I am torn.
As it so happens I agree that the boys and the dominoes and Patrick and the scene at school was about childhood / exploring power / fumbling around with friendship / ins and outs. Briefly hurtful, maybe, but all very normal. We've had one of the kids over to play; Patrick frequently speaks with affection about the other kid... there is no history of grievance or suggestion that they are consistently ganging up on Patrick (or anyone else in the class) to make him (them) miserable. So my initial conclusion was that they were just being little jerks on Monday. I ended the conversation with Patrick that night by telling him that I think he handled it exactly right: I'm glad he said that they weren't being fair, glad that he repeated his request to join them and glad that when they continued to be mean he went to find someone else to play with. He seemed pleased with my response so I came downstairs to finish what I had been writing and to ask what you thought.
And this is the part where my current post goes in four different directions, not linear like Escher's staircase but centrifugal like a starburst:
* I do not believe the boys were being deliberate in their decision to use a specific subset of Christian beliefs to hassle Patrick. I mean, I think they were playing odd man out and as far as they were concerned it could have been the No Patricks Club rather than the God Jesus Group. In the comments people presented analogies that included social clumping based upon the color of one's shirt or wearing barrettes. And as far as the boys (the excluders) were concerned it might as well have been. But I do respectfully disagree with the notion that these things are actually analogous. Conformity and acceptance based upon clothing is a very different thing than delineating at religion or - and forgive me, but it is hard not to go here - race. I truly do not believe that the children were intending to be exponentially more hurtful when they decided to play the Christ card but it is more hurtful. As more than one commenter observed, what if we were Jewish and Patrick had been rejected in the same way? Two of the kids in the class sat me down to explain Hinduism (about which I am shockingly ignorant) toward the end of December - how might they have felt? It was (I believe) unintentional but it is still unacceptable. The domino thing was in the classroom during class time with class materials (math, surprisingly; they get to choose activities and the school uses all sorts of games to teach math skills - I feel utterly cheated in my own worksheet-based education) so I think it almost fell under the school's aegis and needed to be corrected there. I believe there is a difference between "you cannot play because you are wearing sandals" and "you cannot play because you are black or Christian or from another country." One is arbitrary and somewhat silly; the others speaks to deeply rooted notions of identity. The intentions are no worse (nor better, but ok) but the possibility for damage is greater. At what point does actual racism or... good heavens, is there even a word for this? secularism? veer off from kids-will-be-kids? I think in the schools it starts at point zero.
Example: Caroline bites Edward because her gums are sore and he keeps putting his fingers in her mouth. She doesn't intend to hurt him but I keep saying no no no no biting until she get it into her little lemon that biting is unacceptable. I don't think the children in Patrick's class had the slightest idea that they were crossing lines. But they were. So I decided that perhaps the whole class could use a gentle reminder about how we treat our friends.
My plan, without naming names because I don't think that is the point, is to casually mention to the teacher that there has been some hurtful talk concerning religion and exclusion and to suggest that maybe a quick review of the class rules would be in order. She can take it as she will but I assume she will take it well.
So I think that I handled (or will handle tomorrow) my greater community obligations. This left Patrick to deal with.
* I have finally learned (no doubt through your gentle counsel) to wait until bedtime to discuss anything of importance with Patrick. Since I still had no idea whether he was confiding in me because he wanted my assistance with his school chums or if he was seeking more information on faith or if he just wanted to talk and for me to shut up and listen or maybe he was just seeing how I would react to his newest stimuli and he planned to record his notes later after I leave... sentence too jumbled; must abandon. I didn't know what he wanted from me. So last night I said that I was thinking about talking to his teacher about the fact that Nice Kid et al were not playing very nicely on Monday.
Patrick looked surprised.
"Oh I took care of that already."
"Yes I already took care of yesterday's accident."
Accident? I think he means incident but ok... "What did you do?"
"Well after morning jobs we were at the table and I said to [Nice Kid] that I thought he was being mean yesterday when he said I couldn't play because of God. He said he was just kidding. And he apologized."
