Here’s a reboot of my post about the divinity in femininity. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.
“I suck at parenting” I said into the phone, to Jeff, after spending another morning being Truman’s cattle-driver, torturer, and worst enemy–all in the name of getting him to school.
I’ve been a parent for seventeen years and yet what do I know about effective parenting? It doesn’t feel like much on days like today.
Truman wouldn’t get ready for school. This is his low-key avoidance tactic. It doesn’t work, because I still make him go to school. What it does predictably do is INFURIATE me. I have to drag him from his hiding spots around the house into the kitchen. I have to physically force his feet into socks and shoes, like he’s a baby. Same with his jacket. I have to pin him between myself and the sink in the bathroom to comb his hair, else he runs away. I have to LIFT his seven-year-old self into the car because he won’t get in otherwise. At school, I have to physically place him at his desk until the teacher comes over to place a hand on his shoulders so he won’t run after me.
The other moms get to stay nice and incognito in their cars with their messy buns and their leggings. Meanwhile, I’m trudging past the drop-off line of cars trying to look like my sunglasses, beanie, and athleisure look is completely intentional.
I’m the muppet with the pitchfork in this scenario. And no pants.
Today, the last four months of doing this every day coalesced into this moment of white hot rage at the futility of hand-over-hand, step-by-step enforcing my first-grader to go do something he struggles with day after endless day.
I shouted at him as I put on his shoes. I told him I am working really hard as his mom to help him, and this behavior is making me crazy. I yelled. He cried. He told me he doesn’t like school. We moved like a shuffling chain gang to the car, where I backed out of the garage and said the prayer. Yay for praying just minutes after screaming at your little kid. Do prayers like that even work?
I suppose I am making this about me, when it’s really his struggle. I’m the parent. The adult. The person tasked with remaining call in the face of every bad/difficult behavior autism has ever thrown my way. I know enough about behavior modification to know that reacting with ANY EMOTION to such behaviors is a surefire way to make sure those behaviors are repeated.
But here’s the thing. I feel physically incapable of remaining neutral. It’s a little late to ask me to remove all emotion from my parenting life, isn’t it Universe?
The irony of disabilities parenting is that the most egregious and heinous behaviors should ideally be met with complete and utter indifference.
Reader, I suck at this.
One might think that one’s reactions to the most maddening behaviors associated with autism would dim over time. Well, it’s not actually playing out that way for me. It’s like all the neuroses, rigidity of thinking, and pervasive anxieties I’ve faced in parenting people on the spectrum these many years are building with volcanic pressure to the point where I am effing losing it.
Allow me to pause from my lament long enough to tell you about two other notable things happened today:
First, I listened to a handful of the war chapters from Alma in the Book of Mormon and while I was fairly distracted with feeling my own inadequacy, I did pick up on the fact that in every threat, hardship, and battle, the Nephites were triumphant when they relied on God and lived as He had taught them. When they didn’t, they faced those threats and hardships and battles without God’s strength behind them, which basically meant they floundered and flailed.
There was no victory.
So I salted this little nugget away and wondered what I need to be doing differently to feel shored up by divine power when I’m about to blow a gasket.
Second, I took my mom on some errands and we stopped at Habit Burger for lunch, where I happened to see two of my dear friends from college, Nick and Emily. They were there with their caboose baby and we shared big hugs and a table while we ate burgers and fries and talked about how Henry is now the age that Nick was when I first met him (stop it; mind-blown).
When we left, I thought how funny it was that I ran into them. We never see each other. And to bump into two of my favorites and share a serendipitous lunch with them? Are you kidding me? There is no such thing as a coincidence. We drove toward Target (yay Target) and I felt God had organized this little random meeting as a gift to me on a day when I felt like a person-shaped object constructed of crap and regrets.
He did that for me. He helped me see my friends and feel love–to grasp a sense that the world is bigger than my parenting woes.
He rebooted me.
I felt happy.
Reader, I was a brat this morning. I was not a great mom. I didn’t even deserve this tender mercy, and God gave it to me anyway.
Why is He so good?
I guess it’s His prerogative. He’s God and as Elder Holland has said, “Surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.”
He did that for me.
The other day I read this: “And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son” (Alma 11:33).
So there you have my Thanksgiving Miracle. It’s Jesus. He redeemed me in my ineffectual, overly-emotional ways. And my Heavenly Parents turned to me and poured out love and mercy.
