Thursday, December 20, 2012

What is a Lie?

I straight up lied to my son last night.  Sigh.  I don't like to do that.  Sometimes need for sleep leads to desperation.  I'm all for playing pretend, but I don't like lying.

This is the thing.  My little man is the fiercest fighter in the world.  He will never turn his back on danger.  Dragons? No problem.  Bad guys?  Taken care of.  Wild amimals and monsters?  So easy.  Supervillains?  Bring 'em on.  But there is one thing he is deathly afraid of:  Bugs.  He always has been and I don't know why.  I can think of no negative bug experience in his past, but every flying insect is greeted with, "Bee!" and crying and running away.  Every creeping insect is hailed, "Spider!" and I am ordered to smash them on sight.  I remember him having terrifying dreams of spiders crawling on him when he was really little, and of imagining spiders in every shadow, but I had largely forgotten about it.

For the last little while R has been getting up in the early/very early morning and coming to my room.  Typically I just let him in and snuggle til morning.  Last night, however, I was up past midnight working on a project.  I heard little feet upstairs after I knew all the kids were asleep.  I finished my project then went up to bed and R was standing in the middle of the hall.  When he saw me, he started crying.  He said he was scared, but I brought him back to bed anyway (I still had things to clean up downstairs).  He clung to my neck and said he was scared, scared, scared.  I tried to get out of him what he was scared of--the dark isn't enough for me.  Finally he explained that there are bugs waiting in the shadows to come get him.  He went on and on about how he is terrified of the bugs.  I first tried the never-successful scheme of telling him there were no bugs.  As expected, it did nothing to assuage is fears.  So I tried to expand upon his imagination to get rid of the problem.  I asked him if he wanted me to shine a special laser into all the corners that would kill all the bugs.  He said yes, so I went to get the flashlight that can have a red glowing handle.  I really hoped that all he would be able to see in the mostly-dark was a red glow.  I went all along the baseboards and shined the red light everywhere.  Then I said, "There.  No more bugs!"  He smiled and laughed.  And when I tried to leave he complained, "No!  The bugs will get me!"  "But I just killed all the bugs!"  "No!  The bugs are real!"  "This is a real laser."  "That is a flashlight."  Shoot.  Caught.  Maybe it was the jzuuuurrrrrr sounds I made with my mouth while I shined it around.

Well, what do I do for a kid with a tenuous grasp on reality--the bugs are real, but the powers to defeat them are not.  I tried to talk with him through what could defeat them.  Finally he said we needed a shoe to stomp them.  Awesome.  I can let the kid sleep with a shoe and go to bed myself.  So I went to get one of Kevin's shoes and ended up with a pair of his slippers that he never uses.  I brought them to Rhys and asked if he wanted them on the floor by the bed or on the bed with him.  "You hold them."  "No, I am going to my own bed." and he cried and fussed--he needed me there to used the shoe to stomp the bugs while he slept.  Then came the big, big lie.  I don't count the laser as a lie.  That was a pretend.  But this time I made up a great big fib about those slippers.  "Rhys, these are magic slippers.  Santa Claus gave them to Daddy and he put magic inside.  They stomp bugs all by themselves when you are asleep."  Rhys brightened all up, "Really?  They are real magic?"  Big lie #2: "Yes.  They are real magic."  He giggled and was very excited.  I was excited, too, to leave him.  But I was ahead of myself.  He loved his magic slippers, and he still didn't want me to leave.

I laid down and cuddled him for a while, then woke up cold and stiff with no blanket on at 7:20 am.  I gently slid my arms out from around the sleeping him and as soon as I stood he sat up and started to cry.  I thought I was through with this when he graduated from his crib.  I finally said, "Do you want to sleep in Willow's bed?" "Yes."  So Willow got a surprise visitor to cuddle with her for the rest of the morning while I hurried downstairs to hide the evidence of the previous nights workshop before kids got up.  Then I turned up the heater in my room to thaw out before climbing in my own bed and praying the kids would let me sleep for a couple of hours.

