Tag Archives: punishment

The REAL serpent in the garden


 

C'mon, you know you want to.

C'mon, you know you want to.

So the holidays are (sort of) over, and my 12-year-old and I are the only ones up and around, clunking about, kicking around holiday debris, enjoying some quality(?) time together, here, on this Saturday morning, around 10-ish, after Christmas.

 

I’m losing a little bit of patience, however, because I kind of thought we were past the baby-talk stage. Never did I talk to my kids in baby talk. I wanted them to learn to actually say “bottle,” not “bah-bah,” so that’s what I would say to them.

Therefore, they learned to speak, not babble, except for my youngest, who persisted in calling her older sister “Bluh-luh” for the longest time – a sound which doesn’t remotely resemble her true name, which begins with a vowel. Still, it helped – and I felt far less like a fool as I chatted endlessly and hopefully at strollers with belted-in droolers. Yeah, I’m really not a baby person. I just had them, and as I tell them both, I like them better and better the older they get.

I take my duty seriously, though, to teach them. Them, at least – not the whole world. The rest of the world, I simply catalog as stupid, smart or somewhere in between, and I tolerate both with equanimity and relative good humor. The stupid make good fodder for this blog. The smart entertain and teach me – though as I often remind my kids, anyone, however stupid, can teach you something.

Today, however, I felt obligated to teach my 12-year-old.

“Mom, where does ‘I’m not my brother’s keeper’ come from?”

Aghast at my own failing to instill any kind of background in the study of religion, however comparative, I was momentarily speechless. Doesn’t EVERYONE know that? Doesn’t everyone somehow assimilate the story of Cain and Abel?

Apparently not.

Having yanked the poor child out of religious education after she attempted to throw herself from a moving car, rather than endure the misery of Roman Catholic Confession, I realized my child was suffering from large gaps in her education.

“Honey, I’ll tell you what one of my favorite professors in college told me. No educated person has NOT read the entire Bible.”

“WHAT?” she gasped. “The whole THING?”

“Not at a single sitting, goof,” I laughed. “But fear not. It’s just a clump of small books, strung together. You don’t even have to read it in order.”

“Moooom…”

I turned stern. “It’s shorter than ‘Twilight.’ ”  Then I softened. “Come on. I’ll read some to you.”

We read the story of Cain and Abel, and then, for background, we started on the Creation story, which led to some trouble before I even cracked the first “Let there be light.”

I began to mutter something about “Creationists” equaling “lunatics,” forgetting completely that I was talking to someone I’d indoctrinated to have tolerance for all beliefs.

My lack of kindness for folks who ignore the colossal body of fossil records and massive scientific evidence in favor of a version of an earth being created that has trees springing up “bing-bing-bing” in a day really pissed her off.

That is, until I started reading it.

“Wait, Mom – a dome? God created the sky as a dome? So, what is that saying about the earth?”

“That it’s FLAT, honey.”

“So, how big is it supposed to be? And what’s beyond the dome?”

I pointed to the first paragraph. “The abyss, honey.”

We went on.

“A basin? Wait, Mom – the sea is a basin? Like a big bowl?”

I nodded.

“Wait, Mom – sea monsters?”

I nodded.

“Wait, Mom – Adam named all the animals? What, in English?”

“Well, no, wait, I don’t know. Maybe Aramaic.”

“What’s Aramaic?”

“An ancient language.”

She did get excited when the geography part started – when the river in Eden is described, and the Tigris and Euphrates are named. (She’s good at geography.)

The temptation of Eve, however, was unsettling. You see, a lot of misconceptions abound regarding that little tale – but if you read the book, as we did this morning, you learn a lot about who the snake really is.

Sure, it’s Eve who does the talking with the serpent – but it says right there in the book, Adam is with her the whole time. Does he speak up? Say anything like: “Eve – babe – is this really the best idea? Didn’t God say cheese it on that tree?” Does Adam step in front of her and say, “No thanks, leave my wife alone?”

No. The wuss does nothing except grab the apple and munch when it’s his turn.

It gets worse. When God, like an angry dad, comes strolling through the garden, where Adam and Eve are hiding behind a plant (literally), and says: “Hey! You kids, get out here. Who told you that you were naked?”

(At which point my daughter inserted: “Our EYES.”)

Adam, the rat, the snitch, the stoolie, the coward, puts his weak-ass little hand on his wife’s back and shoves her right under the bus. “SHE did it. She ate the apple, and SHE gave it to ME.”

So the Old Testament God, who is, if you notice, a rather moody thing, short-tempered and VERY big on vengeance, doles out THIS punishment:

You: woman – childbirth is going to SUCK.

You: man – no more plucking from the trees. Now you have to sweat and farm.

You: serpent – crawl on your belly, and everyone is going to hate you.

And He locks up the garden of Eden – because there’s one tree left He wants to make sure NOBODY gets a hold of: the Tree of Life. Eat that, and you’ll live forever.

God puts a revolving fiery sword and a band of cherubim at the gate. Nice. Keep in mind, when you hear cherubim, don’t think sweet little cherubs. Every single time an angel appears in sacred texts, the first thing they say isn’t what you see on the Lifetime Channel: “Hey, let me solve your problems.”

It’s: “Be not afraid.”

You think Twilight vampires are scary, exciting reading? Try the Bible. Whether you’re a believer or not, it’s a real page turner, that’s for sure.

