Finding our way to Gethsemene

Today. In many ways today was a day that I never want to see again. I blame the naked Olympic ghosts that spend their time haunting the small children who visit the ruins, I know they were trying to spur my little champs on to a wrestling match.

We departed the ship around noon and rented a car for the 20 minute drive to the original Olympic stadium.

Here’s the thing about Harrison these days. He’s a wonderful kid, but at eight we’re seeing more of the easily offended, regularly nasty older brother who has no patience or thought for anyone but himself. If his siblings so much as look at him he’s liable to either burst into tears or cause bodily harm.

Then there’s Rex. Rex loves Harrison. He wants nothing more than to be best friends with his “best buddy Harrison.” It breaks my heart to see Harry treat Rex with unkindness, especially when other kids are around. Rex doesn’t have many friends (those he does have are all stuffed with cotton batting) and he could use some brotherly support.

Harrison got in trouble when we first got to the stadium today. Instead of moving past the problem, he spent the entire day making everyone within range as miserable as possible. He moped and pouted and worked himself into such a lathered up snit that by the time we finally got home tonight I wanted nothing more than to leave him with the custom agents as undeclared baggage.

(I have to say that Rex had so much fun taking his animals to “see the world!” He set up a number of candid photo ops (the pics are coming I promise) for me to capture his animals exploring Greece and was the model minor traveler. He was also the only kid that got to pick a souvenir for good behavior.)

By the time we were back on the ship and settled down for the evening (did I mention Georgia throwing up in Jason’s face on the way home?) our family was strung tighter than cat gut. I think the icing came when Harry refused to participate with any of the other kids in our group for an evening of movies and games. I thought Jason was going to jump ship he was so frustrated with Harry’s bad attitude.

We closed the evening without a prayer and went our separate ways (most of which landed us all in the same teensy little cabin).

“Harrison?” I said in a moment of privacy while trying to pull him out from under the bed where he had lodged himself for a good pouty cry session. I felt so ill equipped to handle this serious parenting stuff, where’s the manual on under the bed situations?

How do I explain to him that he’s choosing his attitude? That his refusal to apologize, his death grip on harboring offenses toward us for disciplining him, his cruelty and continual impatience with his little brother and sister are ruining his beautiful spirit?

I can’t do this for him. I can’t save him or make him feel remorse by denying him ice cream and lollipops. This is something my son has to learn for himself; how to let go of his pride and apologize when he’s done wrong.

Without going into detail, we had a painful talk about the Savior and His atonement. We talked about Gethsemane, a place we’re a mere 48 hours from visiting, and how the Lord sacrificed so much so we could be forgiven for these little, damning errors.

It was a hard discussion. I didn’t mince words and he didn’t like hearing it, but I can’t watch my child pout his way into eternal misery now, can I?

Finally, after a few suggested attempts, my boy hit his knees with me and opened his heart up to the Heavens. And as he prayed about visiting the Garden Tomb talked about Jesus Christ and he asked Father in Heaven to forgive him for today’s transgressions.

Right when he said that I felt it. As tangible as a piece of heavy clothing, I felt his own burdens of sin removed from his sweet little shoulders and my heart burned right along with his. He experienced forgiveness and I felt it with him. It was incredible, never have I felt more privileged.

We are not the best parents. We probably sigh too loudly and long for freedom more often than we should, but I’m so grateful that Father has trusted us with these little children. What an honor to watch my child grow and learn and conquer his own set of struggles. Oh, please help us be better tomorrow.


  1. these are the moments when it is confirmed that you’re doing things right. often it requires we be firm, or even stern. but each and every one of these experiences make being the “bad guy” 100% worth it. every now & then my 14 year old will regress back about 5 or 6 years…. and she doesn’t even HAVE siblings to be this way with. instead she, obviously due to being an only, takes it out on us (her parents)… as if WE’RE her peers/siblings/equals. not saying one’s better than the other (when using the word: equals), but she will forget that we are her parents. and there have been times where a good portion of a vacation is sacrificed on the alter of misery at her choosing. so sad. but that’s when i know i’ve got to pull up my boot straps, put on my stern-mama uniform, and go to work to help her straighten it out. i think satan would have us believe that, especially on vacation, we shouldn’t cause a scene or “rock the boat” (no pun intended, but it’s cute nonetheless). but frankly, that’s the complete opposite of what Heavenly Father expects from us. we’re expected to not let things like this slide. we’re expected to be consistent, no matter where we are or what we’re busy being involved in. obviously Heavenly Father doesn’t want us getting out of control or over-reacting, but firmness is necessary. in church today, much was talked about regarding answers to prayers & our lives’ trials…. and the point was made that the Son of God, even Jesus Christ, who was perfect, was told “no” while in Gethsemane (when He asked that the bitter cup be removed). no matter how much God loved HIS boy, he had to stand firm. it is the way of the parent. same goes for us. so hang in there. YOU ARE AMAZING! can’t wait for pictures once you get home & settled. and i REALLY can’t wait to hear how jerusalem goes! soooo jealous (of greece too)! ::hugs::

  2. So sweet. Tomorrow WILL be better. Those moments are changing. They don’t always last long, but the effects are real. Good job, little momma.

  3. Hi Annie,
    I am a huge fan of your blog, but this is my first time commenting, and I couldn’t pass it up! I love how you handled your son, and you had me in tears at the end, what a powerful moment in your son’s life! This is something he is going to be retelling of that time when he first gained his testimony of the Savior! I love your blog in that you tell the good, the great, the bad and the ugly! It’s nice to know there are other parents out there trudging along in this crazy life! Thank you for sharing your stories with us on a daily basis, they have given me such joy, and laughter especially on days where I feel like have completely failed my child (and he is only 17 months old, so really how much can you mess up!?) Anyway, thanks again for sharing such wonderful stories, I look forward to seeing every new post you have!

  4. LOL just finishing up with 8 year old boy #6 and headed for 7. 8 year old boys are TOUGH on mommies. Love how you handled it. I always say, I’m not here for my children they are here for me. If not for them I would never have known how sweet that first lollipop is or how bitter the first lemon, how miserable my choices make me and how sweet is the peace of forgiveness. You’re doing a great job.

  5. I have often wondered where that manual is, too. Thanks for writing what could very well be a chapter of it here.