I thought that would be the end of things, until I found Willow bringing this strange pair of Daddy's slippers that had mysteriously found their way into her room downstairs to put them away.  I then had to explain to her and Delilah, who was helping them clean their room, what they were doing there.  Agh!  Multiplication of lies!  As I tucked Rhys in, I made sure that he was content with the slippers on his bed with him, and Willow asked, "Are they really real magic?" and I said, "Yes!  They are really real."  "And they only work when we are asleep?" "Yep."  "I don't know about this," half smiling, half unsure.  Willow is one smart cookie.  I sat down by her and she asked me, "is this really real magic?"  "Yes."  "Really?"  I leaned down and whispered in her ear, "What do you think?"  We had a conversation of whispers and meaningful looks, concluding with, "Rhysie needs to believe it so he can sleep tonight.  OK?"  "OK."  I said good night again as I left the room and she said again from her bed, "I don't know about this."

What have I done?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Empowering Mary: A Paradigm Shift on the Nativity Story

I've always felt at least a little uncomfortable with the common modern renditions of the conditions of Christ's birth:  Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, poor and alone.  They reach the one inn in town, Mary obviously ready to pop, if not already in labor, only to find it crowded and run by a grumpy and inhospitable innkeeper who gruffly forces them to leave.  In despair and urgency, they take refuge in a stable among the animals and filth. Alone and in the most squalid of circumstances imaginable, the Christ child is born and laid in the manger where the cows and goats continue to nibble the hay out from under his head.

The entire basis for this account is these 4 verses from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2--

 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is calledaBethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
 To be taxed with Mary his aespoused wife, being great with child.
 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
 And she brought forth her afirstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the binn.

When you read what is there, there really is so little that is concretely declared about the circumstances.  I have no problem with people inventing details to flesh out a story that is so important to so many.  The problem I have is with those invented details being perpetuated and taught as truth down the generations.

It started with the innkeeper.  Even as a child, I was uncomfortable with the birth story having an invented villain.  No where in the Bible does it mention an innkeeper, and yet he consistently makes an appearance, turning the holy couple away out of selfishness and greed.  My first childish thoughts were, "That is so unfair. No one knows that he was mean or selfish.  Maybe he was nice.  He even let them stay in his stable.  What, should he have kicked out someone who was already there?  He did the best he could."  It wasn't until later that I realized--there may never even have been an innkeeper at all.  And I think that's the point.  I can invent details that please myself, but I do not claim that is actually how things were, any more than the "traditional" details.

Some other thoughts are on the accomodations available to Mary and Joseph.  The Joseph Smith Translation of the bible renders the word as "inns" rather than "inn," and some research into the original Greek (on the internet--don't judge) points out that the word translated as "inn" in this circumstance is not the same as that meaning a public house for travelers, but rather a guestroom in a private residence.  This makes sense.  Bethlehem is Joseph's hometown.  It seems only natural that he would have family to stay with.  But, being a time when everyone came home, the houses were probably crowded.

Since having my own babies, I have connected more with Mary in this story.  The more I thought about her, the more I felt offended on her behalf even more than on the innkeeper's.  Why should she be depicted as the simpering, wimpering, powerless victim?  I personally think God would have picked a Mother for the Christ with a little more gumption than that.  Having traveled to a different state in order to have a natural home birth, in the basement of a friend's house where the rest of the family who owned the house went about their business upstairs, I know what it is like to have a baby far from home, in a busy house that doesn't belong to you.  And let me tell you, there could be plenty of "room" to live and eat and sleep at night and still "no room" to have a baby.  And at this point my imagination started to run.  I can only imagine Mary, coming on to her time, looking around that crowded house and thinking, "No. Way."  OK.  Say she is demure and kindhearted.  She won't kick anyone else out of the house just for her, but still.  She goes to Joseph.

Mary: There's no room here.  I can't have my baby here.
Joseph: There's no where else to go.  The city is full.
Mary: I don't know.  Not here.
Joseph:  Mary, there is no where else.
Mary:  There has to be.  Somewhere.  I can't be here with all these people.
Joseph: Where, Mary?  Where?  The entire city is full.
Mary:  I will find a place!
Joseph:  Where are you going to go?  The barn?
Mary: Yes!

Her nesting instincts kick in and she starts cleaning.

OK, that's the funny way it goes in my mind.  Truthfully, there were probably many female relatives and a midwife or two there to anticipate her need for solitude, and clean for her.  Nowhere says that Jesus was born on the first night they arrived.  They had time to prepare for this journey.  They would have planned time to prepare the circumstances for his birth.

Again, I emphasize that I am not claiming this is what happened.  I am only saying that this narrative fits with the facts as laid out in the scriptures as well as any other does, and it feels a lot more respectful of the Holy Mother as a women and a powerful daughter of God.

And who ever thought I would be writing a feminist Christmas blog?

Make a Merry Christmas!