Renegotiating Family Relationships

Part 5 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series

This post can be applied to any parent who has a child entering their adult years. As I have discovered with all my daughters, the mere fact that they turn 18 or 21, does not mean they will turn into adults overnight. It is a process of negotiation and renegotiation as parent and child. Indeed, for some families it may be a case of the child wanting to remain as a child; reluctant to have to start making adult decisions.

But for those who do serve missions, this process of change will often occur while they are away. For many parents this then requires a sudden re-adjustment of the terms of their relationship with their child once their missionary returns.

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Renegotiating family relationships.

From Dave and Wendy Ulrich

Generally, children leave for missions and adults return. This means that everyone has to adjust to a new, adult-adult relationship. As parents, it helps if we will lovingly initiate conversations about our ability or willingness to provide financial support, our need for help with household responsibilities, and our hopes for our new relationship rather than imposing rules. Your child is now an adult who has been living independently for some time, and who has dreams, skills, needs for independence, and ideas that may differ from yours. Be patient with the over-idealism that missionaries often cling to in the ambiguity of a new life. It is not easy to go from having the answers to loving the questions, and some make this transition more easily than others. Also, almost every mission and every first year home has sensitive or unresolved issues. Work to ask questions in ways that invite honest answers, and be careful not to let pride in your missionary’s accomplishments leave them afraid to disappoint you. Then accept that they still may not tell you everything.

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What do I think?

This is the unknown to me. It is something that I am yet to experience, and therefore is a bit scary. My plans are to tread carefully with my daughter till I get a feel for whether we will need to renegotiate our relationship with her or not. Pre-mission she was never really a child who was champing at the bit to have her freedom, or break free from being the child. To me she was extremely mature before she left, and I feel that we had already established that adult to adult relationship. But I’m not making any assumptions till she is back home.

I would really like some feedback on how other parents have dealt with this renegotiation. Perhaps girls are easier than boys, since they leave on their missions at a later age?

Questions:

1. How do you distinguish between rules that you imposed on your children pre-mission, and general house rules for all to abide by post-mission?

2. What is the kind of language you use with your adult children that may be different from when they were children?

3. Can anyone share a particular experience of how you approached that renegotiation?

**Part 6 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ looks at Friends and Dating.

Excitement and Disorientation

Part 2 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series

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Excitement and Disorientation.

From Dave and Wendy Ulrich

Ending a mission can be challenging, and it is not unusual for missionaries to feel disoriented and a little lost. Often they are physically and emotionally tired and looking forward to a few days to sleep in, visit with friends, and do nothing. Parents rightfully expect children to come home from a mission with new maturity, skills, motivation, and discipline, and may be dismayed to see them sitting around playing video games in their pajamas. Try to remember that missionaries have worked 60+ hour weeks for months and years with no weekends off and no vacations, and outside of these work hours they were expected to study, plan, keep up an apartment, and help companions. They need a little time to rest, to learn to be a “normal” person again, and to integrate their new self with their old environment. At the other extreme, they may be quite judgmental of the family, overly idealistic in standards, and not want to let go of mission patterns. This is certainly not all bad! Don’t get defensive, and don’t tease – just be kind and patient. Make sure they have some kind of personal space, especially if they won’t get their old room back. They also need some non-missionary clothes, books, music, and activities that gradually reintroduce them to normal life. Ask about their plans, interests, and needs in a supportive, non-judgmental way. Listen, learn, be patient, and remember: They won’t stay in this “lost” phase forever.

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What do I think?

Even tho’ a missionary has been living in the world, their world is one wholly dedicated to the service of the Lord and other’s. Just like being wrapped in a clear bubble – still seeing the world around them for 18 months or two years but free from its influences. On return, that bubble is popped and suddenly you are breathing the same air as everyone else. It takes time to re-explore it and find your place within it.

As a return missionary I think I fit Dave and Wendy’s description perfectly. One of the hardest parts of serving a mission for me was the first 3 months after I returned. I felt very disoriented and a little lost. I remember being excited to come home and begin the next phase of my life, but I really didn’t expect it to be quite so hard to adjust to a new kind of routine (well actually no routine).

The regiment of mission life didn’t exist any more, and in a lot of ways I felt a lack of purpose. I was really grateful for parents who were very patient with me; who didn’t pressure me to be something I wasn’t ready to be.

Many of my friends had moved on – married, moved away, or simply made new friends. I remember one time, not long after reconnecting with my best friend, how she complained that I talked too much about my mission and wondered if I had anything better to talk about. I was devastated. The one person I thought would understand had just impatiently brushed me off.

I must also admit that I had thought, and mentioned once or twice, about how my family  needed to up their act in terms of living the gospel. I’m pretty sure there were a few raised eyebrows behind my back…but glad to say that they never seemed to take offense at it.

Questions:

1. Do you have any expectations for your missionary when he/she gets home?

2. Have you discussed as a family how you are going to assist your missionary to integrate their ‘new self with their old environment’?

3. Do you have an experience that you would like to share here of how you assisted your returned missionary to settle back into life?

**Part 3 will explore the ‘Need for Structure’ soon after returning home.

>> Part 3 The Need for Structure >>

A Mormon President?

