Carmen Rasmusen Herbert
Briggs Herbert, Carmen Herbert's son, shovels the driveway for a neighbor after listening to a lesson on service in Primary.

“Mom, am I being good?”

My 5-year-old asks me this question on a daily basis. I have probably written more columns about this child than I can count, most of them about his large personality (aka difficult behaviors). But just as Newton’s third law states, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” my little Briggs truly has a heart as big as his iron will. He is equal parts frustrating and endearing, loud and soft, aggressive and sensitive.

He’s my greatest challenge and greatest joy.

This past week he came from our newly shortened two-hour church meeting schedule, and announced they had talked about how to help others in Primary, and that he had decided he was going to shovel our neighbor's sidewalks. It was snowing pretty hard, and I told him that he probably wouldn’t get much done. He said he didn’t care. I told him it was really cold outside, and that he could be Mommy’s helper inside making cake instead. He refused — he only wanted to shovel the walks.

I began to explain to him the physical exertion of merely lifting our large snow shovel by himself, let alone using it to scoop up snow and carry it off to the side when I stopped myself. What am I doing? My little boy had learned about serving others and wanted to put that knowledge into action right away. He wanted to do something kind for our neighbors, something he thought they’d need, that he’d come up with all by himself. Why in the world was I refusing him that opportunity?

So, I stayed in the freezing garage and helped him slip his heavy snow coat on top of his pressed white shirt. He put on his boots over his church pants, lifted the giant shovel from the rack, and trudged next door to begin clearing the snow from our neighbor’s RV pad. Never mind that he mainly just moved the heavy, wet snow from one location to another, or that he picked the least used portion of the driveway to focus on. He was out there, by himself, doing something nice for someone else.

Briggs came inside soon after, cheeks bright red from the cold and exertion, and my husband, Brad, who had just returned home from a meeting and saw Briggs outside, bent over and wrapped him in a hug, holding on for a long while.

“I wanted to shovel their walks, Dad,” he said. “Was that nice?”

“It was so nice, buddy,” my husband replied. “I’m proud of you.”

He walked into the kitchen as Briggs skipped away.

“He’s something special,” Brad said.

“Do you mean he’s special as in, really amazing, or special as in ‘bless his heart he’s unique?’” I joked.

“I mean that seriously.”

That stopped me for a minute. I wondered if I was looking at him — at all my children — as the incredibly amazing special human beings they really are.

I set a goal this year to be more present in my boys' lives. Specifically, that meant putting down my phone more, saying "yes" when they asked me to play with them, and actually listening to their stories that go on and on and on.

2 comments on this story

One of the things that helped me get a jump start on purposeful parenting is a course by pediatrician and author Meg Meekercalled, “Discipline with Courage and Kindness.” Her insights and advice aren’t really anything groundbreaking or new, but they have helped me to make my parenting a priority. I love how honest, straightforward and relatable she is. Her course has already changed the way I talk and respond to my children.

Our children want to be good. They want our praise and approval and acceptance and love. I hope each of us can take some time to think about each one of our special children and see how we can improve our relationship with them. For me, it’s recognizing and pointing out the good as often as I can.

Yes, Briggs. You are good.