“Where did she come from?” My teenage daughter asked about her younger sister. She couldn’t see any traits in her sister that resembled anything she saw in me or my husband. She pointed out her other siblings and how she sees similarities that seem genetically passed on. But what about this sister? I thought of her personality that is all her own. And I was reminded and said aloud, “she came from Heavenly Father.”
This daughter is full of life. She lives in the moment and can really light up a room with her laughter and bright personality. When I tell her to go clean her room, she often comes to me when she’s done to surprise me with how wonderful it looks. To me, clean is simple, nothing on floors and counters-everything put away. But I walk in her room and there is stuff everywhere! Yet it’s all organized-with the room decorated with stuffed animals all over her bed- placed strategically. Several ribbons taped to the ceiling, dangling overhead. In the corner is a cardboard box I was going to throw away-she made into a doghouse with some spray paint, tape and scissors. I recognize a large piece of wood I had put in the garage to throw away-she’s brought it up to her room and painted all over it. What I see as organized clutter, she sees as beautiful and artistic. And if I look around her room and put aside any expectations of seeing what I want to see, I see a beautiful expression of a child. I see what makes her great. I see art, a love for animals, little trinkets and treasures, color and beauty. I just love this girl.
Our relationship has been a real blessing in my life lately. It hasn’t always been this way. For a while, I worried about her and felt like I needed to help her be different than she was. I would see things she says and does and think, “You shouldn’t do that.” When I think this way, the Spirit often brings to my mind this scene of when she was a baby. These are adorable traits that are part of who she is. And I had been seeing them in a negative way. If I try to change this about her, I am trying to take away her very nature. Her gifts.
When I try to change things I don’t like about myself-these things are magnified. And I stumble and withdraw from the world. These things are the flip side of my strengths. Same with my kids. And focusing on what gifts me and my kids have to offer the world magnifies these things. When I adore my daughter, I see her as a treasure and gift to our family. I am so grateful to get to be her mom.
I have learned through too much trial and error to count, that I have to stop trying to change my kids. When I’m struggling with one of my kids I am continually reminded by the Spirit of how Heavenly Father parents me. He loves me unconditionally. He allows me experiences that can all be for my growth. Out of love he doesn’t save me from consequences that are inevitable, or from heartbreaks that are all for my growth. Through the Spirit He offers gentle and loving guidance.
Sometimes I think I’m in control here and I feel this weighty responsibility for my children. I think they have to do things a certain way. I often think I have to protect them from all these things so nothing bad will ever happen to them. To borrow a line from Finding Nemo, “If nothing ever happens to them, then nothing will ever happen to them.” “Oh but I can save them from having to learn the hard way! Think of all the heartaches I could save them from!” So I lecture and nag. I hate the term nag, so I say things nicely-over and over again:) And I feel uncomfortable about it. And it’s really stressful too, “Why won’t they listen to me?” That discomfort comes from doing something I shouldn’t. I feel the Spirit telling me I shouldn’t do this and to stop. And I may try to justify what I’m doing, “I only want to help them! But what if I don’t do or say the right thing and they make mistakes!” The Spirit reminds me I’m not their Savior. There is only one Savior. And what I might see as a “mistake” might not be a mistake at all. That I need to love them, help them blossom and discover the light and gifts they were born with and given from God. And let go. Let go of control. Heavenly Father loves us all enough to give us the gift of agency. We get to choose! And I can’t take that away from anyone. Even if I think I have the best of intentions, I am continually reminded by the Spirit that I’m not here to change anybody.
There’s a saying that goes, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And I’ve mistakenly used this line to try and change someone by changing me. And I try pretty hard to change me-so that they will change. “But why aren’t they changing? And why is this still so hard?” I’ve tried to “love” people into changing them. Looks so obviously wrong as I type it out. When I try to change people at all, I am reminded by the Spirit (again and again) that I need to stop. I can’t change anybody. I can love people. I can see what’s great about them. I can share what I’ve learned in my own life. And I don’t know what they need to hear but the Lord does. I can follow loving promptings and reach out in love-not fear. It’s easier for me to see this with people that aren’t so close to me. But with close relationships, it’s hard to let go of this control and fearful thinking. But every time I do, I don’t feel stressed and bothered by the person. I feel more love for them.
I have to remember, “I’m not here to change anybody.” And the stress melts away, and the love grows.