Sunday, March 19, 2017

Protecting your children

I've had a longstanding goal to write a short letter once a month, but rarely get around to it. So today, I'm writing! That's the good news. The bad news is that I have a sad topic to discuss: protecting your kids from molestation. Unfortunately, it's far more common that you  might think. I think women are aware of this, but men are generally clueless. I had to deal with three instances of it while I was bishop. Very sad. Two of the three were eight or nine year old girls who were molested by eleven year old girls who were neighbors. The other case was three kids from the same family, both sexes, who were molested by their dad (he's in jail for the rest of his life). So, without getting into the details, what can you do to protect your kids, and what are the warning signs?

First of all, recall back to your elementary school days how much separation there was between kids in different grades. At least when I was growing up, even one grade was a huge social barrier. So if a neighbor kid wants to hang out with your kid who is several years younger, warning bells should be going off like crazy.

As far as protecting your kids from family members, first remember that most kids are molested by someone they know, and most often, it is a family member. It could be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, and even a sibling. I know all of your families, and I think we're all okay (I include myself), but just keep an eye out for unusual behavior, again, usually in the form of crossing age barriers and unusual interest. Secondly, I recommend sitting down with kids when they are old enough (10-13?) and talk to them about this topic, and explain that if they are molested, they can come to you, and that you will send the molester to jail, where they will stay for several years, and that's a good thing.

Also be very wary of sleepovers. At any age. I speak from personal experience. My first sleepover was at age 10 or so, and as soon as the adults left, someone suggested that we take off all our clothes and run around. My dad came back, I saw him coming, and we all jumped in our sleeping bags. I felt embarrassed,  but I don't think he caught us. Maybe he did. In any event, it was a blessing. Later in high school, a boy in my class liked to have sleepovers one on one at his home. That should have been a red flag - 16 is a bit old for sleepovers. He made an aggressive pass at me while I pretended to be asleep and he eventually went away. The scary thing is that I believe these are pretty typical experiences for boys growing up. And that was nearly fifty years ago. The world hasn't gotten any better since then!

On the other hand, I had scores of sleepovers and campouts with my group of friends for years, and nothing happened. Most were supervised by our parents. Still, I really don't like sleepovers. Neither does mom. And if you read "A Parents Guide" from the Church (excellent advice on what challenges kids face at each age, and how to help them through it), it also discourages sleepovers. Supervised camp outs like family outings and girls camp, scout outings are fine as their is an adult nearby. 

May I suggest that you hold a parents council with your spouse and talk about your experiences, and what you think are good rules for your kids. You were kids too - what other insights do you have? (If you have significant insights, I'd love it if you were to share them with the rest of us).

All of my emails are solely my opinion, and you are expressly given permission to disagree with me. Take this and every email with a grain of salt. I hope you find some small value in them. Hopefully, you never have to deal with any of this.

Love, Dad

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A big key to happiness

A big key to happiness

Mom and I flew to Oregon this weekend to visit Nathan and Wendy, and see Jayden and Kylie. What fun! On the flight there, we sat next to a really nice young man who was flying to Oregon to visit his girlfriend’s family. We joked with him that visiting a girlfriend’s family sounded pretty serious, but he laughed it off, and said that though they had been living together for a few years, and though he loved his girlfriend and her family, he wasn’t ready to commit yet.

I then told him that almost every marriage goes through seasons – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Many marriages fail when they are going through their winter season. But many professional studies have followed couples who were in their winter season, and followed them for years to see how things worked out. For those who stuck it out, rather than giving up, they found that they were in a new Spring of their marriage, and that the new Spring was even better than their first.

What I didn’t say – and wish I had – was that it proves that commitment is a huge part of happiness. It leads to growth and contentment. Committed people work through their disagreements rather than writing people off. And if that’s true, then he should hurry and commit to marriage. It’s true.

Mom and I have experienced seasons in our marriage too. We talked, worked things out, better understood the others needs and better understood our own insensitivities. It’s made all the difference. We’re so much closer now than we ever were during ‘the honeymoon’ and dating phase.

