Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Let them hear something better occasionally

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session from the October 1975 Conference.
The other night Sam and I were at a concert listening to Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. I love that piece so much, and I know every note of it. I've listened to it and played sections of it in orchestras and watched ballets set to it. It's such a powerful piece of music! And suddenly I discovered I was crying, off and on, thinking about how far off (in ability as well as time!) the days seemed when I thought I was going to do great, beautiful, important things with my music—or my writing—or surely something that would bring me into famous circles of people, gathering acclaim and impressing everyone I met. I was laughing at myself between the tears, because I'm SO happy. So happy and content with my life. And I know most of my grand visions for myself were products of a large dose of the (probably overblown) self-confidence my parents' love and my fortunate circumstances bequeathed to me! But sometimes I can't help just a bit of…surprise? bemusement? at the place I find myself, all these years and children later. Even though I'm so grateful to be here.

Anyway, it made me think about what surprises my life may still hold, and about my own children—what futures they are envisioning for themselves, and how those futures may diverge from their reality. It made me wonder what great things they'll do, and if those things will…seem great to them? Or only to me, as I watch and love them? It made me wonder if I'm giving them enough chances to excel in things they could be good at. Or if that even matters. There are always so many questions to ask yourself as a parent, aren't there?

Well…now to the talk. Throughout this General Conference Odyssey, I have loved reading talks from General Authorities I've never heard of. I'm glad I'm getting to know some new voices. But also…goodness, I love President Hinckley! Reading his talk in this session was like hearing from an old friend. The talk is called "Opposing Evil," and begins in his characteristic tone, weaving together signs of the times and calling on church members to have a "new beginning" in opposing evil. He talks about living a virtuous life and urges each Latter-day Saint to "control his words that he speak only that which is uplifting and leads to growth." (I love that reminder.)

Then he comes to another "point of beginning":
A better tomorrow begins with the training of a better generation. This places upon parents the responsibility to do a more effective work in the rearing of children.
I wrote in my notes by this passage, "Good intentions aren't enough." I think I was noticing that phrase "a more effective work," and thinking about how being effective at something requires more than just desire: it requires work and planning and strategy and practice. Being a good parent takes the same sort of effort that being a good…anything…takes, I suppose! Or more.

President Hinckley goes on a bit about this "training of a better generation," talking about how we should raise our children to read and have a taste for the great works of literature, good magazines, "a good family newspaper," good theater, good music, and so forth. It's all good advice and I was nodding along, but at the same time thinking about how few of the things my older children read and listen to would fall into the category of "great works." I don't think their choices of entertainment are AWFUL, and they are pretty conscientious about avoiding the really bad things but…great music and great literature? Hmm. I don't think the latest YA dystopian novel quite fits in that category.

And of course, I don't know that my OWN entertainment choices always fall into that category either, but I have at least had a taste for the "classics" cultivated in me by my own parents. And I'm not sure I'm doing as well with my own children. For example, during that same concert I realized, with a shock of regret, that I almost never play any of the classical music I love for the kids. There's always so much other noise and chatter around that I can't bear to add something else to it. They have their own piano practicing, and I guess they hear me practice for a musical number or something occasionally, but I don't know if great music surrounds them like it did me when I was young. And I don't know that great literature does either. (Not to mention the lack of a "good newspaper"—which is something I don't actually believe exists anymore; haha!) And it made me wonder if I'm doing enough to do that "more effective work" in the rearing of MY children!

But then, just as I was starting to wonder how I could possibly find the time and energy to do more "exposing" of my children to great literature and great music and great theater and all the rest, and wondering if they'd even LIKE it if I DID do that (because you know, they are becoming their own people so rapidly…with their own very definite tastes…), President Hinckley said (in his very President Hinckley-ish way):
Let there be music in the home. If you have teenagers who have their own recordings, you will be prone to describe the sound as something other than music. Let them hear something better occasionally. Expose them to it. It will speak for itself. More of appreciation will come than you may think. It may not be spoken, but it will be felt, and its influence will become increasingly manifest as the years pass.
And suddenly I felt better. Because I do, and I will, expose my children to the things I love. Not as often as I'd like, maybe. And not so skillfully that they will always love those same things themselves, immediately. But it's not an act—my love of music, my love of good writing, my love of the scriptures—my love of the gospel most of all. Those things are deep, true parts of myself. And I know I need to consciously let them come out—to do an "effective work" of parenting as President Hinckley says—but I can also hope and trust that they are unconsciously coming out as well.

And hopefully, even though I pretty much always feel frantic and busy and like I must be forgetting something important, my children will catch those glimpses of "something better occasionally." With music. With books. With our imperfect efforts at meaningful family home evening and scripture reading and everything else. And most comforting of all, as we let our genuine likes and loves and talents seep out of us even in small ways, I think any parent can trust that President Hinckley's promise—the reassurance that "more of appreciation will come than you may think"—will be fulfilled in all those aspects of life where our children will benefit most.

Other posts in this series:

2 comments:

  1. Oh, I loved this post! And President Hinckley. :) I can relate to so much of what you wrote - where I thought I would go in life to where I am at now and totally loving the now, and exposing my children to good and great things in life, hopefully more than just occasionally!


    I'll have to read the talk. It reminds me of one of my favorite BYU Devotionals called Your Refined Heavenly Home by Douglas L. Callister.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I read that Elder Callister devotional recently (maybe when YOU recommended it??) and I loved it too. I guess this subject is a reminder I often need, about how to make my home a more...calm and refined place. :)

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