Learning Hate

“Mommy, why have you and daddy been so upset about the news?” Stephen asked suddenly during a commercial while we watched TV.

“Well…um….there’s a lot that’s been going on in America this week,” I said.  I’ve decided he’d old enough to start hearing about the truth of the world.

“Like what?”

“There were White Supremacists causing a riot….no, wait, ok, let me explain from the beginning.  You remember how there used to be people who thought white people were better than black people?  And at the beginning of our country there was slavery.”

“Yes.”

“And there used to be people called Nazis who hated Jewish people and killed them in Germany?”

“Yes, we learned about that.”

“Ok, well, actually, there are still people who think like that.  They hate black people and Jews and think white people are better.”

Stephen’s jaw dropped.  “WHAT!?  Why would anyone even think that!?  That’s, that’s crazy!” He exclaimed.  “I can’t believe they even thought that in the olden days.”

“I know,” I agreed.  “But there are people who are still confused and think that.  And they’re called racists and they marched with guns in a town called Charlottesville and caused a riot.”

Stephen smacked his head.  “Just because of the color of their skin?  That just doesn’t even make any sense.  Doesn’t everyone know we’re the same inside?”

“Some people are still racists,” I said.  “That’s why it’s important that good people, especially Christian people, stand up against racism and call evil by its name.  The country has been in a fight about that also.  It is our duty to stand against racism and hate.”

I saw confusion in his clear blue eyes, bewildered.  My son, may evil continue to baffle you; may you be a light in a dark world.

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A letter to my sons

Dear Stephen and Adrian,

Friday was difficult for me.  I consented to anesthesia and surgery for you for the 6th time; 3rd for Adrian, and 3 for Stephen in addition to his hospitalization.  These are the hardest things I have ever done as a mother.  I watch you go limp, and then leave you in a cold room of strangers I must trust to care for you even as they cut you.  I did my best to explain, to tell you why strangers took you and hurt you, but in your youth, you could not understand.

Every time, I fear you will think I betrayed you–a mother’s deepest betrayal.  I failed to protect you.  I told you it would be ok, we put you to sleep, and then you awoke confused and in pain.

Stephen, your father helped press a mask to your face while you screamed and struggled as a baby.  When you were a toddler, I held you down when you tried to rip the IV out of your arm and run into the parking lot naked, screaming in fear.

When you were in the hospital with flu, I remember your eyes, terrified in the eerie never-dark ICU, begging me to take you home.  You cried, “Mom, they’re hurting me here!  Please, we have to go home now!  They’re hurting me!  Please!”  And I had to say “I can’t.  They are saving you.”  You cried in despair, tubes snaking out of your arms and nose, writhing with the whir of machines.

Adrian, my heart broke when blood-tears streamed down your face as you sobbed after your eye surgery.  Two hours earlier I left you with a sweet smile on your face in the operating room, unable to comprehend the magnitude of your situation.

I pray that you will understand why I did those things, that I did them because I love you.  I stifled my urge to protect you in the present because I knew those surgeries and the hospital would protect your future.  I knew that it was helping, even when it felt like hurting.  I pretended to be brave for you, I wore my strong mommy-mask, but on the inside I was terrified.  I smiled to your face, but I cried when you were asleep.

I think we have the strength of relationship that you believed me when I said it would be ok, and trusted me even though you didn’t understand.  My sweet little Adrian, I think you have forgiven me already for what we put you through.

I hope that as you mature in life, and in faith, you will begin to understand.  Jesus cried with us, too.  We babes can’t understand the reason for suffering.  But we must trust that God knows more than we can comprehend.  Parenthood is teaching me how a loving God allows his children to suffer; sometimes helping feels like hurting.  I love you now and forever, and I am sorry that I can’t always shield you from the pain of life.

I am proud of the way you have handled your trials, and I pray they will shape you into Godly men.  Forgive me if you think I did it wrong….I did my best for you, always for you, everything for you.

Love,

Mom

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Please let my husband bring a gun to school

My husband is a teacher at our local high school.  My sons will be students there.  As a wife and mother, I would feel safer knowing guns were there too.

