Felix’s last stand

4

Felix was having none of it. His parents had chased him around the house for an hour, trying to snatch him up. This was the day to get his hair cut for the first time.

They had braced him for it for a week – dropping hints as to what to expect, offering promises of treats if he behaved. He knew full well what they were planning to do to him. He knew that of all the things they had done to him in the name of his ‘best interest’, this was the last straw. He had to finally draw the line.

He was sick of being directed, ordered, bossed around. Nobody ever asked him what he wanted to wear. Nobody even cared to know what he wanted to eat. Every day of his three years of being alive was a battle of wills.

Every now and then they got it right and they gave him something that wasn’t tasteless to eat or scratchy to wear. Those days were rare, and on every other dull, grueling day, he felt that his very being was being washed away bit by bit until the rock that he was had worn away to nothingness.

Little Maxie was his only friend, the only one who understood. They’d gotten her when Felix was six months old after a particularly difficult trip to the doctor for booster shots. They hoped she would be a calming influence on him. It turned out that the two had developed a stronger bond than his parents could ever imagine. They both felt the same way.

Both were ordered around. Both were ignored, neglected, relegated to the ‘passive’ pile in their parent’s minds. Felix and Maxie developed a common bond out of their silent mutual suffering.

They forged a method of communication that worked perfectly for them, which his parents were oblivious to. Why wouldn’t they be? They never even thought to speak with either one of them – always at, or to, but never with.

It was funny in a not-so-funny kind of way. Both of his parents were all about communication, but they never thought to apply their skills at home. Mom spent her weekdays teaching dolphins how to communicate, getting them to mimic human speech or to point at symbol boards with their noses or flippers. All day she taught them how to tell her what they were feeling. She constantly modified her techniques to better understand their needs and wishes and thoughts. Never once did she think to learn their language.

These ‘animals’, these beings she and every other scientist thought were lesser than, purely by virtue of the fact they weren’t human, were expected to learn human language rather than the other way around. Who was less intelligent?

Felix’s Dad was equally culpable. He too had no excuse. They both knew better and they both didn’t act upon their knowledge. Ignorance was indeed bliss, but they didn’t have that luxury.

His Dad worked as a counselor with people who had learning disabilities. It had been his passion for a dozen years, far longer than his marriage, a third of his life. He’d even gotten professional recognition for his techniques to reach patients who were considered unreachable by conventional methods.

Neither of the parents thought to take their work home with them. Felix was a child, and that was that. It was unthinkable to them that he should be asked his opinion. Dolphins and profoundly autistic children were paid more heed than him, purely because he was theirs. The idea of trying to communicate with their child was something they never would have considered. Why would they ask him his opinion? They knew that their job as parents was to tell him what to think – not to ask.

Felix and Maxie had refused to budge from the settee. That stiff sofa was the ultimate symbol of all they were fighting against. It had been moved into Felix’s room last winter when the parents had bought a plush leather sofa for themselves. They had decided unequivocally that dogs and children were not allowed on it, out of fear of stains and rips. They were relegated to the board-stiff contraption of cloth and wood that had been in the family longer than anybody could remember. It had stains but no stuffing. In their minds it was perfect for a boy and his dog – they couldn’t wreck it any more than it was.

The boy and his dog thought otherwise. Here they were going to make their final stand. Here was going to be the epicenter of their future, the point where they were going to make their captors listen to them for the first time.

In unison they both peed on the couch.

Horrified, Felix’s parents and Maxie’s owner (or was it the other way around?) stared at them both as the warm pungent liquid seeped into the threadbare cloth. As a communication technique, it wasn’t the best. It got them to be noticed for sure, but not taken as seriously as they had hoped.

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Children, God, and community.

We need to remember that we aren’t God. We need to remember that everything we have comes from God. And we need to remember that God wants to help us – that we can’t do everything on our own.

When we are sick we have to rely on others to help us get well. We need folks to take us to the doctor, to get us food, to feed us. Then we rely on doctors and nurses to care for us. Sometimes we end up in nursing homes and we rely on people to get us in and out of bed or to wipe our butts when we need to go to the bathroom.

The poet John Donne tells us that no man is an island. When we think we are, that we can do it all on our own, we fail. We do better when we unite and work together.

Children are like that. They are a reminder from God in this way. One person alone has a very hard time taking care of children. It can certainly be done, but it is easier with two. I think there is a lot of wisdom in the Asian concept of multi-generations living together. My Laotian neighbors all live together. An Indian friend tells me that when she moves back to India she’ll be living in her in-laws house. This is good – it saves money. It shares resources – people can share food, time and energy.

Children are from God. We can think that we created them – but we didn’t. We just have sex, and sometimes a child is created. We didn’t do that. It is amazing. It is a miracle. This being, this other person, just happens.

