just disappeared. We have not heard of him for two months."
I had no idea what to say or how to comfort her, but I put my hand on her shoulder and tried to empathize. Clumsily, I blurted, "So you've pretty much given up on him then?"
Suddenly there was a change in the woman. She stopped crying. She straightened up and squared her shoulders. And she met my eyes for the first time. "Given up?" she said, almost defiantly. "He is my son! I will never, ever give up!"
Where I had seen almost pathetic sorrow, I now saw strength. This was a noble, committed mother, and while she was stricken with grief and worry, the thought of giving up on her son would never occur to her. She taught me that day, and strengthened me. I then told her something that I had never fully understood before:
"Because you will never give up, you WILL have reconciliation with your son. I don't know if it will be in a month or a year or in 10 years or in the spirit world, but you will be together again in love.
"To those who believe in eternity and in family bonds that never die … and who never give up, there is no failure, there is only delay.
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