Gospel living · Raising children · Teaching them to sleep

The hypocrite inside me

One of my favorite things about Heavenly Father is His ability to teach.  There really is such a thing as a master teacher, and He’s nailed it.  He often teaches me through analogy, taking what I see or experience and helping me see principles or concepts that relate to a bigger picture. And when this happens, the magnitude in which my heart and mind are touched is deep and lasting.

So come with me into Thea’s room.  It’s late.  She’s sick, and has been sick for a few days, meaning snot is stuck in her face, filling her nose and throat, making sleep a nightmare all over again. (Which really, for the record, sleep training with Thea had really been a breeze the last couple months before I had Rose, so my life isn’t always an awful sleeping situation, promise. It just happens that it is difficult often enough for me to hate it and post about it all the time 🙂 )

Putting Thea to sleep the last couple days had been rough.  Her mucus was a nuisance, but she also had been struggling with some attachment issues.  Often, I’m by myself to put both babies to sleep and so often, after our bedtime routine and I’ve laid Thea down, I’ll still be rocking with Rose while she puts herself the rest of the way to sleep in her crib.  I think she finds it unfair that Rose gets to be held and she doesn’t.  Long story short, to set the scene, the last while, putting Thea to sleep had gone from smooth to turbulent for reasons that I could obviously understand, but I was still struggling to be patient with two babies that woke frequently and both demanded my exhausted attention.

The day previous, I had learned an ugly aspect of myself and my temper.  When I get angry, I turn into a blamer.  I blame things and/or people as the problem. It’s their fault.  And when it came to putting Thea to bed again and again and again in the same night, each time with her throwing a fit, I get angry and it’s her fault.  And it’s hard not to act like it’s her fault.  But I really know that it’s not; I know she’s not not sleeping on purpose. So then whose fault is it? It must be God’s.

For nights, I just chewed out Heavenly Father in my mind.  Why does this happen?  Why can’t I just get a break?  Why can’t you step in and do something to help me?  I’ve never been one to ask “Why me?”, but here I was, constantly feeling like God was unfair.

With a fixed attitude of frustration, it was hard for me to be compassionate.  Along with my anger driven prayer, I was praying desperately for help.  I knew my heart was wrong, but I couldn’t seem to get a handle on it. Night after night I struggled, knowing I needed to change, but feeling helpless to do so.  I felt out of control, and I hated it.  I just felt ugly inside.  Ugly and tired.

But here in Thea’s room, in the darkness of the late night, the Master Teacher took advantage.

I suddenly saw myself as Thea, a little person who was tired and frustrated and was throwing a temper tantrum because I felt like the solution was in the hands of the one person who wasn’t helping me.  Just like she stood at the side of her crib and “yelled” at me to come help, I was yelling at God.  Just like she was getting frustrated that she wasn’t getting what she wanted, what she felt like she needed, I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t getting what I wanted, what I felt like I needed.

And then the next level of analogy came.  God and I, too, were similar.  While I was trying to teach my Thea to go to sleep on her own, God was trying to teach me to stay calm and do hard things on my own.  God and I both were looking to our student, knowing that truly, progress was in their hands.

Why don’t you go and pick her up since you know that would quiet her down?  the thought came.

Well, I answered, because she needs to be able to do this on her own.  I already held her, and rocked her, and let her hold my hand while she laid down.  I already did what I could, only she can do the rest to get her to sleep.  

That, too, is the reason I don’t step in to help you, He said.

And there was the altering truth: Here I was, frustrated and impatient with Thea that she wouldn’t just do it, that she wouldn’t just lay down and go to sleep.  And yet, there was God, compassionate and loving as I wouldn’t just do it, that I wouldn’t just calm down and be patient.  Even though Thea was frustrated with me, I knew I was just doing what was best for her and that my intentions for withholding my help was for her ultimate benefit.  And God was in the same position, with the purest and loveliest of intentions for me.  I was angry at Thea for being angry with me and yet I was angry at God for the same reason Thea was angry with me.  The hypocrisy of it all slapped me in the face.  And I literally felt like I came out of a stupor.

Instantly, my heart grew three sizes that night.  Compassion flooded through me.  And after nights and nights of not knowing what to do differently to better help and support Thea, my mind was opened to new strategies and simple changes to try.  And seriously, “instantly” is only too accurate of a word, Thea was calmed down, laying down, on her way to sleep all on her own.  And every night since, there has been no anger on my part, and there has been a tangible peace in her room as I put her to bed, with or without Rose in my arms.

Ammon, from the Book of Mormon, teaches that God knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts, without us saying anything (Alma 18:32).  It amazes me how well God really knows me, how perfectly he understands my character, my mind, and my situation.  He really does know everything, and that is why He is the perfect teacher.  He knows exactly how I learn and when I will be willing to learn it.  That is why the lessons He teaches are so instant in effect.  And truly, that is an every day miracle.

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