A Lovely Yet Conflicting Story From Facebook

I read this today on Michelle D. Craig’s, 1st Counselor in the General Young Women’s Organization, Facebook page. I love what’s she is saying but I also feel conflicted with what she is saying:

I got an email last year from a wonderful sister in Oregon that I just need to share. She wrote:

“After coming home last night from a couple long days of helping at our elementary school, a flat tire, doctors visit, radiology appointment, and ER visit for one of my sick children, I was greeted with a kitchen full of dishes and life mess all over my house. I am the mother of six kids. … I was exhausted by the thought of having to pull our house together and honestly I just wanted to shower and climb into bed a bit fatigued by mortality.“While trying to tidy the kitchen, my seven-year-old approached me and asked if I would walk down to our basement to help him find a particular toy. My first thought, through focused, tunnel vision, was, ‘I just want to get the kitchen cleaned and kids to bed without interruption.’ He again asked if I’d help him by accompanying him down to our basement to search for the toy.“A clear remembrance of your conference talk came to my mind: ‘When prompted, we can leave dishes in the sink or an inbox full of challenges demanding attention in order to read to a child, visit with a friend, babysit a neighbor’s children, or serve in the temple [my insert: or help your child find a toy]. … Responding to discontent by resolving to follow promptings changes the way I think about “my time,” and I see people not as interruptions but as the purpose of my life.’“I looked at my son who was looking up at me, and I looked at my sink full of dishes and countertops littered with clutter and I said out loud, ‘Dishes, you have to wait.’ As he and I proceeded to walk down our stairs to the basement my son, Andrew, said, ‘Mom, you love me more than dishes, huh?’ To which I responded an unequivocal, ‘Yes.’ I could not believe that he picked up on me walking away from my dishes to help him. Then, this morning, while helping him finish his homework for school, I said, ‘Andrew, I love you.’ He responded with, ‘Yup, you love me more than dishes.’”

I love what she taught me. Isn’t that mantra great for all of our relationships?

Relationships matter and our actions often expose how important a relationship is to us. My son just discovered a new game app that allows him to create worlds for dragons and earn more dragons. He really loves this app and is excited about the new dragons he earns and the different levels he reaches. I catch myself “listening” to him without really listening to him. No lie, at this very moment, he just walked in from playing outside and came and sat by me and starting telling me about the dragon and the coins and he can’t wait until tomorrow to see what he’ll get next. Yesterday I caught myself walking down the hall with him following me trying to tell me something exciting about one of the dragons. I had to stop myself and just listen. It’s hard to stop typing mid-sentence and turn all my attention to him, it’s more tempting just to keep doing what I’m doing and act like I’m listening while saying “un-huh….un-huh…cool…yah…un-huh…”

Or what about those moments when you’re talking to someone in person and then you hear your phone notify you that you have a text message. All of a sudden that text message seems so much more important than the conversation with the person standing right in front of you.

Yes, I think we need to wake up and recognize the small ways in which we are “telling” someone that they are not important to us by our actions. We need to be aware of our narcissistic ways in which we minimize others.

But are there times when it is morally good to not stop what you’re doing to listen to you son tell you about the dragons on his game, or check a text message, or to go and help your child find their lost toy?

The part of this story with this mother and her son that I found conflicting is that it seems to suggest that it is always stopping what you are doing and putting the needs of others first is always the right and most noble thing to do. I have always struggled with knowing when it’s morally right to do the dishes rather than going in the backyard to play catch with my daughter, or when it’s morally right to tell my son that I can’t listen to his exciting news about his dragon game at that moment, or when it’s morally right to not stop everything that I’m doing and devote all my attention and energy to my children, because in all the church ads and church commercials and church talks its seems to imply that it is always morally right and noble and honorable to stop everything and tend to the needs and others.

It feels like a challenging topic to talk about without creating another dangerous message suggesting that it’s morally permissible to always let your needs trump those around you.