For eight weeks, I had a series of full-blown crazy scary panic attacks where my thoughts were turning against me. My whole lower body would shake like I had hypothermia. They led to adrenal fatigue as well as various other spin-off health issues, which of course added to the panic. My doctor told me to cut everything out of my life for the next 12 months. My husband would need to clean, do laundry, and grocery shop. He advised I not have any responsibilities at church or school, and my exercise consisted of yoga and walking. This period of my life led to some startling discoveries and a new perspective to which I feel pretty passionate.
When I was younger – long before I ever got married – I would say “When I have kids, they will never. . . .”
I was convinced if I planned this whole parenting well enough things would work out fine. By reading the best parenting books, living close to the Lord, baking yummy cookies, planning perfectly well -thought-out-themed birthday parties, and making sure my kids saw me serving, praying and reading scriptures, I thought—get this—I could live a life with very few parenting regrets. I was ready to make a difference and turn out superstar adults who would make a difference in the world! I could control the outcome of my children’s lives simply by making sure I was following my plan.
So when my first baby was born, I enrolled in my version of parenting 101 and got right to work. I was ready to launch the 1-2-3 magic of parenting!
20 years later, I had to choke on my own words. There was no such thing as magic in parenting. I was in a laboratory situation with daily experiments testing my abilities in ways I never planned. I found some success and some failure, but I couldn’t predict any outcome to save my life! There were moments of fun, but more often than not I felt out of control. I felt fear for the future.
The Root of My Emotions
When my four children started entering the teen years the proverbial crap hit the fan. Each one dealt with something that was not in any of the parenting books I read. To complicate matters my parent’s health was failing. I was trying to care for a father with Alzheimer’s and a mother with Parkinson’s.
I felt I was in way over my head. It took lots of prayers, faith, temple and church attendance, sleepless nights, counselors, crying, begging and pleading to get me through and continue to get me through these years.
Fear was always at the root of my emotions. I discovered the only control I had was over myself, which led to increased concern over my children’s future. Fear and doubt were ruling my thoughts.
Faith Over Fear
I began studying everything I could on Faith since I knew it was the antithesis of Fear. In the process, I learned some things about myself. I realized I become caught in the trap of rumination – telling myself stories about the future based on my fears. For example, one of my children might take something that wasn’t his, and my rumination would snowball into thoughts of him serving time in prison. It was bad, and I knew my perspective needed to change.
In my studying, I came across a quote by Frederick Babbel. He said:
You alone must bear the responsibility for the choices you make.
Who sets the standard of what forgiveness you may expect to receive? You do. (Matthew 6:14–15) If you wish to be forgiven, you must first forgive others.
Who sets the standard of how you will be judged? You do. (Matthew 7:1–2) Your own judgment by your Heavenly Father will be compassionate or harsh, depending upon what standard you have set in judging others.”
I saw the pattern here. I knew I was responsible for teaching my children. To make sure they knew where to look for the source of all truth. All I can do and continue to do is teach and bear witness of truth. I realized I was not responsible for any of the choices my children were making.
Law of the Harvest
I had heard of the law of the harvest before, but as I continued to study Babbel, I gained a deeper understanding. He went on to say:
The things you desire from life, you must first give to life. (Matthew 7:12) What about acquiring the things you want? Like the seed planted in the ground, life can only return to you that which you first have given—with the added promise that everything you give must ultimately return to you multiplied. Perhaps that is why a sage of bygone years said a great truth, “Give to the world the best that you have and the best will come back to you.” And we might add, it will be multiplied!
If you feel that you are accident-prone, or a “worry wart,” or a “Why-does-this-always-happen-to-me” sort of person, you have become a victim rather than a master of this law. . . . This law can work for you as well as against you.”
My thoughts and fears of the future were working against me. I was able to see how everything truly does multiply after its kind. I was the one feeding all of my negative emotions and thoughts. Thoughts of failure as a parent were growing and multiplying because I was feeding them. I had believed I was completely responsible for how my children would turn out.
What kind of seeds was I planting? I needed to plant seeds of faith for my faith to grow. My faith in the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ, His love for my family and me, and the covenants I had made with Him were all important seeds.
I Can Choose Faith
Despite my circumstances, I needed to nurture my words and thoughts carefully. Choosing faith over fear was one thing I could control. It has taken a lot of work and effort and continues to be a struggle. When situations don’t turn out the way, I think they should I have to reign in my thoughts and control what I say immediately. I have learned to ask my Heavenly Father for the gift of discernment and faith. Relying on the Atonement of Jesus Christ to help my weaknesses every day, I trust in a God who always delivers on His promises, and have faith in His timing. I can have faith in the covenants I have made and the ties that bind. I can choose faith.