(Don’t) Put Up Your Dukes!

“We are going to have peace even if we have to fight for it” (Dwight Eisenhower)

Sometimes people tell me I am a good mom. I don’t know about that. I guess I have done okay, but I tend to think I got really lucky with my kids and they got really lucky with their dad and I just went along for the ride.

But I know one thing I absolutely laid the law on when my kids were little: fighting. It just simply wasn’t allowed (before you scoff, know that my kids have confessed to a few punches and hits when Mom wasn’t home, but they will also tell you those were exceptions, not rules).

I have heard many times, both in my years as a teacher, youth minister’s wife, and as a just plain person, that sibling fights are just an unavoidable evil, that all siblings punch and pinch and push and tease and torment. I know my brother and I did.

I had two brothers: Lance, who was two and a half years younger than me, and Chad, who was six years younger. I never really fought much with Chad. He was just too much smaller, it didn’t seem fair. Besides, he was sweet. But Lance? We fought like little heathens. Well, I say little. I remember digging my long fingernails into his forearm to draw blood when I was driving the van and he was in the passenger seat. We hit each other, pushed each other, called each other names. I even lost my temper and threw a knife across the room at him once. It embedded itself in the door where his belly had been just seconds before and hung there, vibrating with force and calling me back to my senses. I have told you before, mine was not the most peaceful of homes.

When I started my own family, I absolutely knew I did not want that dynamic. So as Hilary and Travis began to disagree, I just told them there would be no hitting. They could argue with quiet voices but they could not call names. They could not resort to violence. What I discovered was that this training meant I had to be the referee for the disagreements. I could not leave them to sort it out without supervision. Notice I said supervision, not intervention. I still let them find the solutions. Sometimes I coaxed them into the most fair or compassionate resolution, but I didn’t dictate. Kids don’t learn from an adult laying down laws.

Libby was a little tougher. If you know her, you get it. She is vivacious and strong-willed and competitive. Fortunately, her older brother and sister stayed the course.

There has been bickering in this house. Want to test that? Ask Hilary or Libby to tell you who takes the most clothes from her sister’s closet.

But my kids are friends with each other. I love having all three of them in the house because laughter is abundant in those times. They miss each other when they don’t get to see each other for a few days. And that’s way better than how my brothers and I ended up- one dead alone in a hotel room of a drug overdose and the other telling me he does not want any contact with me.

Maybe you pounded on your siblings and you managed to stay friends. Me? I am glad I stood, however imperfectly, for peace. It may be the thing I am most proud of in all my mothering. Teach your kids how to disagree in love. The world could use more of that.

“Try the Belief-O-Matic!” Sorting Your Own Faith Amid So Many Paths

Since Sunday is declared faith day on my blog, I was looking for a place to start, a jumping place, if you will, so I typed the word “Christianity” into a Google search. Wow, there is a lot out there on that! I bopped around on different sites and found the “Belief-O-Matic,” a questionnaire claiming to be able to advise me as to which category into which my faith fits.

At the risk of alienating a whole heck of a lot of people, I will divulge that my results proved a 100% match for Neo-Paganism. This kind of surprises me. I have tried reading Wiccan texts, and they make me feel weird. But here’s the rub- the Christian Bible is weird, too.

Have you ever really thought about some of the Biblical stories? Accounts of endless loaves and fishes, water to wine, and walking dead are meant to believed by Christians as literal truth. It baffles me that anyone might still believe that the earth was created in seven literal days. I’ll save my utter disdain for the Apostle Paul the misogynist for some other Sunday.

I believe Jesus was really great. I believe he truly lived and died, and that he had a particularly beautiful relationship with his Maker. The teachings of Jesus are, put simply, precious and dear and true. But the teachings of Buddha which I have managed to read so far also ring true and good. There is beauty and love in the Koran. The Native Americans believed in a Great Spirit, whose presence could be felt in the wind, the sun, and the rain.

A common thread in these teachings? God/ess is present in our own corporeal bodies and in the earth and its wonders.

Apparently, Neo-Pagans hold that Divinity is most powerfully evident in Creation, that we humans are interconnected and meant to assist each other through this life, that each man and woman has an individual path and calling, that a truly blessed life is one that seeks balance and moments of peaceful community with the Divine.

You know what troubles me? I think this is pretty much what Jesus said. Modern Christians have, in my view, lost sight of what Jesus really taught. By being involved so heavily in politics and policy, by feeling the need to sequester themselves in private schools and elaborate sanctuaries, by being more concerned with being right than doing right, modern American Christianity has lost me. And I don’t think I am the only one.

All my life I was taught that “The World” was full of miserable unhappy people who needed the saving gospel of Jesus. When I left the safety of the church and began to know people outside its walls, I discovered that the world is, in fact, full of joyous loving people. People who lift a hand to help their neighbor not motivated by a Christian imperative but by the knowledge that we are all in this together, no matter color or creed.

If I can find a church that digs that, maybe I will return to formal faith. Until then, I plan to have my own running discourse with the Divine. We will commune in the trees, She will let me feel her presence in the breeze, or He will remind me of his power in the thunder.