And then, it is very hard to raise this child (We are told it takes a village.) There is day care, mother’s day out. I remember how it was when I worked at the Choo-Choo and parents would say to their child “Don’t hit your sister” or “Keep your hands in your pockets” (as a positive version of “Don’t touch!”) and the child ignored it. But when I said it, it had the force of law – because a whole different person said it. Kids tend to ignore what their parents say – but when a stranger says it – the same it, the same rule, it must be true.

(Originally worked on 12-4-12, edited 4-14-15. I’m still not sure this is fully worked out. I think there are some good ideas in here, but it is more a sketch than a drawing. It was titled “God gives us things so that we have to turn back to God.” But I don’t think it lives up to that.)

Children are promised

There are many times in the Bible where children are prophesied. Sometimes they are long-wanted, sometimes they are a surprise. Sometimes they are the answer to a prayer and sometimes their birth causes more questions than answers. In each case, God shows us that our lives and our concerns are always in God’s hands. God knows our needs before we do.

This is a complete list as far as I know. If I find more, I’ll add them. Please comment if you know of other examples of God telling people that they were going to have a child.

Ishmael (Gen. 16:7-16)
Isaac (Gen 18:1-15)
Samson (Judges 13:3-20,24)
Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-20)
John (Luke 1:5-25)
Jesus (Luke 1:26-38)

Poem. Old/new

I find it very interesting
that young children
and old people
are very similar.

They both need to be wheeled around
by someone else.
They both need their print large
in the books they read.
Sometimes they even need
or want
someone else
to read their books for them.

Someone else has to handle
their affairs – bills, doctor’s appointments,
groceries. Someone else has to cook.
Sometimes it even means that
someone else
has to feed them
soft food
spoonful by spoonful.

It isn’t that
the old are becoming feeble.

It is that they are practicing
being children again
for the next go around.

Blessing the children.

Some parents were bringing their young children to Jesus so he could bless them. The disciples tried to turn them away.

Jesus was upset with them and said “Don’t prevent children from coming to me. The kingdom of heaven is made up of people who have a childlike faith. I tell you truthfully, if you do not welcome the kingdom of God in the same manner as a child, you will never get in.”

After taking the children in his arms, he laid his hands on their heads and blessed them.

MT 19:13-15, MK 10:13-16, LK 18:15-17

Mid afternoon crash

I am in an unusual position at the library. I get to see things happen over and over. From this I learn patterns.

One of the patterns is the 3:30 to 4:30 crash. In general, small children tend to lose their minds between 3:30 and 4:30. Usually these are children below the age of six.

They need to have either had a nap or had something good to eat around a 2, in order to prevent this. Otherwise they tend to fall apart. They start to become cranky and they wail. Nothing consoles them. “Irritable” is a mild word to describe what happens. By “good to eat” I mean something healthy and nourishing – not candy, and not caffeine. Real food, not a snack.

Parents don’t notice this because they don’t see it happen over and over again like I do. They just think they are mis-behaving, when they just being small children. They can’t help it. It isn’t their fault.

They don’t have the capacity of self-regulating. Nor are they able to know how to ask for what they want. They just know they don’t feel good. So they wail. Don’t punish them for it – plan for it.

How many of us suffer from the exact same crash and we don’t realize it?

Juggling children

I saw a lady with two young children at the library last week. It was obvious that they were in her way. This tableau happens a lot. She was in the computer area and she kept trying to tell them she was taking a test. The children were probably five and three. They kept trying to sit with her and ask her questions. She kept being very frustrated with him and telling him to stop bothering her.

I had a lot of questions and no answers. Where was the father? Or were there two fathers? Why weren’t the children in daycare, or with a relative? If this test was so important then why didn’t she make time to take it when they weren’t with her? Were they always with her? If she was taking a test to get a better job, where would she put the children while she was at work?

She had not brought anything for them to do on their own. She had not thought of what they could do to entertain themselves while she took her test. At that age, children have to have some direction. Meanwhile, the phone rings and she answers it. She has time to talk on the phone but not time to talk to her children. She finally gives the phone over to her son and tells him to talk quietly, reminding him that they are at the library. The library has a policy that you shouldn’t use the phone at all, not just quietly. Ideally, it would have been turned off.

It wasn’t the children’s fault that they were born or that they were there. That was the mother’s doing. She was treating them as if they were an interruption to her day and her life. Everything she was saying to them was in an impatient and unkind tone. The only time she talked to them was to tell them to stop bothering her and to shut up. Sadly, I see this a lot.

The mom kept getting more and more frustrated with her children and her children kept demanding more and more attention from her. Any attention is better than no attention, even if it is negative attention.

I felt that it was not my place to tell her how to parent her children. I felt that if I had done so she would have felt very embarrassed and threatened. Meanwhile she was getting further and further behind on her test and further behind on interacting with her children in a kind way.

I fear for the children of these mothers. They grow up angry and frustrated, just like their mothers. They grow up expecting to be yelled at for asking for help with their basic needs. They grow up thinking that they are worthless and meaningless. They grow up empty, having never really grown up at all. Meanwhile, they have children and they treat them the same way, and the cycle continues.