I honestly do not think I have ever been prouder of Patrick in my entire freaking life.
"Great," I said. "I'm glad you two are friends again. I'm proud of you."
"So did you ever believe in God?" Patrick asked.
I was able to cross out Needs Help Negotiating Social Disturbance and circle Wants To Discuss Spirituality, thereby bringing us to yet another jutting arm of this narration.
* My family did not attend church when I was growing up. Well, maybe once or twice we went with my grandparents but it was not a regular occurrence and there was certainly no formalized religious education. Meanwhile, I was a superstitious, easily spooked kid who worried a lot. I slept with two sharpened sticks nailed together in the event of a vampire attack. I spent a lot of time fretting about death. My death, that of my brother, my parents, Katie down the street, the dog... I was anxious about it all. I read a lot and I began to notice that people who had religion in their lives seemed to be a lot more peaceful about the whole death thing than I was. The idea of an omnipotent, kindly-disposed Creator and a corporeal heaven became very appealing to me and I started to tentatively explore how one might go about believing in such things. When I was seven or eight I spent the night at my friend Mandy's house and I saw her wall-hanging (printed with the Now I Lay me Down to Sleep prayer) so I borrowed it (the prayer; not the wall-hanging) to say every night. I thought prayer might be a good place to start and if nothing else it seemed like a way to pass all of the insomnia time that I had been spending worrying. So I prayed, fervently and nightly, that everyone I had ever met would be fine forever. And that was it for religion for a while. Then around fourth grade I decided I wanted to sing and our neighbor sang for her church... not sure how this all transpired but I somehow joined their choir; so my mother dutifully drove me to the Episcopal church every Sunday for months and months. It was pleasant but I never really felt like I belonged to their church. Hey! Maybe because I didn't really belong to their church.
In the meantime my parents would take us every so often to different places of worship, almost like field trips. We attended Quaker meeting (did you know Steve was raised Quaker? bet you didn't see THAT coming did you?) We went with friends to their temple. My father contemplated seeing if we could visit a mosque but since the hostages were still being held in Iran and the closest mosque had a line of protesters ten deep my mother vetoed that outing. When I was fourteen I started dating a Catholic kid and went to Mass with him every so often. Gosh I liked the Catholics. So much so that I kept attending Mass for years and even met with a priest a few times in college to talk about converting. Didn't go anywhere. The priest kept telling me to come back with my fiance for pre-cana and skip the conversion. As many times as I insisted there was no fiance and I was not planning a wedding he just repeated himself. An older fellow, you understand.
In time it fizzled and eventually I came to the conclusion that perhaps being part of a church community just wasn't for me; not in the least because I continued to struggle between my childhood desire to believe in an interventionist deity and my inability to actually do so. I gave up and decided to try to just focus on being a good person. I am still an insomniac. I still worry. I no longer sleep with anti-vampire weaponry. But the habit of saying a prayer every now and then has lingered; mostly just a quick thank you to the universe for everything in my life that makes me happy and the occasional prayer that people I know vaguely (internet people usually) and who are suffering might find peace.
Oh, in case I have never said thank you, the fact that people prayed for me over the years and for the twins when they were in danger of coming early meant a great deal to me. Oh wow, look at that. I am getting weepy all over again just thinking about a comment good kind Terri left saying that she and another chaplain spent one quiet midnight when I was hospitalized sending good thoughts our way.
Back at the rancho hippo, though, Steve makes Nietzsche look like an organizer of church Sunday suppers. I know! A nice Quaker boy like that, too. So when Patrick asked about the tooth fairy the other day I said "Have a little faith, Patrick." Steve said, "Do you want to know what I think?" And I said, "NO!" Patrick said, "You know what, don't tell me. I want my dollar."
Huh. Well that was more than you ever wanted to know about penguins, as my mother would say.