I mean seriously though.
They did that. For me.
In a spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m pondering things for which I’m profoundly grateful. It’s appropriate for this month, but really for anytime, always.
After having been sick for several weeks, I’m thankful for health, and modern medicine, and hot showers. Emerging from illness is like breaking free from an eggshell and giving thanks that life can be big again–not defined by the confines of one’s shell. For those who face chronic illness, my heart aches for you. You do things that most people can’t understand, and you do them bravely.
I’m deeply thankful for books, and for the time I have to read them. There have been periods in my life when I couldn’t read. I just mentally couldn’t be still enough to focus. Sometimes I felt the weight of my own problems so much, I couldn’t read about someone else’s problems. This distance from the release and rejuvenation I find in reading was painful. I’m so glad that people write stories, that the world is a creative place, that books nourish my mind in ways the internet simply can’t. I have wondered if there are books in heaven, or if everything is simply instantly accessible by our big, brilliant minds. I don’t know, but I’m banking on oodles and oddles of stories. I also love movies, which are visual representations of something that someone wrote. Three cheers for films. And libraries.
Live Music, Dancing, Theater
I attended the ballet last weekend with my mom and Charlie (he’s my one ballet-loving child), and felt that familiar exultant tingle through my body when the conductor led the live orchestra in playing live, glorious music to accompany the live, exquisite ballet dancers. It is just so incredibly beautiful, all of it. And magical, all these moving parts and people creating something so lovely in real time before our eyes. I will never not be astonished by the power of the arts.
I got to Facetime my giant lanky ginger teen yesterday. Every time I see him, I’m filled with a swelling of gratitude for the darling and wonderful young men who take care of our Jacky. They are so good. They see Jack for who he is. Jack loves them. They make all our lives possible. It’s pretty ding dong fantastic the way Jack is influencing everyone in his sphere, while they are doing the nurturing, charitable work of helping Jack to fulfill his life’s mission. I feel God arranged this intentionally. We are a web of caregivers, all of us, helping and being helped by the people life brings to us.
Every semester they change, and every semester I love them just the same. It’s such a privilege to meet so many people and learn from them, even while teaching them. God gives me a little glimpse of my students’ potential when they are in my classes, and I just basically absolutely freaking love them. I love them for who they are now and for who they have the capacity to become. It’s a gift to me that our paths have crossed.
The Promise of Eternal Life
When my dad died, when Jack’s diagnoses leveled our lives, when two of my other boys were diagnosed, when every hard thing happened in the interim, my baseline thought was, “I’m so thankful for Jesus Christ, for making life about more than the pangs of mortality.” There’s healing and strength in Him. When everything else is bombed from our lives, He remains, and he nurtures us with both power and pure love.
You’re a beautiful woman of a certain age. There’s loveliness in maturity, and you’ve got it.
Dear Murder Mysteries,
Why did it take me my whole life to find and appreciate you? Let’s get married.
Dear My Students,
I love you all so bleeping much. You’re adorable and amazing. Stop emailing me late papers.
Dear My Children,
Just when I think I know about parenting, you get creative with the attitudes and behaviors. Remember how you thought I didn’t ride roller coasters in Disneyland? Well, parenting you guys is a giant roller coaster so joke’s on you.
Dear Holiday Music,
I really love you, but you’re making all the feelings of my childhood Christmases well up in a hot pressing ball in my chest, and I can’t even. Maybe in small doses. But if you whip out I’ll Be Home for Christmas or Silent Night, there is going to be a situation. Those are my dad’s songs. Back away slowly.
Dear Daylight Saving Time,
Ugh. Everything that everyone says about you is true, which is not a compliment.
Seeing you for 20 minutes last week was really good. Some day in the next life we will have long conversations and all the distance between us will shrink to a hands-breadth. When that day comes, I WILL BE THERE FOR IT.
Dear Charlie and My Mom,
Thanks for being my ballet dates this season. I love that you love what I love.
Dear People Who Loathe the Christmas Creep,
I’m putting up my tree within the week. Avert your eyes. It will be okay.
Dear Sweater Weather,
I like you. You can stay.
My littlest boy is seven years old today and I’m like, “what.”
I can truthfully say that Truman’s birth was the actual beginning of the most trying and refining period of my life. I honestly don’t even know if anything I have yet to experience will come close to the deeply difficult, yet transforming experience that was the half dozen years when I had all my young children under one roof.