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A Rampage of Minor Atrocities


rampageMy 12-year-old is on a Rampage of Minor Atrocities.

She says she (a) wants to get over her Fear Of Getting In Trouble, and (b) Wants To Rebel, which (she says) is a Very Difficult Task with a mother like me.

“Why?” I asked, puzzled. I’d assumed rebellion was sort of a built-in no-brainer (sometimes literally, as in “Where were your brains when you chose that friend/wore that outfit/called your mother a bitch/set fire to the table?”) when you’re newly hormonal.

“It’s tough to be a rebel when your mother doesn’t disapprove of anything you do,” she said.

It’s true. My two daughters, 12 and 9, have asked me why they never get “punished” – as in, bed without dinner, sit in the corner, beatings, or the typical sanctions. Instead, if they spill something carelessly (as, really, we ALL do), they simply have to help me clean it up (or clean it up themselves). (As we all do.)

If they’re fresh-mouthed, I either don’t speak to them, (which they HATE, but it’s what I’d do to anyone else, right?) or I assume they’re too tired to behave, and so it’s beddy-bye.

Consequences, rather than punishments. It just makes more sense. Two weeks ago, my youngest and her pal sloshed through my black and white kitchen (newly painted, newly floored) and got mud all over EVERYTHING.

Next day, I hear her friend whisper: “Did you get in trouble?”

Youngest, to her friend: “I don’t GET in trouble,” she said.

“You don’t? You LUCKY!”

A snort. “Yeah, SO lucky. I hadda get on my hands and knees with my mom and wash the floors and cabinets we messed up.”

So said Oldest, in her Rampage of Minor Atrocities, poured Gatorade on the seat of a classmate. The next day, she confessed to the friend, who, with an exasperated gasp, pointed in amused horror at her friend. “It was YOU! I had to wear my hoodie around my waist all DAY because of you!”

“You’re telling on yourself?” I asked her in surprise.

“That’s half the fun,” she grinned. Then she did a dead-on accurate Cheerleader: “AAAHH! Where’s my ponytail?” I watched in horrified fascination as she then mimed swinging an invisible ponytail in front of said imaginary cheerleader’s face.

I laughed till I cried. Then: “You didn’t really cut anyone’s ponytail off, did you?”

A beat. Then: “No, Mom.”

I exhaled.

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Crime and Punishment. Not.


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CandyMy oldest daughter asked me: How come we don’t get punished?

I answered honestly. “Consequences make a lot more sense. Spill the milk; clean it up. You’re fresh-mouthed and bratty? You’re tired. Early bedtime.”

Now, I confess to stretching the bedtime thing a bit thin.

“Problem with chores? You must be tired. Get some rest.”

“Can’t seem to find your manners? Look for them under your bed. Good night.”

“You don’t like my cooking? Good night.”

Okay, maybe not that last. But seriously, it makes more sense to me to sit down with them and figure out where they went wrong than it does to send them to their room and let them stew, hating me and feeling persecuted.

We have a dog, Tucker. Great dog. I’m very attached to him, in fact, and he’s attached to me. As in, at the hip. Literally. He’s a German Shepherd Dog mix, which means he’s smart, obedient, and sort of a one-woman-man type of creature. Devoted. But still a dog, meaning that he tends to forget he occupies space.

Therefore other creatures in the universe who might want to get close to me – for instance, creatures to whom I gave birth – often find themselves needing to wrestle their way around a seventy-pound lump of fur who thinks he’s a twelve-pound lap cat.

My youngest started behaving weirdly. Ordinarily a very good kid, she was now Trouble. As in, Setting the Kitchen Table on Fire, Trouble. (This is true: I have the seven-inch burn mark to prove it.)

One day I heard whimpering.

“Who locked Tucker in the other bedroom?” I asked when I came downstairs. Tucker, of course, being, as I mentioned, a dog, was already licking her face.

Tucker Dog’s thought processes go something like this:

What a narrow escape! I am SO glad to be out of that room and back with everybody else. I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you!

The youngest’s stony, I-can’t-hear-you, I-feel-horrible, why-won’t-this-dog-stop-forgiving-me stare gave her away.

“You know, darling,” I said, sitting down quietly next to her, “if the house was on fire, and I had a choice between saving you or Tucker, you know what I would do?”

“Yeah,” she said sullenly.

“I would save YOU,” I said.

“You would?” She was clearly surprised.

“Sure. I love Tucker a lot. He’s a great dog. But there are a zillion dogs out there, and I can always get another dog. I can never, ever get another you.”

She threw her arms around me. That was it, all right. Trouble was over. I’d have to do this again, and again, I knew. But this was it.

“Listen, though, kiddo. Next time you’re mad at me, be mad at ME. Don’t take it out on innocent Tuck. That’s a bad road to go down, if you know what I mean. I don’t want to have to go back to the shelter and have to find one of those dogs with a spiked collar that will swallow you in one bite, you know.”

She got a little stony again.

“It’s a JOKE.”

She relaxed.

“Two bites, at least.”

Tuck sealed it with even more forgiving slobber.

That’s what it’s really all about: dealing with the crime, not meting out the punishment. After all, what’s our goal, anyway? If they stray or stumble, help them up off their knees, and guide them the few baby steps they’ve taken back to the right road, before they get too far into the dark woods.

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