Commitment and Responsibility were two big themes I heard my dad, Grampy, talk about a lot growing up. He knew what he was talking about, and exemplified it every day of his life. This is one thing that I learned from my dad – commitment is a secret to happiness. It applies to most areas of life – work, family, school, even recreation. Marriage is just one area that blossoms under the light of commitment. I’m sure I’ll have future thoughts on commitment in these other areas.

For commitment and responsibility to work, you have to build on simple principles of patience, faith, hope, love, forgiveness, and repentance. Grampy exemplified these principles. These are everyday necessities in the home, and in families. They are, in fact, expressions of commitment and responsibility.

Life is hard. Relationships are hard. But it is worth all the tears, hard conversations, and effort.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pre-mortal optimism

I was really good at Chemistry in high school. I understand all the theory, stoichiometry, the concepts. I found it fun. When I went to the University of Alberta, and took freshman inorganic chemistry, I thought it would be a breeze. But then there were those chemistry labs. I remember my first lab, when we had to synthesize a teaspoon of a white powder, acetylsalicylic acid - aspirin. After three and a half hours, I stumbled out of the chemistry lab greatly humbled, and having created a brown, dirty syrup that was nothing like a white powder.*

I think life is like that - literally. I think that in the pre-mortal world, we were all acing the tests, and we all knew the theory. We knew that life was a test, but I think we were naively optimistic about what the mortal experience would really be like. But then we get down here on Earth and figure out that it's a lot harder than we thought. 

In Sunday School class this week, Brent Garfield taught about Job and how his story related to pre-mortal optimism. He shared his thoughts about the "dare" at the beginning, where Satan comes before God and says in effect 'yes, he's faithful, but look at all his blessings. Take those away, and he'll curse you to your face!'. Then after Job is stripped of his blessings and remains faithful, Satan says again, 'yes, but he still has his health - take that away, and he'll curse you and lose faith'. Brent said that he thought that Job was indeed a real person - several people including Ezekiel, Jesus and the Lord in section 121 have indicated that Job was a real person. However, Brent said that he views this dialogue as more allegorical, and that it applies to all of us, and that such a conversation happened in the pre-mortal world when Satan presented his plan. Indeed, Satan said to all of us that when things got hard, we'd curse God and wish to die.

In the end, we're all going to fail. But what matters most is that we know there is a Savior who overcame all, and that by faith in him, our faults and failings don't matter. We don't have to be perfect in this life. We just have to try, and have faith in the abundant grace of Jesus Christ. Life is hard. Sometimes we're going to end up with brown goo instead of white powder. It really hurts when we fail at being a parent. But we don't have to be perfect. Thank heaven for repentance and forgiveness.

The lesson is that in the end, if we don't believe in the Savior, nothing else matters. That's the lesson of mortality. Brother Garfield compared the story of Job with the story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve once enjoyed happiness, and a special relationship with God, but lost it. They were seeking that relationship with God again. That's what Job was seeking. 

Some people say that Job never complained. It is true that he never complained about losing his family, his possessions, his health. But he did complain about feeling that the heavens were closed. So when you end up with a brown, dirty goo, the only way to get through it is to rely on the Savior. And endure.


*I acknowledge Dr. Greg Smith of southern Alberta for sharing this analogy of Chemistry class, which also applies in every way, including attending the University of Alberta and having the same lab experience. From FAIRMormon podcast, Episode 1.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Whatever the Savior lays his hands upon lives.

"Whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives. If Jesus lays his hands upon a marriage, it lives. If he is allowed to lay his hands on the family, it lives."
- Howard W. Hunter, October, 1979 General Conference

"Lo que Jesús pone sus manos sobre la vida. Si Jesús pone sus manos sobre un matrimonio, que vive. Si se le permite poner sus manos sobre la familia, que vive."
- Howard W. Hunter, De octubre de 1979 Conferencia General 
(sorry, this conference isn't available on in Spanish, so if it is translated poorly, blame Google Translate.)