It was so hard.
Once in college, I had an education professor who was then in the season of her life where I am now. She was teaching college classes and raising two young boys. In class one day, she said something to the effect of, “You think you are busy now. And you are. You are in school and that makes life busy. But you will one day become infinitely busier. It will make this time in your lives seem like a cake walk.” I’m pretty sure I curled my lip in disgust when I heard this, because gosh dang it, I WAS BUSY. Who did she think she was?
But she was right.
Life ratcheted up the intensity steadily through the years until that moment early in the morning one November 3rd when Truman came into the world prematurely. The increasing pressure did not let up. Not ever.
Not until sometime in the last six months–as I came to terms with my dad’s eternal progress on the other side of the veil & Jack’s living situation changing in miraculous ways–and I reached homeostasis.
It may be fleeting, but I am holding this sense of equilibrium gently and carefully within myself.
In the last week, I’ve talked to two friends who are facing a new diagnosis and a premature/scary baby delivery, respectively. They both reached out to me and I felt this huge sense of gratitude that I had been through it before. I simply knew what it felt like. I could offer them my experience as a bridge to a future day when things will be less terrifying, and even peaceful.
I hope that doesn’t sound smug. I don’t feel smug; I feel empathetic. And grateful that the Savior led me through the supreme mess of my parenting life into a place which often feels balanced.
I know it’s not fashionable to talk about Jesus being the reason for finding happiness in the weird complexities of life, but that’s the reality I have lived. I don’t believe he’s there for me. The last seven years have shown me that he IS unequivocally there for me.
My friend Marla and I were recently texting about some things, and about the counter-intuitive feeling of peace she has in the middle of so much uncertainty. She said, “I don’t think it is positive thinking. I think it is my testimony of God and His ability to take care of me.”
It was like she had struck a gong somewhere in my midsection. I thrummed with the resonance of her words.
Life can be impossibly hard. It will be impossibly hard. My Heavenly Parents get it. They weep with me.
The good news of my life has been that Jesus gets it because he’s lived it.
My miracle is that his whole purpose is to see me in my trials and see me through them.
I’ve written before about how Halloween is a sad day for me. It just is. I suppose I have PTSD from all the years when my children on the spectrum struggled mightily to both embrace and tolerate the excitement and sensory overload of this particular holiday.
I don’t like the way it makes my kids into overwrought child-shaped tornadoes. Too much candy. Too much freaking out over costumes. Too much noise and expectation and frenzy. Autism plus Halloween equals the worst, don’t ask me.
Well, this Halloween has been no exception to this stupid personal tradition.
Truman opted out of the party/parade/chaos of the elementary school. Charlie soaked it up, meanwhile, in his truly hideous creepy clown costume, but also flipped out over just about everything. Henry and pals dressed as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He was the one with the orange mask. I forget which one that is.
And I finished prepping my Thursday lesson and cleaned the kitchen. Raise your hand if you cry while doing the dishes.
I feel old.
I feel wrinkly.
I feel out of shape and my shoulder hurts since I’ve been sick and haven’t exercised in quite some time.
I feel incapable of fully managing Truman’s neuroses and sensory integration issues.
I feel tired of the sensory explosion that is Halloween.
I feel sad remembering my dad dying at this time last year.
I feel like I want to be a hermit and never leave my house.
I feel like taking a nap. Or reading. But definitely escaping my own thoughts.
I’m writing this addendum after Halloween.
When evening rolled around, I put on my happy face and handed out candy with a smile. The boys went trick-or-treating with their friends and loved it.
I put Jeff on door duty at 8 pm and I cleaned up all the Halloween decorations. After boxing up the vestiges of the holiday which wears me out like nothing else can, I got in the shower and let the day die.
November 1 dawned cloudy and drizzly. I listened to Christmas music on my way to campus because it’s my car and I do what I want.
It was a new day, and it felt like a clean start.
I haven’t been writing a whole lot. Part of this is because I have been sick for the last ten days and the only things that interest me are sleeping and not coughing.
Part of this is because of a cloak of ennui has wrapped itself around me–a nice, soft, velvety cloak of weirdly complacent intellectual boredom.
I have stopped reading. I had been devouring Tana French murder mysteries, up until late one night when Jeff was away working and the boys were sleeping, and the TV in the kitchen turned on, blaring loudly, BY ITSELF and I wanted to die, but instead I crept downstairs and turned it off like the warrior princess I am. I’ve since decided to lay off the murder mysteries for now.
