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How turning to Heavenly Father turned the worst afternoon into the best night

All is not always calm, but is sure is bright with these boys around. Carmen Herbert's boys share a laugh in their new pajamas on Christmas Eve.
All is not always calm, but is sure is bright with these boys around. Carmen Herbert's boys share a laugh in their new pajamas on Christmas Eve.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert

“What would you do if you were me?” I asked as I walked with another young mom, wanting and needing advice but also just craving someone to talk to that could help me sort through my feelings.

“Honestly? I would think about medication.”

The response stung, and I swallowed back tears as I explained why I didn’t feel that was the best option — at least for now. Honestly, the thought has crossed my mind before. My son is only 3, but he's a handful. Even so, after consulting with both his pediatrician and my psychiatrist father, we all have felt that it’s way too premature to pursue.

I returned from a brief respite to a stressful and chaotic situation at home. My 3-year-old had been in a “mood” all day long. After starting the day at 5:50 a.m., he was a roller coaster of moods — laughing and playing one minute and then fighting with his cousins and crying the next. He couldn’t seem to get a handle on his emotions, and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on the best way to help him.

Finally, his exhaustion and built-up anger got the best of him around dinnertime when he pulled his younger brother off the new ride-on toy, causing him to trip and fall and split his head on the corner of the coffee table. I had a batch of cookie dough waiting to be baked, and it was an instant “straight to bed without cookies” punishment. He lost it. And I lost it, too.

He walked up to me and I knew he wanted a hug. To be honest, it was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted the day to be over. But I closed my eyes and opened my arms, wrapping his tiny body close to mine. I told him I still loved him. And then a thought came to mind: What this child needed was a soothing bubble bath and some soft music.

“Come upstairs,” I said even though it was only 6:30. “Mommy is giving you a bath and we’re going to bed.”

He complained and cried and whined all the way into the tub, making his body limp and hard to undress. But I finally got him into the warm water and turned on some beautiful instrumental music I found on iTunes titled, “LDS Hymns and Songs (Remastered)” by Brian Daw. As “He Sent His Son” began playing, I watched my son visibly relax. He laughed as he poured water from cup to cup, watching it cascade back and forth. I felt the Spirit come into that little bathroom, and all the feelings of frustration and worry I had for my son melted away, replaced by love.

I dressed him and rubbed his little back. I gave his blankets a “floof” and lay down beside him, the soothing music still playing softly in the background. Moments later, I heard his breathing turn heavy and deep, and I snuggled closer to my son. What had been the worst afternoon turned into the sweetest night, because I had chosen to fight every urge I had to just throw up my hands and angrily and hastily put my struggling child to bed as quickly as possible, and instead turned to my Heavenly Father for help and guidance. The inspiration for the calming bath, music and one-on-one time came instantly and it changed everything.

“There are some practical principles that enhance revelation," said the late Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "First, yielding to emotions such as anger or hurt or defensiveness will drive away the Holy Ghost. Those emotions must be eliminated, or our chance for receiving revelation is slight” (see “How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life,” April 2012).

Earlier, I had sobbed into my mattress, hoping my family couldn’t hear me downstairs.

“I’m trying!” I cried. “I’m trying so hard!”

Then came a gentle, sure reply: “I know. And that’s all I ask.”

I believe my Heavenly Father knows exactly what I’m going through, and exactly how to help me through it. Knowing he knows is enough for me. It’s enough to keep me going, to keep trying.

“With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in “Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You” in April 2016 general conference.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News. Her email is carmen.r.herbert@gmail.com.