Saturday, May 5, 2007

I will never do anything as hard as parenting.


I had two talks with my daughter, Erica, today - one not so good, the other excellent. We had just finished watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was the first time both of my daughters had seen it. They thought it was great and were bugging me to watch the Temple of Doom. It was almost suppertime, so I said that we'd watch it another time. I also mentioned that I would like to watch Lord of the Rings with them. Well, Erica, per her usual routine, parroted the stuff she hears from her mother and her church informing me that Lord of the Rings is evil because she heard it has dragons. This led to a discussion very similar to many others I've had with her about dragons, demons, demon possession, and why her doctor doesn't know what she is talking about when she told Erica that she has asthma.

I'm well-versed in these discussions because, as I said, they happen regularly. My daughters hear all sorts of crap from their mother and their church. Because they live with their mother and only see me one day and night a week, they do not get many chances to hear differing ideologies and they have bought into the intolerant, dogmatic, Christian bullshit that they are inundated with. They go to a private school that peddles much the same information and so, really, the only chance they get to hear something different is when they are with me.

They hear a lot of hatred and intolerance, so I am usually very good about not repeating that. As much as I would love to say that their mother and church are full of crap (and very un-Christian), I avoid that as I feel it would be counterproductive, not to mention, of course, it would be hypocritical. So, I use logic. I point out the flaws in their arguments and ask them tough questions that make them think. Unfortunately, Shaena is very insecure and rarely sticks around for any of these talks. I know she's usually close by listening in, but she is too uncomfortable saying much on her own in these situations. Erica is different. She is a very passionate girl and gets fired up often yelling at me and crying. I sit calmly, talking to her, challenging her, and forcing her to think, really think, about everything she's been told. We had talked for about fifteen minutes today when, on the verge of tears, she stormed off saying that I always criticize her.

I feel bad for her. She's only ten. I can't imagine being in the position she's in, hearing wildly differing messages from her mother and father. How is any kid supposed to handle that? I can't stop trying, though. I've told both of my daughters countless times that I'm not trying to change their beliefs. I'm really not. Do I want them to break from their mother's poisonous, destructive belief system? Most certainly. They are not mindless automatons, though. I don't want them to blindly accept anything I say, either. I stress to them that they have a mind of their own, free will and that I want them to use their brain. Question everything. Accept nothing at face value. Think it through and then come to a decision. If they grow up believing the same thing their mother and church believe, I will be able to accept it, however grudgingly, as long as I know they have really thought about it and made up their own minds on it.

The next talk I had with Erica was excellent, one of the best I've ever had with her. I gave her a few minutes and then tracked her down. She was lying underneath my mom's bed, hiding. I got down on the floor with her and we talked for almost an hour. For all of her fiery hellfire-and-brimstone rhetoric, I know that some of what I have been telling her has started to sink in over the past few months. It's why she gets so upset when we have these talks; she's scared. What ten-year old wouldn't be when their very foundation is being shaken? We talked about why I have these tough talks with her, why she's lonely, and what I think Christianity is really about. Erica was very receptive. She stayed calm, listened, offered her own thoughts, and gave me a couple of very tight hugs.

I know that I am upsetting her world and putting her through an emotional roller-coaster, but I can't stop. I'm doing it because I love her and want the best for her. It's hard. Nothing I ever do will ever be as hard as raising my two, beautiful daughters.

1 comment:

Vickie said...

I have been a witness to many of Shane's talks with the girls and I have to say that most of all I have to admire his patience. To constantly have to defend your core beliefs, especially to a child is maddening among other things. But watching them over the months, I have to say "Don't give up!!" They're listening--Erica in your face and Shaena on the sidelines, but they're listening. Mom