But my brain also just can’t focus. Reading? Writing? What, why? All I care about currently is cough syrup and the mint chocolate chip ice cream that feels nice on my throat.
This could be because I am always questioning my writing content. Is it just more of the same? Is it simply processed and re-formed sentences about my version of spirituality? Do I even have anything to say? Ugh and also blar.
Because my brain isn’t firing on all cylinders, I offer you a few vignettes loosely related to special-needs parenting. Or my take on doing life. Or something.
Truman at OT
Truman has taken a real shining to occupational therapy because it involves a giant gym, which includes a zip line. So he’s a fan. Also, we now know how to talk about his inner “engine” and how fast it’s working and how we can effectively slow it down at times. It’s terrific.
I noticed in the waiting room that all the other moms were much younger than me, except the grandma who brought one child. One woman followed her preschool-aged son around with the backpack and tubing connected to his trach. She was petite and energetic, and at the beginning of her SN parenting journey.
If I’m being completely honest, I’ll tell you that I felt like a wizened husk of a parent. “I’ve done this so many times before with so many of my children,” I thought. This is like literally my fourth rodeo and I’m not so much jaded as I am tired of pretending to be bouncy about disabilities.
One thing remains consistent, I bought Truman a celebratory Happy Meal and myself a crisp Diet Coke when we were finished. We have always used drive-thrus as a means of reward and survival. Yay drive-thrus.
We haven’t seen Jack since August, which is the way it goes when he lives three hours away and we have three other children, so we planned a couple of visits for November and December.
There are moments which creep up on me, not quite daily, but often, when I have to pause and deal with the disconnect of Jack living far away and in other people’s care. I used to get an icy splash through my veins whenever this happened. My inner engine was working overtime in these situations.
Now, it’s more of a mental conversation I have with myself. It looks like this:
Me: I hate that Jack doesn’t live with his family. Are we doing enough for him? Even when we drive three hours to see him, he can only tolerate seeing us for around thirty minutes. And he can’t talk to me. Life is so strange and unexpected and frequently uncomfortable. Ugh.
Also me: Jack is living where God told us he needed to live. We are overseeing his care and praying for him and his caregivers every single day. Jack doesn’t want to hang out with us for long periods of time. He wants the Happy Meal, Reece’s cups, and toys we bring him. He is at peace with his life’s mission. You know this. Jack isn’t afraid. Stop worrying.
Will this inner dialogue ever cease? *insert shrug emoji*
Me at Hair Salon: A Tableau
At my hair appointment today, I thought about the fact that I am in a (knock on wood) calm stretch of ye olde parenting journey. I mean, yes I have to still physically drag Truman into first grade every damn day and we have to engage in ridiculous negotiations to get him to try any foods other than dino nuggets.
But comparatively, this is nothing.
My home isn’t full of behavior therapists or respite sitters every day. I’m not battling one school district or another for Jack’s right to an education. We aren’t living at Primary Children’s Hospital (just popping in occasionally). Our house doesn’t look like an orphanage anymore.
I stared out the window as I waited for my appointment and all I could think about was this: There is such luxury in spending time on things other than one’s survival.
I recently bought myself a handbag for my laptop. I hang out more with my mom. My house isn’t facing daily destruction. I can spend a day helping a neighbor. I’ve started cooking again. All of this is because I’m not drowning anymore.
Maybe this is how it works. We get periods of respite when we aren’t treading water, when we are in a rocking boat or, better yet, dry land. We will inevitably re-enter the water by some tide or sea creature dragging us in to once again swim for our lives.
But when we can, we rest. And we can help those who are still in the water.
This week, I had a vivid dream about Jack.
Jeff and I had picked him up for an outing at Sugarhouse Park, which incidentally was by our Sugarhouse home where we lived when Jack was a baby. I walked there multiple times per week with toddler Henry and baby Jack in the double jogger.
In the dream, the lake at the park was much bigger than it is in reality, and was spanned by a suspension bridge. Jack was on the bridge and Jeff and I were some distance away on a connected walkway, when we saw Jack jump from the bridge into the water.
I screamed. Jack loves the water, but can’t swim. Jeff and I started running toward the bridge. Two lifeguards (because giant lakes in parks in dreams have lifeguards, I guess), a man and a woman, had already reached Jack and were bringing him into the shore. The woman called up to me, “Don’t worry. We’ve got him. Everything is okay.” Jack, meanwhile was smiling at me and chuckling over the fun at being towed in.