Let’s stop allowing a gunman to walk into school with the guarantee that he is the only armed person there (with the exception of a single officer who is easily identified, targeted, or avoided).  Let’s stop making teachers and students defenseless lambs for the psycho’s slaughter.  I have no doubt that my husband would take a bullet for his students.  But what if he could fire one for them instead?

I’m not saying arming teachers is “the answer.”  Yes, try to stop automatic weapons.  Yes, active shooter drills.  Yes, bulletproof windows.  Yes, mental health reform.  But as we have seen time and time again, planned attackers devise ways around these safeguards.  Gun laws don’t impress lawless men.  Can we admit it’s not working yet?  It’s time to try a new idea.  It’s time to give my husband and his colleagues the chance to defend themselves.

I’m not a gun lover.  I hate guns and violence.  I would prefer for them all to vanish.  But I am a realist.  Guns and violence, like poverty, will be here until Jesus comes again.  So in the meantime, let’s make sure bad guys aren’t the only ones packing.

Please let my husband bring a gun to school.

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CRASH!!!

We got the living room and kitchen painted in fresh colors.

Happy with the new look, I set about re-hanging my pictures and decorations.  I was feeling happy, the house was looking good, I was almost done, when

CRAAAAAASH from the kitchen!

I rushed in to find the shelves I had hung on the wall were not anchored well enough and the top one fell into the lower one, bringing both crashing down, and with them my carefully placed decorations, all smashed on the floor.

“No!” I yelled, covering my face with my hands and beginning to cry.  My willowtree figurines, the teacup my sister brought me from China, the Turkish pot from my childhood, shattered on the cruel tile.  I sobbed.

They’re just things, they’re just things, no one got hurt….I chanted in my head, but still…I cried.

Eric started collecting pieces to try and salvage.

Stephen rushed to me, encircling me with his little arms.  “It’s ok mom,” he said soothingly.  “I’ll give you my money to help you buy new things.  It will be ok.”

“Some of them are things I can’t buy again,” I cried.  “That’s the problem.  I’m so stupid!  I can’t believe I did that!”

“You’re not stupid!  Don’t say that!  We’ll fix them,” he said optimistically.  “I’ll fix it for you!  It’s going to be ok.  Shhh-shhh-shhh,” he patted my arm.

Adrian hugged me, and he and Reid and Will curiously started walking toward the mess.

“Don’t go near there!”  I said.  “You could get cut on the broken pieces.  Just go downstairs so you don’t get hurt.”

Adrian grabbed his kindle off the counter and disappeared with Reid and Will.  Will whispered to Reid, “I didn’t know mommys could cry!”

Stephen swept the floor, and he and Eric began gluing pieces back together.

Adrian reappeared with a picture he drew for me.

IMG_2727

I thanked him, and then he hugged me again and said, “Look at your phone!  There’s something for you on your phone too!”

“There is?”  I asked.  He nodded, a little smile playing at his lips.  I checked my phone.  Sure enough, a new email from Adrian:

Mom I hope you feel better😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😰”

Stephen spent the afternoon gluing pieces back together.  Probably too many pulverized pieces to finish the project, but he did his best!  That afternoon when I opened my computer, it was on Stephen’s profile, the browser left open to Amazon with the search “china teacups” typed in.  My eyes watered again, but not with sadness for my broken decorations.

I am still sad that I lost some of my things.  But I think when I look back, I won’t remember the loss.  I’ll remember the love of my boys and how they rallied around me when I was upset.  They hugged me throughout the day, saying, “I’m sorry for you, mom” true empathy showing in their eyes.  Seeing my sons display virtues like empathy and kindness is, of course, priceless.  They are the treasure of my heart.

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God with us

“Mom, God lives in our hearts,” Reid observed while riding in the car yesterday.

“That’s right,” I said.

“And Jesus lives in Heaven.”

“Yes, and He also lives in your heart.”

“Is my heart Heaven?”

“Mmm.  Good question.  No your heart isn’t Heaven.  God lives in Heaven and in your heart at the same time.  He isn’t like a person, that can only be in once place at a time.  Like Mommy can only be at home or at work but not both.  But God can be everywhere at once.”

“That’s weird!”

“Yes, it is!  It’s called omnipresence.”

