A few weeks ago Rachel went out shopping with Grandpa. On the way home Grandpa popped in a Disney CD—Rachel was in heaven…until they pulled into the garage and Grandpa suggested mid-song that she come into the house. She wasn’t too pleased about this because she was having her very first driveway moment—you know, where you can’t get out of the car yet because whatever is on the radio is so captivating that you must finish listening to it first.
Rachel must just be like her Daddy. He has driveway moments several times a week. It was more awkward in Egypt when we didn’t have a driveway so instead of risking interruption by coming in the house he’d just stand in the hallway with his ear buds in, listening. Sitting in your car in the driveway is much less obvious.
Anyway, we had to put the CD on for her inside the house so that she could finish listening. She was that upset about it. She can be so particular at times.
This morning she woke up early—she was excited to go to school again. “Mommy! I got up before the sun! Isn’t that cool?”
Considering today’s sunrise was at 7:02 AM…no. I don’t find that cool. How am I supposed to get up before her to work if she keeps waking up earlier and earlier? She only thought it was cool for a few minutes, herself.
After breakfast I asked her to wash her face.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because you have food on your face,” I told her.
“Why don’t you have to wash your face?”
“Because I do a better job at keeping my face clean while I eat.”
“Well, I don’t want to wash my face.”
“Well, you need to so you can go to school.”
“I can just go to school with a messy face.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Well, I do!”
“Please go wash your face.”
An over-reactionary temper tantrum ensued, naturally. I told her I was going to leave if all she was going to do was carry on. And then I left. About five minutes later she came to me, still crying.
“Hold me, Mommy!” she sniffed, “I’m a little bit grumpy and I can’t stop!”
I held her and we got rid of the grumpies (and washed her face) before it was time to go to school, luckily. Being grumpy is hard—I hate it when I can’t kick the grumpies.
It’s too bad she was grumpy this morning because she was an absolute gem last night. Usually going to bed is a big fight but I guess she was so excited to go to school again that she was also excited to go to bed. Everything we asked her to do was done immediately with a cheerful, “Yes, Mom!” or “Yes, Dad!” tacked on. It was a beautiful, beautiful evening and I hope the compliant behavior keeps up.
Since Rachel has been old enough to talk back I’ve been telling her that obedience breeds happiness. For everyone. When she does what I ask her to do, she is happy and I am happy. She feels successful at having carried out a task properly and I feel happy that she helped me and we both feel happy that the other person is happy. When she is disobedient, though, it makes everyone upset. She may very well get her “own way” but she will not be happy about it because other than getting her “own way” she will have accomplished nothing and guilt will slowly rot away her insides. She will be frustrated and upset and I will be frustrated and upset and everyone else around us will be miserable.
I imagine this is very much the same in our relationship with Heavenly Father. When we do what He asks then we are happy. When we try to get our “own way” we wind up miserable. It’s one of those inherent truths about life.
When I was between the ages of six and eight I had a light bulb moment. One day my mom was folding laundry and she asked me to do a very simple thing: put away a stack of washcloths for her. I paused for a second to listen to the angel and devil perched on either of my shoulders, whispering my options to me.
Option #1 was to whine and carry on about having to execute this chore, in essence to punish my mother for asking me to help. She would likely make me do it, anyway, but would be upset with me for fussing. If she did exonerate me from the task , she would only do it in exasperation and would feel wind up frustrated, which would make me feel guilty. But at least I would get my own way.
Option #2 was to smile and do the job even though I didn’t really want to. It would only take a second and it would make my mom happy. I would please her, and not put myself into a tizzy, which would make me happier in the long run. Besides, work builds character, right?
I chose option #2, said “Sure, Mom!” and put away the cloths. It took about 10 seconds and, I daresay, shocked my mother. It was such a positive experience that I resolved then and there to always try to choose option #2—not that I have a 100% success rate. I’ve done my share of whining but I firmly believe that life is better when I “cheerfully do all things that lie in [my] power.”
I really hope that is a lesson my children can learn and as much as I reiterate this tale to them I don’t if it will do any good. Some things just have to be experienced firsthand before they make sense. I’ll keep telling it, though, and hopefully one day the switch will flip and they’ll have their own light bulb moment.