the new Missionaries & Santa

The other evening as I was preparing dinner, three young women knocked on our door. They introduced themselves as the “new missionaries” in town and wanted to “share a message” with us. I politely declined, wished them a good evening and closed the door. They looked mildly surprised, but took my rejection well.

Kid2, who was with me when I opened the door, had questions: what message, why did they want to share it, why did I say no thanks.

How does one explain missionaries to a child?

As it is nearing Christmas, I used an analogy that they might relate to. Kid2 does not believe in Santa, and we’ve had numerous conversations about that, so I decided to start from there.

So the first question was why were they going door to door to share a message?

“It would be like if you believed in Santa so much you wanted to tell everyone so you went door to door to share that. You feel everyone should believe in Santa so they can get lots of presents, because if they don’t believe in Santa they won’t get anything.”

Kid2’s brow wrinkled in confusion. Clearly this was not about Santa.

So what message are they sharing?

They’re most likely talking about the story of Jesus. You know, the baby from the Nativity play, and the man who was on the cross in the Mission we visited last summer.

Yes. Looks confused. Why do they want to share that?

Some people believe very strongly, that stories that in the Bible actually happened, and they have based their entire world view off of them. They feel they have to go tell everyone about this, so other people can make people change to their way of thinking.

Why didn’t you want to talk to them?

I have a different world view than they do. I know about Jesus, and I’ve read the Bible, and I don’t agree with their world view, and that’s okay. We can politely disagree with people, and we don’t have to talk to people who randomly knock on our door about religion, it is also time to get started on dinner.

*****

Kid2 took it at that and I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities for these conversations as time goes on, particularly around the holidays, as Kid2 has proudly informed their class that “Santa does not visit our house because we do not have a chimney!” and Kid1 has proclaimed “I don’t believe in Santa, I believe in Mommy!”

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banishing the darkness

We recently gathered together to celebrate the start of Advent at my children’s school. The adults sat in the gathering darkness as the children entered the room, careful to avoid stepping on the pine branches and stumps arranged in a spiral on the floor.

The teacher spoke a few words about our inner light of kindness, and compassion, then she went and lit the candle in the center of the spiral. The one candle did little to light the room, but from it, all the others would be lit.

waldorf spiral

One by one, each child walked the spiral, holding an apple with a beeswax candle in it. They walked to the center, lit their candle, and walked back, placing it on one of the stumps placed throughout the spiral.

Slowly the light from the candles grew, and when all the children had finished, there were around thirty candles lighting up the darkness. The teacher reminded us that together our lights shine more brightly than they would on their own, banishing the darkness.

My inner light is feeling pretty burnt-out right now, but I will continue to attempt to be kind and compassionate, in the hopes that it rekindles.


Straightforward & Honest

When I clicked on When A Mother Decides To Stop Cancer Treatment And Face Death I was not prepared for the onslaught of feels I was overcome with. It was another vaguely interesting article on my Facebook feed, and then a few paragraphs in I was hit with all the feels.

“We’ve always been straightforward and honest,” Lum said during an extensive interview in June. The kids “get the facts and the truth and it’s not ‘Mommy has a tummy ache.’ No, ‘Mommy has cancer.’ “

Straightforward and honest are not words I would ever use to describe Christian Science.

Using Christian Science logic, acknowledging that “mommy has cancer” would only empower mortal mind, and make the “issue” harder to overcome. Actually, you’d never get that far, because cancer would be a diagnosis, which would require going to a doctor (see all the other posts on this topic).

Christian Science wouldn’t even say “mommy has a tummy ache.” “Mommy” would be “resting” or “working with the books” or something even more vague. “Mommy” would be working to overcome something – including fear of the unknown and worst-case scenarios. In Christian Science, “Mommy” is expected to overcome or it is failure on her part.

Our society does a poor job handling the issue of death, and Christian Science adds horrible layers of shame and secrecy. I was reminded of Lucia Greenhouse’s book fathermothergod, which

touches on some of the elephants in the Christian Scientists living room: secrecy surrounding illness, the idea that Christian Science must be protected (from what, I’m still not sure), the tremendously large abstract concepts that young children are expected to understand and demonstrate. Mortal mind, error, protective work….

Reading about Greenhouse’s mother’s health challenges difficult, as was the family drama that played out around it. The line between respecting decisions — even when you disagree with them — and stepping in to intervene is a very fine. Regardless what you choose to do, you will be criticized by someone for your actions.

We are trying to be straightforward and honest with our children about medical issues, but it is difficult. When the eldest child asks “why can’t [still in CS family member] join us at the beach or keep up with us on a [moderate] hike?” we walk the fine line of respecting the family member’s choice and being honest with the child. They’re “not feeling well” (which is true), or they’re “not as young as they used to be” (also true).

My fellow former-CS and I have watched family members secretly succumb to illnesses, only seeking medical care and sharing diagnosis days before their deaths. We have watched them struggle with “situations” that, if they had been diagnosed or treated by modern medicine, could have been resolved, or mitigated. We have offered support as they refused to seek diagnosis, much less treatment. While this is their choice, and it is within their rights to do, the results are often horrible and frustrating.

For the Christian Scientists reading this (if there are any), please be honest with yourself, if a healing isn’t forthcoming, seek medical treatment. Please don’t isolate yourselves in your darkened bedrooms with your  periodicals and books. Please be honest with yourselves and your children, they want to know, they want to help.


“how many gods do we have mommy?”

The other day, on our drive home, my eldest spoke up about his day:

Eldest: We went and saw the -th-grade play today. It was about a blue god with a big beard.

Me: Do you know which god it was?

Eldest: No. I only saw it once. (pause for a second or two) How many god’s are there mommy?