“I like presents!”  Chimed in Will.  “I don’t see God.”

“You can’t see God, he’s invisible.”

“Like friendly Ferdinand the ghost!” Said Will.  “He’s invisible with us.”

“Yes, he is like Ferdinand the ghost!” I said.

So there you  have it, the whole trinity covered in toddler-speak.

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Hero

Stephen received a handmade blanket and stuffed lion from the knitting group at our church.  He immediately took to the lion, stroking it when he was upset.  I told him when I was his age and I broke my arm, my aunt gave me a stuffed lion and it helped me feel better when I was sick.  I still have my lion, who I named Aslan, and he reminds me of that time and when I was comforted.

Tonight, Stephen was thinking of names for his lion.

“Hero,” he decided.  “Because he’s my hero here.”

“That’s good he’s helping you,” I said.  “People made it special so that it could comfort a child in the hospital, and that turned out to be you.  It found the right person.”

“Our class made something to give to children in the hospital,” he said, stroking Hero.  “I didn’t understand then how important it was.  But now that I’m a child in the hospital, I understand the impact.  I never knew I would be a child in the hospital!  And I didn’t know how it would feel, and how much you need special things like Hero.  People don’t know how a little thing they do might be really important to someone else.”

“Yes, that’s why you should always be kind to others.  You never know what it might mean to them.  And you never know when you will be the one who needs help, and everyone needs help at times in their life.  Right now our family needs the help.”

So thank you to the strangers who knitted Hero with loving hands, thank you to the strangers who are praying for our family.  Thank you to our friends and family who are praying, bringing meals and helping with kids and hugging me and texting and facebooking me.  Thanks to everyone rallying around us as we experience being the family who needs help.  You are all meeting us in our time of need, and we are blessed.  Thank you, my heroes.

 

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That’s not fair!

“Life’s not fair.  Didn’t your mamma teach you that?” My mother would ask whenever we protested that something was unfair.

My twin sister was dubbed the “Family Fairness Monitor,” always on the lookout for any hint of unfairness.  My parents developed tactics to ensure fairness in every area of life.  For Christmas, we got the same things but in different colors.  When it came to picking who got to do something first or where we sat in the car, Beth got first choice on even numbered days, and I got odd days.  Whenever we split food, one of us cut it, and the other picked which half to take.

I find it harder to monitor family fairness with different-aged children with different needs.  And evens/odds doesn’t work with 4!  As a parent, you do your best to treat everyone “fairly.”  But I’ve been struggling more with the unfairness I can’t control or fix.  Last week, we attended parent/teacher conferences and it highlighted a lot of unfairness.

Stephen has always effortlessly achieved straight-A’s.  He aces spelling tests but he’s never studied for one.  He learned to read music in approximately 60 seconds.  He scores ridiculously high on scantron tests.  His teacher last year commented she’s never seen a number that high in one of the areas.

Then there’s Adrian.  He aces spelling tests, but only after copying the words three times every day starting on Monday.  He misses a day of study, he misses words.  He gets A’s and B’s….with a lot of effort.  His teacher said he masters the concepts, but he needs extra practice.  He struggles to read music after a year of piano.  He did not score well on his scantron.   And then, of course, the poor child’s visual impairment which can’t be fixed and may or may not be part of the problem!

Ever since the conferences, my heart aches.  I hate that I can’t fix this unfairness.  I wish they could all start from the same starting line.

My natural reaction to the unfairness is to try to brush it aside.  What’s the point in worrying and blogging about fairness?  Of course life is not fair.  Too damn bad!  Suck it up, buttercup.  Quit whining and get to work.  What God didn’t give you, you earn with your sweat.

But still…I see a gifted son and a struggling son.  And I am learning the value of respecting feelings in their own right.  So I will allow my heart to speak, even if there is nothing “to do” about it.  My heart feels sad.  And feelings don’t need to be fixed, they just need to be.

I don’t have an answer, I don’t know why life is unfair.  I don’t know why kids with the same parents in the same house get the deck stacked so differently.  I do think the response is tough love.  But before cold logic and Tiger Mom take over, I’m allowed to feel my feelings for a little bit.  I feel sad.

Because dang it, it’s not fair!

 

 

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