A week or so ago I sat in a women’s group meeting and listened as a member of the group talked about how girls dress too casually for church nowadays. She mentioned girls wearing leggings under their dresses and clucked, but was quick to bring out a joke about them having the right to “bare arms” when sleeveless dresses were discussed. I thought about that, not because my views run precisely opposite, but because we have a tendency to “circle the hens” when we get together as women, and to commence pecking. If I were a hen, I’d rather eat bugs than someone’s back feathers, and who needs pecked when they’re down?
I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to see a list of all the things that we think are important enough to correct in our children, and suddenly realize that someone else’s list is far different from our own? Wouldn’t it be mind-expanding to realize that everyone is doing a good job with their parenting, but that in the whole scheme of helping a person develop, there are too many things to work on to do them all at once? Maybe that would help the hens chill out, I thought.
I even sent around a request for people to send me back their “list.” A few responded good-naturedly, but most were silent. Thankfully, I took a moment to wonder why before I blithely typed out my humorous look at the temptations of the henyard. Thankfully, something inside encouraged me to keep these things and ponder them in my heart before I unloaded my thoughtless pen.
What is the one thing that more women suffer with, I asked myself, particularly faithful women doing their best to improve and taking on the mammoth challenge of raising upstanding children in a fallen-down world? The idea that they’re not enough. As humorous as a list of all the things other women feel are correctable in their children might be to me, how would it feel to read that when overwhelmed, and to have those words arise in one’s mind when sitting exhausted in church just trying to hear one thing, or at the end of the day praying for bedtime, and to know that not only does one feel a failure with the “have-tos” in one’s own head, but even more so when considering all the “have-tos” in everyone else’s head? Good grief. There are enough hens in our own heads.
To all you moms out there: what you feel inspired to encourage within your children is exactly what they need. They were sent to you because you are precisely the person to help them be who they are. Someone else would probably do this job you’re doing differently, and that would not work well in the whole scheme of things. You are the best mom for your children. If you feel inspired to do something differently, do it because you feel right about making that change, not because someone else might think you really should have done that ages ago. There are no other hens in your home, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If we all remember this, we can make it through a Sunday unscathed now and then.
And what about Sundays and that cheery but dangerous henyard? Marjorie Pay Hinckley, who had the face that I’m trying to grow into, said this: “We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are.”
She also had this to say about what kind of summing up she wanted her life to have: “I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”
And finally, when the hens began to circle, I think she might remember having said this: “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.”
What would Marjorie do? I think she would have laid a wing over her friend and thrown her head back and crowed. You know what’s cool about that? Nobody gets a headache or loses any feathers.