I have finally finished reading the talks from the Worldwide Leadership Training meeting that the Church held at the beginning of the month. I know that my heart is especially tender at this moment due to the wonderful experience of adding another child to our family, but it seems that those talks were so perfectly suited to inspire me to be a better wife, mother and homemaker.
Yes, I'm an ardent advocate for homemaking and I stress the importance of a woman's responsibilities of wife and mother. And yes, I get blasted by a variety of people who think I'm old-fashioned or brainwashed or ignorant. It used to bother me when people would say those sorts of things to me; but I've noticed that these people, the ones who ridicule and belittle traditional family values and practices, generally seem to be the most unhappy people I've come across. What happened to those people in their pasts that has turned their hearts so strongly against the full-time presence of a loving mother and the hard work of a devoted father to support his family?
The home is the fundamental building block of society. If our homes are strong, our culture and our nation is strong. If our homes deteriorate and our children grow up with no foundation, then society will deteriorate because it will lose its foundation. Devoted parenting is needed today like it has never been needed before.
Our family is lucky/blessed that we can live within an "ideal" family unit. Mr. Brooke and I cherish our marriage and each other and we receive no other joy than is more fulfilling than to be with our children and nurture them along their paths of development. We both realize the importance of what we are doing as we were both raised by single mothers. Mr. Brooke was lucky that he didn't have to endure the captivities of daycare as I did, and we work hard to create a loving atmosphere in our home, despite how tired we may be at the end of the day. Our children are our most treasured jewels and our most prized assets. We view any time spent with them, whether it be in kneeling in their rooms and teaching them how to put away their toys, or going out on a family fun trip, as quality time. I'm a firm believer that quantity time usually translates into quality time. How many of us wished our own parents would spend more time with us on regular weeknights instead of only noticing us twice a month during a scheduled "quality time?"
My favorite memories of my childhood aren't centered around special trips or gifts, they mostly consist of spending time with my parents or knowing that my parents were simply there for me. My favorite memories are of my mother reading to me, my father picking up my brother and I on a Saturday morning so we could go play basketball together (despite the fact that I detest the sport that is basketball...), my mother laying aside her own project and inviting me to sit beside her on the couch while she taught me how to cross stitch and then the ensuing days where I would sit on the couch beside her and we both would stitch in silence. That feeling of belonging, that feeling of being noticed...that's what children need most, not fancy toys or spectacular vacations. Children crave their parents' attention and love. I think we'd all be much better parents if we looked at love as a verb--an word denoting action.
Our greatest legacies are our family and the home that they lived in. How much money we made, the contributions that we made to charity or the amount of fame we attain matter very little in the end, what will matter to anyone on their death bed will be how their children turned out and how strong their family is. Should we not then dedicate our best efforts today to uplifting and edifying these few things that end up mattering the most to us in the end?
Have dinner together every night at your own kitchen table, have Family Reading Time each evening before the children's bedtime, designate Saturday mornings as "Home Improvement Time" and work together on improving and maintaining the home that you all share, go on weekly dates with your spouse, go to the library together...there are a myriad of little ways to improved the cohesiveness of a family. And the beauty of family time is that there is no set formula; each family chooses their own ways to spend their time together (or not...). Families are individual and their activities should reflect that.
I've yet to meet a person who has devoted their life to their family and found them to be unhappy. We live in a "me-centered" society that constantly bombards us with the importance of "me time," but I have found that the more I find time for myself, the more time I want for myself. "Me time" is not a satisfying activity, it always leaves you wanting more and resenting the things that get in the way of having it. But time spent in nurturing another--it is time that is edifying and it serves to actually make a difference in the life of another. If you can't sit and read to a child for half an hour and feel that the time was well-spent, then something's wrong. And your children will know that you read simply out of obligation, not love.
In closing, I leave you with an experience Mr. Brooke and I remind each other of every now and then--it was a few years ago; I'm not even sure if Bluebird had been born yet. We were sitting in a booth, eating dinner at a Pizza Hut restaurant (remember those?). The booth behind was filled with a woman, her boyfriend, and a handful of very noisy children trying to secure the attentions of either adult. Those kids wanted to talk about anything with their mother! It was obvious that she was tired after a long day of work and that the boyfriend had instigated the outing. She gave short, curt answers to her children's questions and the boyfriend gently tried to persuade the children to leave their mother alone because she'd had a hard day at work, and then he'd attempt to engage the children in conversation. What makes the experience memorable was when the boyfriend said something like, "Isn't it nice to be eating pizza in a restaurant together?" and the mom replied with, "They'd better be enjoying it, I'm missing my show for this!"
To this day, whenever one of us notices that the other is putting our family at a lower priority than our own entertainment or interests, we teasingly say "I'm missing my show for this!" to the other. It's a funny (and sad) reminder that our family should come first, even when we're tired or have had a hard day and really just want to sit on the couch and not interact with anybody for the remainder of the evening. How many good memories are we keeping from happening when we opt to tune out our families?
My best adult memories have been those that center around time spent with my own family. Funny how the trend continues, no matter what our age or circumstances...home and family always matter most.