Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Weekly Bird

When my two older boys were little we attended a typical LDS Ward in Idaho. Jon and I were just making our way back into church activity after some wandering for a few years. I was a very young mother with two rambunctious and hilarious little boys. They were never the kids who walked through the halls with their arms folded reverently nor were they even able to sit still through any of the main Sacrament Meeting. We spent most of those meetings out in the hall with somebody pouting and screaming. Usually it was me.

I can remember seeing some of the other mothers in that Ward and wondering what was the matter with me? These picture perfect moms walked their blonde-headed broods in every week, perfectly pressed, not a hair out of place, arms folded and into their regular pews with military precision. They then sat patiently through the service and quietly colored pictures or ate cheerios out of color coordinated containers with their name on it. I was lucky if we made it to church with everyone with their shoes on much less with perfect little activity kits.

Shortly after moving into this congregation I was called to be the Primary Chorister, a calling I really felt good about since I had a background in music and the pianist happened to be the mother of one of my best friend’s from high school. Sister Hogg had been a tremendous influence on me and is one of the most fun people I have ever met. We would spend our down time in Primary breaking each other up behind the piano while sharing time was going on.

The second counselor in the Primary Presidency was the wife of a professor from a college in town. She did not appreciate humor and it seemed to me, looked down on those not in the world of academia as little better than serf in the fields of her manor. There was no mistaking that she held my sophomoric sense of humor in contempt and found it a trial to even share the same oxygen in a room with me. As I concluded the singing portion one Sunday I said “and now I’ll turn the time over to Sister Weekly” she immediately got up, looked down her nose and said flatly “you don’t turn the time over to anyone.”

At the time this was all going on David was four years old and in the Sunbeam class. He was adorable if I do say so myself, having acquired from his Daddy dark eyes with intolerably long lashes and olive skin. He also had a mischievous streak that was revealed any time he thought he could get a rise out of an adult. Earlier in the week he had been sitting with my mom counting on his fingers. As they practiced up to 10 and back down he managed to leave just his middle fingers up. Mom, in a responsible grandma fashion told him “oh no David, don’t do that. You should never point your middle finger at anyone.” As I watched this little encounter I saw the lights go on in Dave’s eyes. Here was some ammunition to be used later. I swooped over and told him not to worry about it but I knew that was going to come back at some inopportune moment.

The following Sunday as I was nestled snugly behind the piano with Sister Hogg, we watched Sister Weekly give the sharing time presentation. It was on repentance and a little dry. Most of the kids were zoned out completely. As I looked around the room my eyes came to rest on David sitting in the front row with the rest of his class. Sister Weekly was kneeling right in front of him with a visual aid and began to ask him a question about the lesson.

As if in slow motion I saw him glance up at me with a devilish glint in his eyes and a smile on his face.Then he looked Sister Weekly right in the eyes and with a huge grin took both hands and stuck up his middle fingers.

The entire room stopped dead in absolute horror for several never ending seconds.

Finally Sister Weekly stood up, stepped back, and sputtered something incomprehensible. She finally gathered herself and moved on with the lesson. Something inside of me burst in that moment and I found myself laughing uncontrollably in my hide-out behind the piano. It was a maniacal, inappropriate, mini-melt down. After all of those months of feeling like a second class citizen to that woman my innocent, adorable, little man had unknowingly done something so offensive it completely knocked her off her high horse for a few seconds.

Obviously this incident did not help my reputation as a parent in that Ward but something inside me was freed and I just didn’t care anymore what anyone thought. I knew I was doing the best I could and realized I didn’t want little blonde robot children who never misbehaved. I loved my boys all the more because they were funny and a little irreverent. I couldn’t image living in a home that wasn’t loud and chaotic and full of love.

As the years have gone by I've been able to see that I was holding myself up against some pretty unrealistic and imagined ideals. Those families I perceived as perfect were not and each had their own set of challenges. I also realized in the end there is no purpose in comparing myself to anyone else. The race is really against myself and with the Lord's help I'm doing just fine. 



P.S. I've changed Sister Weekly's name. My memory of her is pretty harsh and I'm sure it was more my insecurity that I remember than her unkindness. Although she was pretty snooty. 

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