It was such an intense dream, switching rapidly between calm, panic, and relief. I woke up right after having it, and as I fell back asleep, I thought, “Jack is telling me that he is not afraid.”
I was terrified when Jack jumped into the water because I felt responsible for his safety. But the reality of his life is that while Jeff and I still participate in overseeing his care, other people are now responsible for his day to day needs. It’s a different sort of interaction with my son. He once needed me to do everything for him, but as he entered adolescence, he instead needed me to find him the effective, intensive, full-time care he is now receiving.
Despite the moment of fear when he leapt in the water, the dream’s tone was utterly tranquil. As I drifted back to sleep, I mulled over these thoughts:
Jack has a legion of helpers.
They are doing a good job.
Jack is happy.
He is doing big things which terrify me.
He isn’t afraid.
He is brave.
I am afraid, but I’m trying to adjust to our lives apart.
One of the phrases which stood out to me during General Conference last weekend was a reference to Jesus teaching this: “Perfect love casteth out all fear.”
I suppose that the opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s fear. And love is its antidote. This is potentially life-changing.
Meaningfully, this verse as it is written in the Book of Mormon is nestled in the story of Jesus ministering to the little children, where he teaches, “I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation.”
Jack isn’t little anymore, but he is still my child. He is the child of his Heavenly Parents, too. Jesus is his brother. In this divine family, we are connected. United.
I sense that Jack is at peace with his life’s purpose. He trusts his Savior. Perhaps he knows him intimately.
All of this allays my fears. These dreams wherein I see Jack’s real spirit self blanket me in peace.
Jack is telling me he is not afraid.
Jack is telling me that I do not need to be afraid.
Fear not, fear not, fear not.
Ten days ago
I kept my youngest son home from school because the Occupational Therapy clinic, the one we’d been referred to by our psychiatrist and which didn’t have any openings until late November, called us with a cancellation. God knew we couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving for help. We were struggling merely to get Truman to go to school every day and to eat anything other than dino nuggets and various incarnations of processed sugar. God knew, and He came through, as He does.
I cajoled Truman out of the house. He doesn’t ever want to go anywhere. He prefers predictable, quiet, media-focused hours at home. While eating beige carbs.
All of this makes infinitely more sense now, following the two-hour Occupational Therapy evaluation, where I learned that Truman has Sensory Processing Disorder.
As the OT went over our struggles and compared them to lists describing SPD, Truman was essentially a textbook case. All of this information on his stressors, sensory integration concerns, and a pervasive level of overwhelm both crystallized and shone a clarifying light on the nebulous issues that have marred our days since school began six weeks ago.
I suddenly had a much better understanding of my son’s inner level of conflict and terror. My empathy grew three sizes that day.
Later, I pushed a cart around Costco, which seems to be the place where I do most of my existential motherhood musing. I felt glum.
Another diagnosis. Another thing that’s going to require lots and lots of therapy, time, and parenting effort. Another layer of difference between my life and everyone else’s lives.
Yet unlike the years it took me to recover from Jack and Charlie’s diagnoses, this time I felt strangely okay by evening. This is us, I told myself. It’s who we are. I know how to do hard things, and this is actually a really helpful bit of information in allowing us to productively move forward. Hello, quick healing process. Pleased to meet you. Also, thank you Jesus, for sending this mercy of acceptance.
I ate some chocolate-covered almonds and thought about the fact that we are capable of doing this, a single step at a time. And then…
One Week Ago…
We left for Disneyland.
The timing of this trip was not great, but it had been booked for awhile. My younger boys had never been to the Magic Kingdom. We were going with Grandma Shirley and my sisters and their families. It was going to be cousin-palooza. And yet, Truman was in the throes of not coping with noise, activity, and new things, and I was dragging him to Disneyland of all places.
He didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to go. The irony of NOT wanting to go to Disneyland sat heavily on me. “We are that weird,” I thought. Even The Happiest Place on Earth is laden with too much hardship and stress.
I forced him to go. He cried on the way to the airport. He got excited after going through security, which he oddly finds exhilarating, and announced he had decided to go to Disneyland with us. This is good, since he was going with us anyway.
