She learned values on family farm

Michelle Kay Waite's mother sometimes had a difficult time keeping track of her. The young girl was often out in the fields of the family farm in Peru, Ind., riding the combine with her father.

"I loved growing up on a farm. I wouldn't trade it for anything," said Sister Waite, now of the Peru Ward, Fort Wayne Indiana Stake. She said she learned during her childhood responsibility and good values.Now as a mother herself, she is seeking to instill those same principles into her three children. And she was honored for doing such by being named the 1993 National Mother of Young Children. The title was bestowed at the 58th annual American Mothers National Convention April 22-25 in Raleigh, N.C. (Please see May 8, 1993, issue for biographies of state mothers of young children and state mothers of the year.)

Sister Waite, 31, told the Church News during a telephone interview that her inspiration to be a good mother comes from two sources: "First, an understanding of the gospel and the way the Lord wants things to work in a family and in eternity. Second is my mom. I feel like what I am is because of her."

She explained that the most important thing her parents, Joseph and Kay Smith, taught her were values. "That came partly from growing up the way we did. They taught me to be honest and to trust and to care for others. I feel like I have some good strong values and morals because of them and their teaching. My mom taught me to cook and sew, and my dad taught me to work in the fields.

"Growing up on a farm gave me great security. My dad was always there. I got off the school bus about 4 p.m. every day, and Mom was there, and Dad was in the fields. It was the best childhood I could hope for.

"I always enjoyed being out with my dad in the field. I'd ride the combine with him, and sometimes he'd let me drive. I'd come home from school and plow the fields when I was old enough."

One of her greatest lessons in responsibility came when she was about 13 years old. She cared for the six or seven sheep on the farm, on which her father grew corn and soy beans. She named only one of the sheep - Rupert. "He got sick once and I nursed him back to health," she reflected. "I had to tie a gunny sack around him to keep him up. I tied him to a fence, and he lived. If a sick animal lays down, the chances of him dying are much greater."

She related that the experience taught her that "some things can't wait."

Because she learned responsibility, she said she expects her children, Sarah, 6; Josiah, 3; and Austin, 6 months; to learn to be responsible.

"Sarah has specific responsibilities at home. She has a cat that she is responsible for. She has chores that we do together. Josiah learns responsibility by doing little things over and over, such as brushing his teeth, making his bed and rinsing the dishes.

"Children may not realize they're learning to be responsible, but as they grow responsibility is ingrained. That's how I learned."

Something else Sister Waite learned as a child was the importance of the gospel as the foundation of a good home. Her parents joined the Church when she was about 6, and she was baptized when she was 8. She has one older brother and a younger sister.

Now Sister Waite and her husband, Mark Anthony Waite, make the gospel the center of their family life. And they've been doing so since their marriage in the Logan Temple in August 1985. "The gospel is the whole foundation of everything Mark and I try to teach our kids, and that we try to learn together. I cannot imagine our lives without the gospel," she said.

She said holding family home evening, reading scriptures together and having family prayer "give us family stability. There's always a time when we are together, talking and sharing. These habits develop relationships."

Spending time together is important to the Waite family. Brother Waite is an electrical engineer at nearby Grissom Air Force Base. He also has his own business that he runs from home, which makes it possible to be around his family.

The Waites enjoy many activities together, such as feeding the ducks at a nearby pond where they live just outside of Peru. They also enjoy music. Sister Waite plays the guitar, Sarah is learning to play the piano, and Brother Waite is learning to play the guitar. "We like to sit down, play and sing together," Sister Waite explained.

She also enjoys reading with her children, which she feels is important. "Sitting down and reading a book with your child is a good way to learn and share, and a good way to improve imagination. And my children have good imaginations," she added.

Despite her busy schedule as wife and mother, she finds time to nurture herself. A graduate with an associate degree in graphics and commercial art from Utah Technical College in 1984, she wrote in an American Mother's Inc. questionnaire: "I work hard at keeping sharp the talents I've been blessed with in the areas of art and graphics, music and composing, and expressing myself through disciplined writing. I also attend educational classes when the opportunity to do so exists. I help my parents in their woodworking business and appreciate the additional honing of a skill.

"I am an active member of the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) at our daughter's school, and also assist once a week with her art class. I have been involved for the past year in volunteer work with the area Red Cross Bloodmobile."

But Sister Waite emphasized what she has found most helpful: "Allowing the Holy Ghost to work in my life. If I do this, I don't go wrong. It's simple."

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