October 9, 2012

Hockey Mom.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 12:13 pm by openendedcomment

For the past three nights I’ve watched my son be judged.  A panel of experts, clip-boards in hand, have sat on a  cold metal bench and scored him on his skill and his stride.  I have held my breath, encouraged his performance, felt overwhelming pride in how far he has come and the gains he has made and more than once I’ve cringed when he’s had a move that was les than stellar…wondering if they too noticed, hoping they were focused on some other Mother’s son for those few seconds in time.  I’ve looked into their faces…those Mothers and Fathers all pressed to the glass (the ones that could bear to watch) trying desperately not to look overly concerned while biting their tongues raw…many my friends and easily some of the best people I know, and I know we’re all in this together.

My middle son plays hockey.  Try-outs are a part of the process. No different from many other sports and activities, dance, soccer, football, voice or theatre…to make the cut you have to shine and you have to be judged.  And as a parent, seeing my child judged is one of the most difficult things I do.  I want to run over to those clip-board wielding people whom I try to avoid even eye contact with and explain to them his heart.   I want them to know that the effort he puts forth is beyond anything I’ve ever seen…certainly beyond what I’ve ever managed to do.  For me it was always easy.  If I wanted to do something, I tried out and I made the team or got the part.  If I wanted an “A” I got an A.  I never really had to try.  These “try-outs”, twenty odd years ago, were a formality.  A step I had to take, not a hurdle to leap.  I learned that lesson, that not everything is easy, much later.  I suppose in many ways too much later. I learned it the hard way.  In various areas of my life as of late I’ve not been able to get to my desired goal.  This is new to me and I’m not very good at dealing with it.  I need to refocus and regroup but I’ve been so focused on the fact that something didn’t work for me that I was at a stand-still.  I was being judged by life in general and my scores sucked.  I never learned the lessons my children know so well…and it dawned on me that it was about damn time I started figuring it out.

It is that knowledge, that this is indeed something he and they will have to know and have to face throughout their lives that makes the whole process of watching my little boy be evaluated a bit easier to take.  I know that regardless of how he does or where he lands that he will have pride in knowing he gave it his all to get there.  I know no matter what team he makes that he will approach the season and the next year’s try-outs with renewed determination to be better…to try even harder still. 

Some people have told me that I’m putting undue pressure on my children in encouraging them to be their best or in allowing them to participate in such competitive sports.  I disagree.  There are a myriad of reasons that I feel make these activities not only good but necessary.  The friendships, the self-confidence, the academic effects, the character and the kindness, he is as concerned with how his friends are faring through these evaluations as he is with himself.  He is thrilled when one moves up and feels terrible if someone is brought down.  The bonds these boys are forming are without question a good thing.  When it comes to the encouragement my husband and I give to do well, I believe I am doing them a disservice as a parent to not encourage them to strive to reach the height of what is possible and to attempt even when success is a reach as opposed to the given outcome.  I know  that when they excel it will mean more and instill greater confidence because it was hard, not despite it.  I am endeavoring to raise the type of children our world will need in the generations to come.  The ones that never quit.  The ones that know excellence is an obligation, not a decision.  The future that will understand that each effort doesn’t deliver the desired results and that there will always be someone better and sometimes that just doesn’t matter. 

Last night, watching him strip off that pinny soaked in sweat and effort, I felt ashamed.  I’d been wallowing in the pity and the excuses of not hitting my mark.  Meanwhile, this little bundle of sheer will who should have been exhausted was busy explaining what he could correct for his next skate, bound and determined to try even harder the next round.  I helped make him that way and now the teacher has become the student.  In helping them become these people, they’re teaching me to do it, too.  I’m getting better.  I may not have hit my goal this time around, but I’m laser focused on making sure that it doesn’t happen again.

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September 11, 2012

The Best Atheist Christian I Know.

Posted in Life Lessons, My Five tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:17 pm by openendedcomment

My best friend is an Atheist.  She also happens to be the most Christian woman I have ever known.  She may not believe in Christ, but she lives her life to the ideals of a Christian better than any Sunday services attending, Wednesday FEP teaching and “I’ll pray for you” type walking this earth.  That may be an exaggeration, better to say she does this better than any of the afore-mentioned type I’ve ever met.

She and I have had countless discussions regarding religion.  I am Catholic and I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  I pray to the Virgin Mary.  I pray to St. Jude and to St. Christopher.  I light candles at the Basillica of Saint Mary when my life feels unmanageable or when I’m simply sad…or grateful…or both.  I was there for hours exactly eleven years ago today.  I carry a rosary with me and I make confession.  I also happen to be fiercely pro-choice and pro-marriage equality.  Being Catholic does not deter from that.  It actually encourages it…but that’s another post entirely.  I do not attend mass regularly because I feel that God and I have a relationship that transcends a building.  I have raised my children to believe in God but to make their own decisions regarding what they feel is right and wrong and to not identify with one religion merely because their father and I have chosen to do so.  I encourage them to explore other religions and they know…clearly…that just because a Hindu or Muslim or Jew or even an Atheist or Agnostic heck even Wiccan do not believe what they believe or even worship the same God(s) that they do, they are not worse or lesser or even wrong…merely different.  I have encouraged them to accept that as long as someone is a good person and leads a good life that they too are worthy and deserving of respect.  I believe that all afore-mentioned will be rewarded for a life well led when this life has passed.  I have encouraged my children to attend services for many other religions,  I think it’s good for them.  My Mom and Dad did the same for me.  My Mother, who sent me to Catholic school and then pulled me out when they began telling me she and my Dad were wrong for being divorced and that everyone who had an abortion was going to hell, is agnostic.  She encouraged me to do exactly what I am now doing for my children.  I am telling you all of this to explain why and how Glitter and I are best friends regardless of, despite and perhaps even because of my beliefs and hers and why beliefs that seem so very different are actually almost the same.