Our first morning in the park was, and I say this without irony, magical. There were no lines. Truman was enamored with Star Tours. The big kids were dying over Space Mountain. The guys were making plans to build their own light sabers at the Star Trader. And we were at Disneyland! That iconic jewel of deep nostalgia and unfettered joy that had been out of reach for so many years of our lives as Jack’s family.
An hour and a half into our morning, Truman started to fall apart. It was getting busier and noisier. There were no dino nuggets in sight and he’d only eaten a few teddy grahams for breakfast. I could see his tension building. The volcano was going to explode.
But before I continue, I must tell you what happened exactly…
A Year and a Half Ago
In the dark days after Jack left home for residential care, I became Facebook friends with a writer named Meg Conley, who lives in Oakland, California. I’d known about her for years and decided we had enough mutual friends that it made sense for us to follow each other.
Meg messaged me a couple of weeks after Jack left. I hurt constantly with grief in those early days. Nothing felt normal. Nothing was right. In her message, she told me she had read all my posts describing the painful days leading up to Jack’s placement. She noted that I mentioned wanting to take my other boys to Disneyland, that bastion of “normal” family vacationing, and she said that her mother-in-law is Nanny in the Kingdom, which is a business where she helps families with special needs and/or young children have a more enjoyable time in the parks. She’s an extra set of hands, she sits with overwrought children, she obtains Fast Passes and Disabilities Access Passes, she provides a calm voice and the blissful relaxation of modeling clay in the midst of the frenetic energy of Disneyland. It’s literally her job.
Meg told me that whenever I wanted to go, her MIL was on board to help us. It was covered.
Sometimes I am flattened by the goodness of people, followed by a swelling sense of rightness that this is how people are at heart, if we can only tap into our inner divinity. Anyway…
Two Months Ago
When I emailed Deb (said Nanny), she told me she was unfortunately booked when were were going to be there, but she offered to help us get set up with a DAS pass, and get us oriented in doing Disney. This sounded like a kind offer to me, since she really didn’t have to do anything for us. We exchanged cell numbers and set a meeting time.
We met Deb, a soft-spoken and businesslike woman with a big, big, big heart. She calmed Truman down, essentially diffusing the volcano. She got us Fast Passes and a DAS pass. She took Truman to play in the giant Tree House by the Indiana Jones Ride while we all ate at Bengal Barbeque. She told me that once a month she takes her younger sister, who has Down Syndrome, to Disneyland. That was her conflict that afternoon. On her days off, she helps her sister, which in turn helps her mother. It’s a bit of respite and an enormous kindness.
Truman and I went back to the hotel at midday, stopping for a Happy Meal on the way there. I pondered the fact that we were doing this–that my bigger boys were squealing with their cousins on all the wilder rides, that we could do this with family, that my online friend and sister Meg sent her mother-in-law to help us get started, that Jack was in a safe and happy place and not melting down at Disneyland, and mostly that disabilities have both limited and schooled us in humility, gratitude, and compassion. Which leads me to…
Two Sundays Ago
I sat with Truman in Sharing Time in Primary. Church is one of the many things that Truman struggles with. It’s too long, crowded, boring, and out of his control. With lots of one-on-one support, he can generally make it through two of the three hours. Mostly.
The Sharing Time model is an old-school one which values reverence, stillness, and quiet–not the easiest thing for small kids, whether or not they have autism and sensory processing issues, and who have already sat for an hour and fifteen minutes in Sacrament Meeting. At 2:30 in the afternoon. When we really should all be taking siestas, amirite?
Truman kept jumping off his chair (this is proprioceptive and sensory-seeking behavior, yo). I kept shushing him. I sang the songs while he swung his legs and wiggled in his seat. Then the Primary President popped in a Bible video of Jesus ministering to the children.
At this point, the rowdy room turned quiet. The children were watching.
I leaned over and whispered, “Jesus loves you, Truman. He is proud of you.”
His eyes widened and he grinned up at me with his gap-toothed smile. “I can actually feel it,” he told me. “I feel it!”
The frenetic energy in the room distilled into a spiritual energy. The children internalized it. They went from wanting to flee Primary because it’s too long and crowded and boring, to wanting to be where Jesus is. They felt it.
I felt it, too.
Jesus loves little boys who are afraid of everything and cry daily before school. He loves hapless, exhausted moms. He loves Meg for reaching out to me in generosity, and Deb for being kind to people. He loves us when we’re sad and scared, and when we’re hopeful and happy.
Grace is the beginning and the end of this story.