Anyway, once I sussed out that Patrick is starting to articulate his own quest for understanding faith and religion and the universe and his place in it all I was a little more firm in my footing. I realized that the poor kid knows nothing about any of it (note to self: get library books tomorrow) so I tried to summarize the major religions for him and finally offered to take him to church this weekend. And maybe our friends will let us visit their synagogue later. And we could try a different church after that. See what he thinks.
Patrick held up his hand. I love it when he does this. It is the most quaint, antiquated gesture ever.
"So you know how usually when someone is like two or something? And they tell their parents 'Hi. I believe in God now'? Well, the parents do not rush the child off to church right away. They give it a few days. That's where I am. I am just starting. I am easing into it."
"Oh. OK. Let me know," I said, slightly disappointed because - as I said - I quite like church. "Do you want me to get you some books on religion?"
"Yes," he said.
And thus endeth our third lesson.
* Caroline's word of the day is car.
"Do you want to hear her say car?" I asked my mother. "Caroline! Car! Car, Caroline!"
"Cccccccccaaaaarrrr?" she squawked.
"Oh how cute," my mother said.
"Yes. So anyway..."
"Car?" Caroline repeated like a strangulated parrot. "Car car car car car car?"
She ran around the living room, yelling CAR and then went to get Edward.
"Car," she said.
"Da da dee do dee dee da da," Edward agreed.
They bumbled around like bees in a bottle, Caroline repeating car and Edward pointing at the table where the shoes are kept.
"Sorry. No car. No. Bedtime yes. Car no."
Caroline was confused. But... hadn't I just said... she thought... oh. How disappointing. Edward was annoyed, of course. He is like living with an opera singer: "This is Infamous! We were distinctly promised, my sister and I, a car ride! A ride in the car! CAR! I shall complain! I shall speak to the management! Unhand me! Put me down.... nooooooooo." Then half a minute later he is sound asleep.
Which brings me to photos from Monday (pre-haircut. we got Edward's hair cut. he started to remind me of Andy Gibb on a daily basis and I could no longer handle it) and a series I like to call:
Ninety Seconds With Edward
Angry. Really Angry.
All in a minute and a half. Caroline in contrast (and recent photo notwithstanding) reminds me of that Far Side cartoon, The Many Moods of an Irish Setter. Each picture shows a bug-eyed dog with his tongue hanging out, one labeled 'Happy' the next 'Mad' and a third 'Suicidal.' She has her moments but compared to living with Edward the sea, wine dark and ever-changing; she's as calm as a fruit stand.
PS I wonder sometimes if I should change my blog theme. Less about me and more about... something interesting. Can I explain the blog title by the way? I have been dying to mention this again because it's been years and I always feel like a fool for having julia at julia dot julia forwardslash julia with here be hippogriffs all bracketed. But way back in the day I wrote a "diary" for an online parenting site and they were all identified by first names. When this Australian woman named Liz linked to her web log at typepad one day I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. So I started one and just kept Julia as the title since that was what I had been writing at the other place. And my original banner featured a picture of the fourth chromosome (which is one of the two Steve has affected) and an arrow pointing at the breakpoint with the notation Here Be Hippogriffs. This was a play on the olde tyme maps that cartographers drew to indicate they knew something bad was going on but they were not entirely sure what the fuck it was. Dragons, hippogriffs, riptides. When I got rid of that first banner I was going to ditch the hippogriffs but by that time a few people had linked to me with that name and I thought it would look weird.
And now you know... the rest of the story.
On the strength of the past three posts maybe I could become a religion blogger. Then I could leave thoughtful comments everywhere that begin "As a noted theologian... ." I'd like that. Oh! Maybe I could do a blog into book approach like the Julie and Julia woman, only rather than working my way through a cookbook Patrick and I could do an Around the World's Religions in Eighty Days thing.
Steve has seduced me with his hedonist wiles and I have promised to watch in two seconds the newest episode of Deadliest Catch. WITH an intelligent interest and WITHOUT scorn. Time to go arrange my features into a look of superhuman fascination.
Hope you are well.