Family life can be hard, but for every frustrating moment, there can be a moment of "Camelot" - when you get a glimpse of perfect and feel pride in your child for choosing the right. Besides, it's the ups and downs that let us know we're not just observing life, we're participating.
There were many days, as a young family, when our oldest two children pushed the limits, the youngest two pushed each other, and my wife and I felt like we were being pushed right over the edge.
We did our best—reading books that said we were doing the right thing by having family scripture study, family prayer, and family home evening. But then our children complained through scriptures, yawned through prayers, and argued through home evening. We wondered if our efforts would ever make any difference.
What helped during those frustrating times? We tried to focus on the positive—those shining Camelot moments when things did go right. Remember the legendary King Arthur and his knights of the round table? Remember how for one short, magical moment, everything in his kingdom was perfect? It didn’t last, but it happened. Remember the famous line from the musical by Lerner and Loewe? “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot.”
I remember one of those Camelot moments when I was making a collect call home while out of state. My daughter, two and a half at the time, answered the phone. The operator asked if she would accept the charges to the phone call. My daughter did not understand.
The frustrated operator said, “Please get an adult to come to the phone.”
My daughter said, “My grandpa and grandma went on a mission and I go to Nursery at church and sing songs.”
The operator said, “Is your mommy there? Go get your mother.”
My little girl continued, “I’m going to get married in the temple!” When my wife finally took the call, the operator was relieved, but I was proud. I said, “Debi, did you hear her? That was our daughter!”
However, as positive as we tried to be, the Camelot moments always seemed to fade too quickly. A few days after I returned from my trip, the family was shopping at the grocery store, and things weren’t so wonderful. The excursion had taken longer than it should have and the children were irritable. When we finally got to the checkout line, my eldest son began teasing my little daughter until she burst out in a voice loud enough for the whole store to hear, “Shut up, you stupid idiot!” I said to Debi, “Did you hear her? Whose daughter is this?”
I think most parents agree that some days just go better than others. When you get down and feel like everything is falling apart, remember the Camelot moments. That may help you maintain a long-term perspective and keep on going. Maybe that is what helps Heavenly Father parent us through some of our dark days. Perhaps He focuses on our Camelot moments. He knew mortality would be filled with ups and downs because He sent us to earth to learn, but He also knew the ups would make the downs bearable.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I know it isn’t easy. It’s discouraging at times, sure. Aren’t you glad it isn’t just fun all the time? Those valleys of discouragement make more beautiful the peaks of achievement.”
After the Fall (a definite valley of discouragement), Adam focused on the positive. He realized that because of Christ’s Atonement, the low points did not have to last forever. He exclaimed, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (Moses 5:10).
I remember as a young schoolteacher (with a large and active class) asking my wife, “When does life even out? Why does it always feel like a roller coaster with so many highs and lows all in the same day? I wish life would just level out.”
Being a nurse, Debi replied, “Brad, when you get hooked up to the heart monitor, you don’t want to see a straight line. That’s bad news. It’s the up and down lines that let you know you are alive.”
The highs and lows let us know we are participating and not just observing, learning and not just existing. And what keeps us motivated to continue on this learning journey? It is the high points—those are the moments that fill us with hope and perspective.
So next time your child says the wrong thing, remember when she said the right one. Next time family home evening disintegrates into nothing more than a fight that begins and ends with prayer, think about how wonderful the dinner conversation was the day before. Next time your teen requests to be dropped off several blocks from school so none of his friends see him with you, remember how he used to sing to you on Mother’s Day. Let those shining Camelot moments lift you up and see you through.
Brad Wilcox grew up in Provo, Utah, except for childhood years spent in Ethiopia. As a young man, he served a mission for the Church in Chile. Brad earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming and is now an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education at BYU. Brad and his wife, Debi, lived at one time in New Zealand, where Brad directed a study abroad program for Brigham Young University. They recently lived in Santiago, Chile, where Brad served as president of the Chile Santiago East Mission from 2003–2006; he currently serves as a member of the Sunday School general board. Brad and Debi are the parents of four children and reside in Provo, Utah.
© LDS Living, July/August 2012.