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In 1776 when our founding fathers declared our independence by stating “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and I would venture to add, “women”) are created equal…” I think they were onto something.

While I myself am probably not Christian, I have a young daughter who most certainly is. Whether I buy into it all 100% or not, this post from Momastery represents everything that I could not myself properly articulate, but truly and sincerely agree with and believe.

If it were mandatory to take a class before becoming a parent (and in a perfect world, it probably would be), and I were the instructor (let’s pretend for a moment that I would be anything other than laughably unqualified to teach such a class), Glennon’s hypothetical letter to her son would be required reading.

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Her soul may evolve to be very confused but her future SAT score will completely blow your mind.

“Mommy do you remember when the really bad men spit at Jesus?”

Hmmm… is she assuming I was there when that happened? Kid I’m only thirty-freakin’-two!

Whatever.

“Yes Stumps.”

“That was really really mean! And they called Him names and they threw things at Him and spit on Him!”

“Yes sweetie. It was really terrible and Jesus did not deserve it and they were really mean.”

“They did those bad things because He loves us!”

Sure okay. Yeessss… Sort of like that. But not exactly… More like He loves us in spite of those horrible things that they didthat we did…  that we do…. Er, how does an optimistically agnostic mommy explain this to a Christian four year old again?

“And Mommy spitting on Jesus is very very unbespectful!”

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Oh Em Gee.

Shut The Front Door.

Did my preschooler just use attempt to use “disrespectful” in a sentence in a way that was more-or-less contextually accurate??

I can’t really discern any age-appropriate digestible way to break down for her the fall of man, but I couldn’t be more proud of Stumps’ growing vocabulary!

What on earth are we teaching our little girls?

Somewhat surprisingly and entirely sweetly, Stumps’ favorite book is currently the Bible. Specifically a version she received as a gift called The Children’s Discovery Bible. She asks us to read stories from her Bible every night, and we are happy to do so.

I have blogged about this before, but for a little bit of background, I was raised by a Methodist-turned-atheist and a nonpracticing-Jew. When I fill out standardized forms, I am always slightly disappointed that there is no Religious Denomination checkbox for “Confused & Skeptical, but Optimistic.” I pray all the time; I believe in a benevolent Creator that loves all of us entirely flawed individuals like His or Her children… but beyond that I really have no clue. And I am okay with that.

Husband was raised Southern Baptist. Incidentally he is completely obsessed with the show “Ancient Aliens”, and says that he is pretty certain Jesus was one of our (apparently in Husband’s opinion, many) visitors from other galaxies. I am not entirely certain that he is kidding, either.

Anyway, all of that to say, we do whatever we can to support and indulge Stumps’ budding faith, in hopes that she will grow up to become at least slightly less jaded and cynical than we both apparently are.

Tonight, one of the Bible stories she chose was called “Esther Saves Her People”. The story, which I was mostly unfamiliar with before storytime this evening, tells the tale of a kind and beautiful young woman, Esther, who is pursued by and eventually married to an older King. Fair enough.

A murderer is on the loose in the kingdom and is intent on killing all of the nearby Jews. Genocide for a four year old? I am skeptical of what Stumps’ takeaways may be, but continue the story. Esther is tasked with informing the King, her husband, that the people are in danger. From this point, here is an excerpt of how the story progresses:

“Esther was afraid. She knew that even the queen couldn’t see the king whenever she wanted to. It was against the law for anyone to see the king without being invited. If he was unhappy that Esther came, the king could have her put to death.”

Wait a minute. What?

“Esther fixed her hair and put on her best dress. Then she headed off to see her husband, the king. King Xerxes was surprised to see his wife. ‘Esther looks lovely’, the king said to himself. ‘But why would she risk her life by coming to see me without being called?'”

Now I realize that I don’t know Aramaic. And I realize that this is is a story that has been translated countless times throughout the past two or three millenia, and then reworded for a children’s book. But what messages are we sending our little girls?!? That if you speak to your spouse out of turn, even if you fix your hair and makeup and ensure that you look attractive, pretty, and presentable as is a {insert very blatant eyeroll here} woman’s duty, he will have to use every ounce of his self-control not to kill you??

I just don’t think I can keep reading Stumps stories like this in clear conscience. My inner-feminist died a bit inside tonight while I finished the chapter. Tomorrow at bedtime we will read Maya Angelou poems, watch Oprah reruns, and learn about Hillary Clinton instead.

Stumps-isms from just the last 90 minutes of our Tuesday evening

“My best friend in the whole wide world is Miss Rachel’s daughter. What’s her name again?”

If I were Miss Rachel’s daughter and overheard Stumps expressing this thoughtful,  touching, and heartfelt sentiment, personally I would feel warm and fuzzy for weeks.

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“Daddy can I sit in your lap?”

{Husband} Okay but you won’t be able to reach the puzzle that you are working on from here.

“That’s okay. I think I’m just gonna chill out here for awhile.”

