Sunday, April 13, 2008

"This is facism!"

"This is fascism!"

"Define that for me Joshua."

"Well," he turned hesitantly and spoke to the wall, "fascism is a form of government (mom) when the people (him) is expected to follow through blind loyalty and when the government controls every aspect of their life and they are subjected to no free will."

In the midst of my hidden laughter, I said, "then I'm your fascist!"

It all started because my husband is in Chicago for a conference this weekend. We normally go to a diverse, large church that has separate services for each age group. I told the children (13, 6, and 4) that we are going to try something different this morning. The weather is yucky outside and I didn't want to drive the 25 minutes it would take to get to the usual church. I should mention here that we just moved to this city in mid-August and have been visiting churches trying to find our "home." Needless to say, the kids like the church that has the video games, cafe, and play incorporated into their worship services for the kids, middle school, and high school. It is lively, interactive, and speaks to the modern kid. This morning, I just wanted to see what was close by.

The church I chose is a community church, currently meeting in my son's middle school. This immediately gave it a bad mark for him once we pulled into the parking lot. We ended up being a little late (I hate that) because the kids (each of them) spent moments arguing, hunting down underwear, and changing shirts (twice). I wanted to slip anonymously into the back pew and get into the very good sermon on Luke 6:24-26. Well, from the moment we sat down, the wiggling began.

My children are born and bred church kids. They have grown up with worship as an integral part of their lives. They know how to sit still! First it was the older two nudging each other and slumping down in the seat. Perhaps they felt uncomfortable because of the about 150 people there - we were the only African-Americans. Talk about that segregated hour on Sunday mornings! Then the youngest and feistiest of the three began her rather loud reading of her story Bible. Should I stop her from reading God's Word? I whispered to her to do it quietly. My stares fell on blind eyes because as that ended, her squirming began. The other two at least pretended to get into the message as its relevance was obvious - they had even opened their Bible to read along. I finally gave the youngest paper and pen to entertain herself, perhaps to emulate me taking notes. Why did I do that? Her sister immediately felt deprived and wanted her own paper. Silently I was praying for the service to end.

They were appropriately reverent during communion as we walked up to receive the Lord's Supper (after I told my son he needed to pray before he took it and I prayed a silent prayer before I took mine). The girls immediately started their questioning as to why they couldn't take communion (you're not ready yet) and why did I dip the bread in the cup (that is the way they do it here) and on and on.

I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I hurried their coats on and wanted to dash out the door. Of course, I appreciated the polite "hellos" of people around me as we were departing. One dad even said he noticed how well I was with my children. I cringed at that a little as I gave my polite, "thank you." I did the frustrated parental quick-step to the van, alternately holding hands and nudging them along.

The short drive home couldn't happen fast enough to me. "That is the last time I am going to be embarrassed by you in public!" My declaration stunned them into silence. Now, they are good and obedient kids - for the most part - it's just that my husband is out-of-town and I think they wanted to declare their dissatisfaction with the whole situation. Whatever it was, they were going to have to shape up.

"Everyone on the sofa," was my declaration upon arriving home. "I have to go potty," responded the youngest. I let them relieve themselves and patiently waited while my son slunked into the sofa and looked at me as if I'd grown three horns. The girls, one after the other, arrived and sat down. I began my laser-eye stare at each one. The put their hands in their laps and knew I was up to something. I made them sit still an entire ten minutes. Then I called them each up one-by-one.

After they each had their judgment time, I sent them upstairs with various instructions. I started with the oldest and finally had the squirming one last. She was the only one who didn't get a little pop on the bottom. She was also the only one who figured the whole thing out and knew if she just stood there and listened to my remunerations, it would all be over. She went upstairs to pick up her toys and proudly declared, "I didn't get a pop on the butt!" To which her sister responded, "that is so not fair." I called them back down.

I reminded them that I'm the one in charge here and that my disappointment in them extended beyond just church. I refrained from recounting all their infractions over the weekend, but just reminded them that I'm HWIC around here (head-woman-in-charge). They got the message and went upstairs. I sat back on my big leather chair to breathe for a second when my son came downstairs.

"What did I send you up to do?" I inquired in response to his presence on the steps. "But mama, I wasn't the one being bad, and besides I'm hungry!" "Joshua, go do what I told you to do!" "This is fascism!" Hence the conversation!

I'm not a hard-line parent but I do expect certain things of them. They know what those things are, even if daddy is out-of-town. I had to remind them that I don't care if they (pick one) hate me or don't love me...my job is to "train them in the way they should go so when they are old they won't depart from it" and to teach them to "honor your father and mother - the first commandment with a promise - that your days on earth will be long." Sometimes, as parents, it is easier to just let them have their way and forever walk out of church, the mall, or the grocery store ashamed, embarrassed, or mortified by some manipulative behavior from a four-year-old. That is not the kind of parent I am nor want to be. I miss it sometimes, like being in a new church where I was the only black woman and could've magnified in my mind the level of disturbance from the kids.

Well, the kids have emerged from their bedrooms to discuss "mommy" in the hallway. I can hear everything they say. The older ones convince the youngest one to come downstairs after feeding her the lines to ask me. I turn and glare at her, she races back upstairs to report my continued displeasure. Then the middle child of the three comes down and uses her butterfly princess charm and best sing-song voice. This moment I'm holding a hard line, that is until I burst out laughing at their efforts to get back into my good graces. Their pleas include, "but mommy I'm hungry," to "what if you ask her if we can go out-and-about." My response has been a stare and attempt to keep a straight face.

My son declared this is fascism. He thinks, according to Webster's New Explorer Encyclopedic Dictionary, that I'm taking a, "tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control" approach with them this afternoon. Perhaps he is right. After I made him define it, my response is, well, yes, until he is 18 and on his own!

I will feed them. Even "facist mommies" have a heart. "kids, come down!"

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