So how does the Savior lay his hands upon us today? How can he lay his hands upon a family? Well, I leave that to you to ponder.

I testify that he does. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Mother's Poem

What defines a good mother? Is it a large home filled with every fun toy and gadget? Is it to be an excellent cook? Is it to have a spotless home? NO! it is none of these things. Mom's mother, Julia "Judy" Gwilliam was a perfect mom, but mom remembers that she wasn’t a very good housekeeper. But she taught mom a little poem that helped mom a lot. It goes like this:

Babies Don't Keep

I hope my children will look back on today
And see a mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking
But children grow up while we're not looking.
Dusting and scrubbing can wait 'till tomorrow
For babies grow fast we learn to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep

I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

We love you! Happy Mother's Day. You're all awesome mom's, and we're so very proud of you!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mothers prayers...

I saw this quote on Twitter, and had to share it here as it goes along with my theme:

"There are few things more powerful than the prayers of a righteous mother". - Boyd K. Packer

I'm so thankful for my mom, Knickerbocker genes and all. I'm so thankful for Jackie, your angel-mother. Jackie and I are so thankful for each of you wonderful mothers of our grandchildren. You're doing an awesome job. What you are doing is truly amazing!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The perfect secret giver

Luke 24:15-35 tells the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, soon after the resurrection of Christ. The Savior walks with them, "but their eyes were holden that they should not know them". One of the disciples was almost certainly Luke, the other is identified as Cleopas. A chronicler in 180 A.D. said he had years before interviewed the grandsons of Jude the Apostle, and learned that Cleopas was Jesus uncle, the brother of Joseph. Surely both these men would have been very familiar with Jesus, yet they did not know who he was until he broke bread.

The Lord is the perfect secret giver. We ask for blessings, and if they are right, the Lord answers our prayers, but often in a way that we don't see them. One of our kids used to really stress out at the beginning of each high school year. Mom and I thought this kid would die from all the stress. We would pray fervently that they would learn how to find balance in their life, and be able to do as well in school as they desired, but also have time to enjoy life. We would pray for months, and then slowly start to forget about it. Later in the year, mom and I were talking, and the thought came to us - do remember how we used to pray so hard for this child to be able to find happiness and balance in school? It happened, and we didn't even realize it!

It happens all the time. Mom and I were so worried about Kylie's health since Wendy was so sick throughout the pregnancy. We prayed and prayed and prayed that Kylie would be healthy and strong and have all her faculties. And here we are three month later, and never took the time to stop and think about the small miracle that is before us.

I remember Granny and Grampy telling us once that they worried more about us kids when we were in our twenties than they did when we were teenagers. I think mom and I would agree with that to a certain extent. We have fervently prayed for each of you as you have left the nest and faced difficult challenges. And our prayers have been answered. We continue to pray for each of you and the challenges you face, but we need to take more time to remember, see and thank.

This morning, we took a moment to pray and thank the Lord that each of our children have been married in the temple. We're thankful that you have all found and married wonderful, interesting and worthy people. We are thankful for our grandchildren. We're thankful that each of you, children and spouses, are fighters, and never give up.

I'm thankful for your angel-mother, who prays with as much faith as anyone I know. When I was called into the mission presidency, the outgoing counselor said that the other counselor prayed with much faith, and it felt like you were standing in the presence of the Lord when he prayed. I have heard him pray, and I would agree, but it wasn't as astonishing to me, as I had heard similar prayers from your mom. Each of you have seen and heard and felt mom pray. You have seen her weep, you have heard her plead, you have felt the Spirit confirm her words. I'm not saying that her prayers will protect us from every challenge that life has to throw at us - it won't. But I do know that many prayers that were 'right' have been answered. I DO know that with prayer, we can get through everything.

Pray like your mom! Let's be united in prayer, and all pray for each other! We love you!