How would you parent if someone was watching?

I would like to say that Sunday  mornings at my house are filled with the smell of waffles and the gentle chorus of angels heralding in another saintly Sabbath day. Unfortunately the smell is usually that of sour laundry from Saturday night’s last desperate load and the most prevalent sound is usually hissing and clawing as the little brats fight about which scripture cartoon to watch. Talk about Leman and Lemual.

Last Sunday I loaded everyone into the car and put in a CD of children’s church songs. Five minutes down the road amid squawks, grunts and the occasional flying spittle, I looked back in time to see Harrison’s yanking on June’s pony tail (and spinal cord), noticed that once again Rex escaped without anyone combing his hair or tying his shoes, and realized that someone had given Georgia a chocolate chip granola bar and the chips had melted all over her hands/hair/dress.

It was going to be a long 30 minute drive to church.

The bickering and fighting raged on. I couldn’t decide what would make me feel better, ditching the car at the train station and running away or downing a Diet Coke (it was fast Sunday and I was feeling it).

I kept slowing eeking the volume of the music up until finally it reached an ear throbbing level. Just then I heard the primary song, “If The Savior Stood Beside Me.”

“Kids!” I yelled turning down the music, “Be quiet and listen to this RIGHT NOW! THIS is how you should be acting! Have any of you stopped to think about Jesus and how He wants you to behave today?” It got surprisingly quiet and I turned the music back up, feeling slightly smug and impressed with my blustery show of parenting.

Then I heard the words to the second verse of the song. “If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say? Would my words be true and kind if He were never far away?”

That’s when I felt really, really rotten. I have a sneaky suspicion that my kids would probably be a lot kinder and a lot more tolerant if they lived with a kinder, more tolerant parent. All I could think about was how I would and wouldn’t parent if Jesus was with me. I would be so…different. How did I get so rough and snappy around the edges?

I stared ahead at the clouds, dark and rainy with lots of sunlight behind and around them and I felt like the world’s biggest sinner. All I could think about were my failures. Then I remembered that I was going to church, that I could take the sacrament and Hallelujah! Repentance! Hey, maybe it isn’t too late, maybe I haven’t ruined my family completely (cue overdramatic orchestration here).

“Kids!” I yelled again, turning down the music, “I am so sorry for being such a mean, horrible mommy, can you all please forgive me?” I looked in the rear view mirror at their stunned and slightly frightened expressions.

“Um,” Harrison said, “Sure. We love you Mom.” I looked at June who was getting seriously distressed. “Mommy, why are you crying?! Did something happen?” I gave her a super sappy, overly emotional explanation that went right over her four-year-old head and turned the music back up.

Honestly, I have never been so happy to head into the chapel and crowd into a bench with my mangy crew.



  1. i can echo everything in this post! sunday morning are tough; and i only have 2 girls! however, i LOVE that song about Jesus. We even bought the book and we can’t ‘read’ it..we have to sing it. I often find that song creeping into my mind as i yell at the girls for ‘yelling’ or tell them to be nice.
    My mom lives in Ogden and reads your column. she convinced me to find your blog and keep up since my family is military too. I’ve been following for a while and i find it very inspiring. keep up the good work! (don’t you love how the church lets you know the work of mothering is hard but we KNOW it’ll be rewarding in the end – at least we get a ‘do-over’ every sunday!)

    • annie valentine says:

      Thank you Toni! And yes, I absolutely love the weekly ‘do-over’. Give me Monday mornings over Saturday nights any day of the year.

  2. How true this is at my house…almost every night I wonder when did I become a snappy mean mom!?!

  3. Such a great post! I actually know why I get so mean and snappy – my own upbringing was that x10. But I am trying so hard to break the chain, and sometimes I feel like such a failure! Saturday, I bought myself a new cd with songs by MoTab, all singing about Love at Home and such great ideas. 😉 I’ve been playing it nonstop, and while it hasn’t stopped the bickering or fighting between my 4 & 2year olds, it has made me stop and not be so harsh. Thank you MoTab! 😀 It really is a great blessing to know about repentance, and be able to start again. And again. And again. 😀 Once again, a fabulous post! Keep them coming!

  4. I had a friend in Seattle who said they sang Primary songs to church every Sunday. Made me feel like a total shmoe, until she said it was the only way they made it to the building alive. I love that song; it’s probably my favorite, likely for the same reasons that Lead, Kindly Light is my favorite hymn: They both remind me of weaknesses that the Lord gave me with the intent of turning them into strengths.

  5. This was just a lovely post from a mom…WHO GETS IT. Who wants better and trys to get there.
    Sure, we all blow it from time to time.
    but you are getting smiley sticker by your “heaven chart”….
    ( I have a 30 min. ride to church too)

  6. Just wanted to add that this Sunday, as I looked over my crowd on the way out the door, I said (in my kind, sarcastic voice): Are you sure noone wants to wear their swimsuit to church today??

    Seriously, how hard is it to brush your hair, put on clothes that fit, and find socks?

    I’d say I have to turn down the music and apologize to my kids in the car at LEAST once a month.

    • Once a month Stephanie? Geeze. I’m doing good if I only need to apologize once an hour. Parenting kids is hard and parenting teens is like navigating a mine field.

      It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to learn, and am still learning… How to parent with kindness, be patience and love unconditionally. And the irony? Those are the very skills we HAVE to learn in order to become more like Him.