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Mitt Romney in Washington D.C. on February 11, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I am very far from the general buzz surrounding the current bid by Mitt Romney to become the nominated Republican leader, and in the hope that this does not become a political discussion as such, I am certainly interested, from an outsiders point of view, in what kind of effect his bid is having out there in the mission field.

Indeed, this past week it is clear that Romney has won that bid, and is now in line to challenge Pres. Obama for the Presidency. These are certainly interesting days for the Church. Mostly for our brothers and sisters in the US, but that effect will, I am sure, have some kind of follow-on outside its borders as well.

Are our missionaries experiencing many more opportunities to teach the gospel because of his prominence, or are they finding roadblocks?

My daughter is currently serving in a Utah Mission, and has so far made no indication to me that there is any ‘Romney’ effect as she serves. But this doesn’t surprise me; it would not be as hot a topic in Utah, as it would be in say New York, or any other location. Or would it? Well, maybe it is a hot topic there in Utah, but certainly not for the same reasons it would be elsewhere.

I have already talked a little bit on this blog about the effect that his political prominence has had on the church through mainstream media, as well as how the media in general can really get it wrong sometimes. Even from my distant location (New Zealand) we are getting a fair bit of interest in this election process, mostly because of the religious position of Mitt Romney. So I would assume that continental USA is humming with it.

Just recently Kathryn Skaggs, a well-known LDS blogger, wrote an article for the Washington Post titled “Mitt Romney’s Mormon milestone”. In there she talks about his successful bid for the Republican leadership and her perception that overall this was a positive thing for the church. She also states that, “…people are searching to know more about what Mormons actually believe and are much more apt to find credible information online.”

My question then is not a political one, but one which would explore the effects that this campaign is having upon the work of the Lord – face to face. I have always been told that any mention of the church, whether good or bad, is always beneficial as it gets people talking and asking questions.

So, what is the experience of our missionaries over there in relation to Mitt Romney’s 2012 US Presidential bid? Are there questions being asked? Do any of your missionaries, as they knock on doors or meet people in the street, talk about their experiences in relation to this? Are they finding people more inquisitive, or are they finding them less receptive?

As an outsider I am hugely interested in this. Maybe some of the mum’s, or family members, have had an experience themselves. Has it been the topic of conversation between you and your non-member friends? I would love to hear some of your, or your missionaries, stories if you have any.

I would also love to hear how you feel about this milestone? What kind of effect do you think it will have on the church in general? Is it a positive thing, or do you see it as being detrimental for the church?

The Excitement is Building

Mother's Day card

Mother’s Day card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Are you excited?

I am…

What will this day hold for you?

For me, I am going to have to wait an extra day before I get my call. With time differences, if my daughter rang me on her Sunday morning, it would be middle of the night here. So I will have to be patient.

Indeed, we don’t expect our call till about 10am Monday morning (for which my son is extremely excited, as it means having the morning off from school). This is due to the fact that my missionary has a baptism on the Saturday, and then the confirmation will occur on the Sunday (afternoon church). What a busy little missionary she is.

So I will happily wait the extra few hours to talk with her. I can just imagine the excitement she will exude after such a great weekend.

Don’t forget to have that list of questions at hand when the call comes through. I have added a downloadable version of them at the end of the post Ring, Ring…Why Don’t You Give Me a Call.

Here is a link to a Time Zone and Meeting Calculator. It may be a bit late for this time round, but I usually calculate the time difference on the date/s they can call, and then copy and past the results directly into the email to my daughter a few weeks before the call happens.

Tell us about your arrangements for the day. Are you allowed to skype? Or is it a phone call? Do you expect to get a call at all? Who will be there for the call? What are some of the unique things you do when your missionary calls?

I would also love to hear how it all went, so I will post again on Tuesday to get an update.

Food Friday

As a missionary myself 30 years ago (if you say it really quickly it doesn’t sound quite so bad), we were actually forbidden to eat with any members, or non-members, unless special permission was granted from the Mission President. So my companions and I would almost always have to prepare our own evening meals.

With time constraints, this was often a challenging task, made worse by the fact that many missionaries didn’t even know how to boil a simple egg. So, a good sound knowledge of the kitchen was a highly prized skill when anticipating a new companion…especially for the Elders! Many Elders fell into the non-egg boiling category.

It seems that missionaries these days have little chance of doing much of their own cooking. Depending on the mission, but as a general rule, members of the church throughout the world now cheerfully prepare meals each night for our hard working sons and daughters.

Something for which we missionary mum’s are very grateful for I might add.

However, there are times when missionaries serve in an area where it is just not possible for the local member to feed them every night. It’s pretty safe to say that every missionary will probably serve in one of these areas during their time out.

Optimum health and wellbeing is critical for our missionaries to serve effectively. So to maintain a balanced, healthy diet, it is important for them to be able to have some simple recipe ideas up their sleeves for those times when member meals are not available.

For this reason I thought it might be a good idea to start a series on meals for missionaries; just some quick, simple, but delicious meal ideas for a missionary on the run. So, here it is, “Food Friday”. Every Friday I will add another recipe or two to the list.

If you would like to add a recipe to the list then please email me at macytraine1@hotmail.com

Recipes so far:

  1. Scrummy Baked Potatoes
  2. Taco Rice Salad
  3. Pancakes at the Maurer’s
  4. Beef and Sweet Potato Burgers
  5. Pasta Parmigiana
  6. Impossible Pie
  7. An Aussie Take on Chilli