Me: It really depends on which religion you follow. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have one god. The ancient Greeks and Romans had many. Different religious traditions have different views of god and gods.

Eldest: How many gods do we have?

Me: How many would you like?

The little one, who has been listening to this, pipes up: ZERO!

Eldest: One. The blue one with the big beard.

Little one continues to chant: ZERO!

Me: That’s fine, you can have one, or none, or as many as you like.

The eldest seemed okay with this answer. The little one seemed pleased too. Then they started talking about farts. Because, farts.

How do you handle these questions?

My Windowsill

Grime lives on my windowsill
And forgotten cheerios
Some flies
That did not escape the blinds
And a spider,
Still very much alive
A puddle of orange juice
From a sippy cup
That should never
Have left the kitchen
Mixed with dust bunnies
Cleaning is pointless
Until my children move out

Inspired by Karen, the Madcap CS and originally left as comment on her post. 

Return of the Mormons Part 2: Religion, Guilt & Motherhood

For part one: Saint Kat of the Sparkling Water


Mormon Missionaries often inspire unintended lines of thinking (I’m pretty sure they never intended to push me to secular humanism) and this time was no exception. Something about the afternoon’s encounter bugged me, and it took some time to sort out why. Then I found it:

They noticed that the kids had come to the front door, and started their spiel on how Mormons honor their mothers, and how motherhood is the most important job, and they really respect that. I got the impression they were saying what they thought I wanted to hear, their religion reveres mothers, and their version of God and Jesus makes family important (or something.)

They were, intentionally or not, trying to guilt me into joining their religion because it was the best thing for my family and my children. Because, as previous missionaries have implied, if I don’t raise them properly with a relationship with Jesus, we’re going to spend an eternity separated from God. This is one of many points on which the Missionaries and I disagree.

I’m sorry Missionaries, you picked the wrong angle. My children have played a huge part in why I left Christian Science — and why I have not sought out another religious movement. From Kid1’s difficult transition into the world, to the ER trip for a sprained elbow, and any number of other incidents, I could not put myself, or my children, through the pressure to demonstrate healings that often never materialized (or that just got better with time because the human body is amazing.)

I am going to do my best to instill freethinking humanist values in them. We are striving to raise children who think for themselves on religious and ethical matters, and who are generally kind, empathetic people. I think this is a much more reasonable goal than telling them they can control the weather with their mind, or Invisible Sky Daddy Loves them (and is a completely sadistic bastard — see Job). I want my children to understand the world, and to be empowered to make truly informed decisions. I don’t see any religions offering that. Do like the Noble Eightfold path, but I see that as more of a philosophy than a religion.

Yes, motherhood is important, family is important, I can agree with those things. Yes, I take steps to make sure my family is safe, and I put our familial interests first. Yes, I’d like the best for my children (actually I’m ok with “good enough” because really, “the best” is often an unattainable goal that will only bring stress and misery and that’s not helpful for anyone).

This is one of the very few places Ms. Eddy and I can agree:  I don’t feel motherhood should be the pinnacle defining feature of women if they don’t want it to be. You know, consenting to being a mother, and the choice to become one (or not). I have a complicated relationship with motherhood, my first pregnancy nearly ended with my untimely demise, and I lost a close friend shortly after the birth of my second child because she didn’t feel I was appropriately appreciative  of my children. They’re wonderful, and I love them, but I’m not going to post that everything is sunshine and rainbows. Apparently I didn’t sugar-coat my Facebook posts with enough appreciation for the fact my then-two year old TPed the living room for her liking. I digress. I don’t know enough about Mormon theology and church structure to comment on their views, but the way these young men latched on to the motherhood trope was slightly off-putting.

I don’t want my children to be raised in a (patriarchy-heavy) belief system that thinks it is okay to push their views on everyone. Missionaries, I try to respect your views, but I disagree with them, and I don’t think you should be lobbying to have them legislated across the country (this applies to all church lobbying groups, not just Mormon ones). Please keep your opinions on what should be happening to my body, and in my bedroom, to yourself. Whatever you do, don’t even consider asking if I’m considering having more children (to their credit, these missionaries didn’t, although past ones have).

I’m not interested in joining a religion that has numerous active ex-support sites. I’m finally at a place where I can “out” myself as having grown up in CS to a select group of never-in-CS friends, where I can talk about some of these issues without bursting into tears. I’m working on building a network of ex-CS to help support those who are questioning, leaving and who have left.

Dear Missionaries, I know you think you’ve found the right path, and it may be “right” for you, but it isn’t the right one for me. Thank you for handling my criticism and rejection gracefully. Next time, I suggest you bring water, wear sunscreen and get a good hat. It is hot out there.

Surreal morning conversations at the play yard

I’m starting to think I need more coffee before I do the school run.


(me) Today is Thursday, right?

(a dad at the school play yard) Yeah, it’s Friends, and Steinfield tonight, remember when we used to do that?

Not really, I wasn’t allowed to watch TV. I occasionally snuck some on Wednesday nights while my parents were at church.

There is so much going on with that sentence.

*grapples with the obvious age difference between us and my parental TV restrictions*

Your parents had TV restrictions?

Yeah, that’s why I watched it when they were at church.

Your parents really liked Jesus?

Not exactly.

*raised eyebrows*

They were Christian Scientists.

We’re taking the kids to Boston for the weekend to show them the Mother Church.

Don’t forget to take them to the Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity. Just be careful you don’t catch anything. They don’t vaccinate.

As a community aren’t we supposedly believe that too. *wink*


On one hand it was refreshing to not have to explain what Christian Science was (one of the mothers is convinced I should get in touch with Katie Homles), on the other, it was an all together too surreal conversation.