She doesn’t “do” religion.  She is adamant in her stance that all of the world’s wars and evils, including the one we remember today, are rooted in religion.  She has a serious point on this one.  She and I are in agreement that religious groups wield far too much power in politics.  She has said that when someone she loves dies that God is not with her, God does not decide or guide, people do.  She knows, in her heart, that when she is crushed emotionally and her soul is aching that God does not hold her, her husband does.  She and I do not agree on that.  Not that he doesn’t hold her, I know him and he’s pretty great.  I am sure he does hold her…but I think God is there, too.  And that’s OK.  We respect our respective beliefs and non-beliefs.  We are able to have long, long discussions without ever offending each other.  And that is a gift.  A gift of friendship and love and trust.  It is not the only gift she has given.

She does not judge.  Ever.  Don’t get me wrong, she does express her opinion.  Loudly and occasionally laced with obscenities, but she does not judge.  She listens, she gives sound advice and she is a person literally hundreds of people would and do turn to in order to unload their souls.  They know she is a safe person to do this with as she will never and has never thought less of them for it.

She forgives.  My God that woman forgives.  She forgives everything; things that most people could never fathom ever moving on from, she has forgiven in others.  That is not to say she is a pushover.  She will keep it in the back of her mind, learn from it and approach the person and situation differently the next time as a result but she has no, not once in her life when an apology has been given with sincerity (and at times when none was even uttered) failed to offer forgiveness and welcome friendship back with open arms.  She feels that to allow anger or resentment to remain in her life is to poison herself and she values herself too much to allow for that kind of crap.

She does better.  She is a flawed and faulted human being who admits to her faults, scrutinizes her behavior and endeavors to be a better person as a result.  She occasionally flies off the handle and has a tendency to react with emotion.  In this way we are exactly alike.  But she feels terrible immediately after.  She makes amends fast and with humility.  Real humility, not the fake-this-makes-me-look-good kind.  She means it.  She isn’t trying to impress anyone, she just wants to know in her heart that she’s doing the right thing.

She is selfless.  She gives and gives and gives…and then she agrees to throw another party or do another fundraiser and proceeds to give some more.  She doesn’t tell people about half of it, it’s more than something she does, it is something that she is.

She believes in marriage, motherhood and sisterhood.  Family is not the center of her life, it is her life.  There is no way to expound on this one, it just is. Her commitment to them knows no bounds and  in it there are no voids.

She treats everyone with respect.  Everyone.  She does not attempt to convert others to her way of thinking, she simply accepts them as they are and loves them no matter what.

She is not proud and she does not brag.  She does not understand people who do or what it does for them.  There have been times she’s had much and times she has done without and no one but her very closest friends and family have ever known the difference.  Her life isn’t about things, it’s about people and experiences and finding the joy.  She can’t be bought.  It’s been tried and has failed each time.

If you were to list out every attribute of the ideal Christian Mother, Wife and Friend, she would be it.  Aside from the believing in God part.  And when it is all said and done, why should that matter?  How could an argument ever be made that someone who attends church every Sunday only to pass judgement on those who do not is more Christian than she?  The woman who tithes her church and announces to her prayer group how much money her new diamond cross cost yet ignores the children without a coat only a few miles away or dismisses the neighbor who lost their job or denounces the nineteen year old single mother who just found out her birth control failed…is she more deserving of salvation?  The one who tells you she will pray for your soul and then stabs you in the back the moment you turn away…is she on higher moral ground?  I don’t think so.  Even though it may be hard to wrap your brain around, I don’t think you think so, either.  Not really.  Not where it counts.

She and I don’t see eye to eye on the matters of God and Religion and Prayer.  And that, to me, is a good thing.  She doesn’t know this yet, but she has taught me more about God and the role of the Holy Spirit filling and guiding my life than any Priest or Deacon.  You see, I believe in what I teach.  When I teach my children that all of us are God’s children and even when we don’t recognize it and perhaps especially when we deny or dismiss it yet still live our lives according to His teachings, that we are at those times most blessed.  The Holy Spirit is within us all.  Some call it conscience, some an inner voice and others simply recognize it as what we know to be our morality.  Whatever you choose to label it, my label is the Spirit and hers is the strongest I know.  Charity and love without bounds; acceptance in the face of judgement.  Conviction which never waivers and courage which has yet to fold.

I will never tell her she is wrong.  She isn’t.  Someone so right simply could not be.  She has reasons, good ones, for everything she feels and thinks and for everything she is for and against.  I respect the Hell out of it all.  But as her friend, someday many decades from now, if I can manage to follow her lead…she and I will have a different conversation.  One outside of life on earth.  I can’t wait to tell her “I told you so”…

She isn’t going to like this post.  It’s too “nice” and too…too.  So Glitter, before you call me, know this: I mean it.  I want people to understand that saying you’re Christian doesn’t make you Christian and that if more people recognized that moral guidance can come from someone who doesn’t carry a bible or wear a cross the world might just be a better place.  Judge not lest ye be judged and all that other rot….love you.