Every early April, my kids wake up early one Saturday morning thoroughly excited. The feeling festivity and excitement is almost tangible, for that day begins the start of General Conference Weekend. Without worrying about breakfast, kids tumble out of bed, and make their way to the table. There before their excited eyes is their own personalized Conference picnic. Eagerly everyone scatters to get dressed, get their buddies dressed and to prepare the room for our Conference Feast.
About 8 years ago, when I was struggling to juggle the needs of four kids-the oldest only being 6 years old, I lamented to my husband that General Conference time was missing that special feeling I felt listening to the words of God should have. For the last 6 years we had tried all sorts of things to make it so that my husband and I could listen to the speakers and their inspired words of wisdom they prepared so thoughtfully for us. I always felt that Conference time was mediocre at best. I was grateful to know that I had the internet available so that I could, at a later time, listen by my self to the talks. As my husband and I discussed our vision for this time of the year, we both felt strongly that the feeling of anticipation and excitement was definitely lacking with our children. Through much prayer and study, we came up with a plan that has changed the whole feeling in our home.
First, we changed our own perspective of General Conference. Together, we decided that watching General Conference live would be the time that we focused on the children. Our whole objective would not be how many notes we could write, but how positive of an experience we could make this for the kids. That meant that during conference, while we insisted the kids were reverent, we spent more time talking to them during conference, paraphrasing the stories or doctrine for the kids as they were being told during conference.
Next we started increasing our kids anticipation by talking about General Conference weeks before it was to happen. We would gather crayons, paper and print out home made ‘conference bingo’ cards. We made sure we showed them pictures of the Prophet and apostles. My husband is good at remembering fun stories from past conferences, and with the recent years, we make sure we put on lots of ‘General Conference Stories’ an wonderful podcast for kids (and adults). We also make sure we go shopping for lots of food.
Since General Conference is definitely a weekend where we get to spiritually feast on the words of Christ, I naturally thought of making it a time for us to feast physically. This is by far my kid’s favorite thing to prepare for. We make lists together, hunt up new recipes, go shopping and prepare days and sometimes weeks in advance. While this takes work, it has been a great way to strengthen relationships and build memories through righteous traditions. After the feast is prepared, our kids have the freedom to eat any time they want to during conference. This has helped keep them quiet while watching. We try to make healthy food for our feast instead of junk food and sweets so that we don’t associate feeling sick with Conference 🙂 As we have experimented with different kinds of ‘feasts’ we have found giving the kids their own personalized picnic basket full of food and a garbage bag minimizes the need to get up, lets them eat at their own pace, gives them a place to keep their food (and mess) contained while they watch and take notes.
Finally, we realized that it is important that the words listened to during conference sink deep into our families heart. After a few years of mulling over this issue, and trying different things we have found a delightful way to encourage thoughtful discussion and note taking. To do this we collaborated with other families to set up an evening where the older kids (8 and up) could get together to share their feelings, thoughts, and impressions about conference. We call it ‘Conference Sunday’ because afterwards the kids get sundaes as refreshments. Knowing that they are expected to carry on the encourage the older kids to write notes and discuss their notes with each other to prepare for the evening. When we first started this tradition, the kids were very young, most just turned 8 years old. These discussions ended up being mini-conference lessons that the mom’s did. As the years have passed on there has been a decided shift from parents doing most of the talking to, parents doing most of the listening. Though it is hard for me to be quiet about gospel subjects, I have been richly rewarded with my effort to ‘talk less and listen more’. I have got insight into my kids’ minds that I otherwise would not have had.
All of these things to make Conference time special, have taken a lot of work and preparation on the part of my husband and I but the effects of this effort have been well worth it. Many times during the years I have heard “I love Conference time”, “Yah it is Conference”, “Hurry clean the house so we are ready for conference” and lately I have heard more tender expressions of “I love Elder Uchdorfs” talk” or “Remember that story last year. . .” or “Mom, when I hear the voice of the Prophet I feel his love”. I hope that as the years compound upon one another until they truly come to hunger after the words of Christ.