I am raising myself. I have the daughter my mother always wished for me.
Yesterday, on Valentine's Day, while I was busy making waffles for breakfast, which wasn't really what I wanted to eat that morning but it would be a treat for the kids so I was making them anyway (with nutella, sliced strawberries, and fresh whipped cream, natch), my daughter screamed at me that she didn't think she needed to be parented and that she was not my "little labor worker."
Of course this didn't just come out of nowhere. Earlier she had asked me if she could watch tv, and I told her that this day was going to be a "Screen-free Sunday," after which she admonished me that this meant I couldn't go on to Facebook, after which I sent her to her room. It all went downhill from there. Although I was amused by the yelling that she didn't understand why she needed parenting, as I was making her breakfast, I was also hurt by it, so husband stepped in as the patient and calm one. We tag-team like this. Only one of us is allowed to lose his/her shit at a time. Dear husband went to her room with her to visit reasonably about why she required parenting at this stage of her life. As he told me later, she remained unconvinced. So I figured, okay then. I know when I'm not wanted. She doesn't want to be parented? Fine. I'll fulfill my legal obligation, but nothing more. At 18 she's on her own.
By the way, my daughter is 8 years old. Fortunately, husband and I had been reading articles just this week about parenting through the emotional highs and lows of tweens, hilariously thinking that we were preparing ourselves to be better parents to my almost-11 year old son. Hahahahhaha!
We were on our way to church (still hilarious!) so I explained the new rules to her in the car: I would still make her food choices for her because I paid for her food, but she was welcome to ride her bike to the grocery store and use her allowance to make some purchases of her own. She would be making all of her meals from now on. I would help her if she asked nicely, and if I happened to not be doing something else. She would do her own laundry from now on, whenever she felt that it was necessary. She could come and go as she pleased, but like an adult, I would expect her to let me know where she was going and when to expect her back. She quietly absorbed all of this, and when we got to church, she gave me a backwards hand flick and walked off to change into her accolyte outfit. I then put our priest (father of twins one year behind my daughter) into a panic by telling him what was going on. He might as well know what's in store just around the corner, right?
During services I sent husband a few texts: planning on telling her she needs to be thinking about how she'll pay for college. Going to let her sort out her own bedtimes, as long as she's quiet in her room by the time we are being quiet and getting ready for bed. Husband is all for it. My son is watching these texts, and at the one about college, leans over and whispers, "I'm glad I'm still being parented."
After services there were three large Valentine's Day cakes set out, dwarfing a small plate of cut veggies and dip. I told her to help herself, and she might as well start calling me "Liz" now, since I wasn't going to be her mother anymore. Mostly I talked to the back of her head as she walked away. She got herself some food (gamely placing three snap peas on her plate beside the cake) and sat down by herself in a corner. Five minutes later I was chatting with our priest when she came over, carrying her plate.
"I have a question."
"I didn't mean I didn't want all parenting. Just the telling me what to do part."
"Sorry, it's a package deal, sweetie. I can't only do the parts you like."
She walks away again. Five minutes later she's back.
"You can be my mom again."
I didn't even have to get to the part about not paying for college.
Later we talked a little more. I confirmed for her that it was so hard to not be her mom for even those few hours. She seemed to like that. She also apologized for hurting my feelings. The rest of Valentine's Day proceeded as normal, sweet and touching cards were exchanged, surprise stuffed animals given, chocolate eaten and shared. This little bump was dramatic, but not too bad. I discovered that I have maybe been putting myself aside a little too much, observing how much her words had hurt. It felt a little like co-dependency: "How can you say that to me after all I do for you???" So I'll try to put a tad more attention on my own needs sometimes too. It's funny how much easier it is to lovingly give people the safe space they need to work things out without injecting your own drama into it if you'll first take responsibility for meeting your own needs.
Reading the posts about the large gathering of Christian women, IF: Gathering 2016, I came across a blog post titled "Longing to Belong," describing the ways in which Christian women really do need to find and build community together as part of our spiritual practice of prayer and service. It's a lovely essay, warm and welcoming and accepting.
But I have yet to personally experience this welcome from the larger Christian community at large. I am a pro-choice, pro-marriage equality Christian woman. I worship at an Episcopalian church, and even the US Episcopalian Church has recently been dealt the censure and judgment of the global Anglican body by being banned from voting on any Anglican matters for three years, specifically due to our church's acceptance of marriage equality as part of our Christian mission in service to Jesus's love here on earth.
In 2013, when the Texas Legislature debated and passed the disastrous HB-2 law that shuttered nearly 3 out of 4 of all women's health clinics in the state where abortion had been available (among many other desperately needed women's health services), I went to the Capitol to file my opposition to the bill. There, I was confronted by Christian women who refused to talk to me, who looked upon me with contempt, or mistrust, or fear, or anger, or hatred--but never with acceptance. Never with kindness. I even brought a cooler full of water bottles, bananas, and granola bars with me to hand out to anyone I met, hoping to start conversations. The pro-HB-2 women walked a wide berth around me, although one commented that she liked what I was doing. But she kept walking away with her companions rather than stay and have a conversation.
I don't belong to this group of Christian women. They don't want me. They have judged me and found me wanting. I don't believe they could ever accept that a Christian woman could follow the teachings of Jesus and arrive at pro-choice and pro-marriage equality positions, but I have. I pray. I read the Bible. I am raising my children in the church. And I feel very fortunate to have found the community that I have found at my church--a church that is not specifically pro-choice or anti-abortion, but that welcomes everyone, truly. Both the same-sex couples and the man who sat beside me in a class and declared homosexuality "an abomination," unaware, I know, that my own family includes a same-sex family.
I do not evangelize in the sense of trying to turn the world around me into a Christian world. It already is. There is no part of creation that is separate from God's love. I accept the infinite, timeless, boundless nature of God. It is fantastically humbling. To suppose that the manner in which I name and worship God is the only way to be in a walk with God seems the ultimate in spiritual arrogance, and a deep insult to the true nature and power of God and God's love. It would be more a reflection of my own fears and limitations than anything to do with God. There is a hymn that is a favorite of mine that resounds often in my thoughts: "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love."
So when I see the signs for IF:Gathering 2016, it has an invisible asterisk for me. I don't believe that I would be welcome there. Not really. Not with the beliefs that I have. I still can see the disdainful eyes of the women who came to the Capitol in 2013, who sang and prayed in the Capitol rotunda by themselves, inviting only those women who wore the correct color shirts to join them and worship with them. Christianity was reduced to a version of Dr. Seuss's tale, "The Sneeches." It was heart-breaking. And it continues today, when I try to speak up as a Christian for pro-choice views on women's health in online discussions. If this post gains much traction on the interwebs, I feel confident I'll be able to measure on my kitchen clock the hours until a Christian comments to me that I'm going to Hell for my beliefs, or that I'm not really a Christian, or that I'm some other sort of failure as a child of God. All because I have arrived at different conclusions and had the temerity to say so while claiming a place in the cool shadow of the Cross.
Posted by E. A. Haltom at 10:39 AM