It has been mentioned before that we have some difficulty with our son Gavin. It seems Gavin has falls on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum and this creates the majority of our problems. His mental processes are simply different from what Marci and I experience. It is pointless to try and list out all of the specific issues we have, suffice it to say that the differences are sometimes very subtle, but just different enough so that it takes a considerable amount of time and experience for us to begin to understand the background reasoning behind his actions, and other times his behavior will trend a specific direction and we simply have to accept it because darned if we can't figure it out.
This is not to say Gavin is a bad kid, or to provide excuses for occasional bad behavior. Gavin is a very caring and loving boy who loves to learn and be helpful and he is very creative. It is simply an acknowledgement that of our 3 children, we understand Gavin the least and that lack of understanding is very frustrating to us as parents.
One of the more difficult problems is Gavin's propensity for lying. It's frustrating more because of the lack of any reason for it. He has actually lied to us when there was absolutely no reason at all - as in there was zero benefit for him to lie to us, and yet he persisted. His lying is occasionally accompanied by stealing as well, and that too seems to follow no real sensible pattern either. When he is caught in his lie he will not give in and admit to it. He will persist in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The unusual thing is that if you then leave him alone for a little while, sometimes as little as 5 minutes, he then will freely acknowledge that he has lied and it seems as though it was just another fact of life. He will even acknowledge it was wrong and admit that he knows he shouldn't do it - and somehow repeat the entire pattern, occasionally even within minutes of being caught the first time. The even bigger part of the problem is that it isn't consistent. He is actually a pretty honest kid most of the time. If he lied all the time then we could call it a pathological problem and begin treatment, but it isn't consistent, and that's what drives us crazy - the sheer randomness of it all.
Did I mention it was frustrating?
This morning before conference, we had caught him lying about something (during conference actually - the details are unimportant) and the subject was on my mind. How do I get through to Gavin about this? How can we get him to understand? What can we do? While pondering this I was listening to President Eyring and a thought came to me: "Use the temple." It was suddenly very clear to me that I should take Gavin to the temple and talk to him more directly about the temple, specifically to talk with him about one of the temple recommend questions: "Do you deal honestly with your fellow man?" I knew that helping Gavin make a connection between the temple and his behavior would help. I needed to give him a higher goal to reach for that had a tangible, visible result. He needed something to strive for that meant something to him.
As soon as the thought occurred to me I announced to my family that as soon as the session was over we were going to get ready and go to the temple. Everyone responded favorably, and we did. My trust in the Lord was repaid even before we left. Gavin didn't just get ready, he got dressed for church, even though nobody else was. He had on his church shirt, pants and a tie. I knew then that what I was doing was the right thing. The temple did mean something to Gavin and getting him to understand the association would help.
One thing that we have really tried to do in our family is emphasize the importance of the temple. We take our children there often and talk to them about the importance of the temple as a part of how we worship God. Our children seem to feel very strongly about the temple and love going there and talking about it. The success of these efforts was manifested very plainly in Gavin's extra preparations at that moment, and I was very proud of him for his actions.
After we arrived I sat down privately on a bench near the temple and talked to Gavin about what goes on in there and what is required to enter the temple. I then spoke to him about some of the basic questions of a temple recommend interview: Do you believe in God? Do you understand what Jesus Christ did for us? Do you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet? Do you believe Thomas S. Monson is a prophet? Do you pay your tithing? Do you keep the word of wisdom? And finally: Do you know what honesty means? Are you honest? We talked about each question and why each one was so important to being worthy to enter the temple. I saw understanding in his eyes, I heard him as he explained what he understood (and he seemed to fully understand) and I saw that he was grateful to know about it. I asked him what we could do that would help him remember to be honest and he suggested that we put a picture of the temple in his room. This will absolutely happen tomorrow.
I know this is not a magic bullet, and I know this will not immediately solve the problems we have with him, but I do know that it will help. I will continue to pray for understanding on my part of how to understand Gavin, and pray for Gavin to be able to help us understand who he is.
For now, I am simply grateful that a loving Heavenly Father heard the desire of my heart and answered me in a small and simple way. It has given me hope. Hope that bit by bit I will be provided with the inspiration I need to be able to understand my son.