Sweetie, my mid-eighties childhood called. It wants its catchphrase back.

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{If you count aunts, great-aunts, and great-great-aunts, my children have about ten that they are acquainted with}

“Mommy is my aunt dead?”

Um, no I don’t think so sweetie. Which aunt do you mean?

“You know the one, mommy. The really old one! I drank water at her house that time!”

{Oh that one.} Sorry sweetie, I am still not sure which aunt you are referring to.

“Gah mommy! Yes THE ONE WHO GAVE ME A DRINK OF WATER THAT TIME! It was a really long time ago!”

{Right. Of course. One of your ten aunts, whom so memorably rehydrated you at her house sometime in the past four years. Thanks for clarifying and helping me narrow it down a bit. For the record, by this point in the conversation Stumps has become so frustrated with me that she is about to lose it.}

Uhhhh…… Aunt R? …maybe…?

“YES Mommy! That one!”

Well okay sweetie. Yes Aunt R is in her early 80s but she is decidedly quite feisty and most certainly not dead.

“No Mommy. I didn’t say Aunt R is dead. Gah! {again with the “gah”. I mean how old is she? fourteen?} I just said that she is really really old and that she gave me water at her house that time and that she is about to die!”

Um. My apologies to my dear aunt R. I think I speak for all of us here at the House of Stumps and Beans in stating that we do in fact feel that you are the very picture of senior health excellence, and though Stumps may fixate on the basic human kindness that you once extended to her by giving her a sip of the old H2O that one time that she was particularly parched and cruelly neglected by her mommy at the tender age of two-and-a-half, I promise that we do sometimes give her glasses of water at home, too.

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For more Stumps-isms on dismissal from employment and of course death…

“Men are cruel, but Man is kind.”

I was chatting with an old friend today who also has small children about the immense responsibility of raising children who are kind. I was a very awkward little kid and was picked on somewhat relentlessly in elementary and middle school. I had very little self-awareness, and spoke my mind with no real filter (apparently not much has changed on that front), and this did not do me any favors early in life.

Fortunately, my coping mechanisms were never at all related to violence, and were not particularly self-destructive. Around the time I turned 13, I just started trying to teach myself to model and conform to others around me; and to act like, and therefore blend in with, everyone else. I enjoyed being more or less invisible in high school, and then as soon as I moved out for college, became completely bored with my bland self. For the past 12 years I have embraced the weird, surrounding myself with people who at least tolerate the weird and pretend to find it mildly endearing (like, for example, anyone who ever stumbles upon this blog once, and then makes the decision to at some point return to read again), and in the last several years have become more-or-less, as the saying goes, comfortable in my own skin.

This methodical practiced conformity though that defined my years in high school, is probably one of the single most useful life skills that I have ever acquired. I can turn the “normal and generic” version of me on and off as necessary, which is primarily in professional situations. (And for anyone I work with who happens to be reading this, thinking “Normal? Like hell you are, freak.” – I mean normal in interviews, and meetings, and stuff. As soon as I walk out of the conference room and back into my office, I settle right back into the weird. And since several of you recently bought me my very own beef pizzle, I venture to say you are inifinitely weirder than me. Which is probably why I love working with all of you so much :) I am so thankful for those years of practicing “normal” because who I was up until that point would have been very restricted and limited in the real world.

Now that I have two small children of my own, tiny clean slates of snow-white innocence, I have a lot of anxiety about how their personalities will define them socially. In a world where being teased mercilessly leads to devastating self-harm and horrific acts of violence, it makes my years of calculated practice at simply being unawkward and invisible seem like a much simpler time.

Recently at a large children’s get-together, my sweet little four year old Stumps sat down to eat lunch with two six year old girls. After about five minutes, the older girls started whispering to eachother, got up from the table, and moved across the room, leaving my precious preschooler sitting all alone. She picked up her plate, came over to my table, climbed into the chair beside me, and said “They don’t want to sit with me.”

After piecing back together the fragments of my shattered mommy heart, I have been turning this over in my mind for days. How should my little Stumps have addressed this? How should I have addressed this to protect Stumps’ sweet little soul without helicoptering, or worse, getting directly involved. How do I raise my little girls to not ever be the ringleader “mean girls” who conspire to get up and abandon another child at an empty table? To be kind, understanding, and genuine to everyone – even the weird, the awkward, the outcasts. And yet how do I raise them to be strong, to not be cluelessly easy targets like I was so many years ago, to not be the victims? To be neither the bully, nor the bullied?

It hurt me deeply to see Stumps left out like that, even though she is only barely old enough to even be self-aware enough to at all internalize it and take it personally. Other parents, please chime in. I just don’t even know where to begin. How are you developing your child’s social and emotional intelligence? How does this change as they age? What suggestions do you have? I want to protect both of my girls from the harshness of the post-pre-school world, and though this world will inevitably and unfairly be cruel to them at times, I want to preserve the purity of their kind, unblemished souls.