I was sitting on the floor of Steve's office tonight; talking to my mother on the phone. Caroline ran towards me as fast as she could, both hands wrapped around one of the billion little things we have in this house that run on batteries and play thirty second bursts of kids' music. When she reached where I was sitting Cricket bent down and stuffed the whatsit under my skirt and then sat on it. Half a second later Edward lumbered into the office, nostrils flaring. He came over and checked each one of her hands, carefully turning them over to see both sides. Then he walked all the way around us, prodding at me with his fat little palms. Finally he inserted his body sideways between her back and my front, forcing Caroline to stand up. She gave me the blandest of smiles and strolled out of the room. Edward continued to rootle around with my knees until he found the music thing.
He pressed the button to start the ABC Song and the cold look he gave me was pure Javert: there I was - his own mother! - aiding and abetting a common thief. It was only his dedication to right and order that had enabled him to prevail... aaaaaaand Z; next time won't you sing with meeeeeeeee.
[Hey speaking of Javert et al my mother called the other night and made me look up Susan Boyle on youtube. I was amused by the shock (woman sings really well despite sensible shoes) but dutifully cried anyway. Later I decided to indulge in a bonus cry and was just starting the video again as Patrick walked by. He froze.
"Hey! That's your song!"
And it is true. I have sung Fantine's lament - particularly my favorite bit where it drops into a more manageable range and you can really belt out "...soooooooooo different from this HELL I'M LIVINGGGGGG!" - a couple hundred dozen times during Patrick's lifetime. It is my song.
"But it sounds different."
He listened some more.
"It sounds good!"
He walked off.
"Yeah, that's definitely not you."]
Right after Edward left with the music thing (no doubt to extract a confession from Caroline, having secured the necessary evidence) Patrick walked in, fresh from his bath.
"Do you believe in God?" he asked.
"I should let you go," said my mother.
"Raise your hand if you believe in God," said Patrick.
"Byyyyyee!" said my mother.
Then Steve walked in the door, fresh from supervising the bath, and said, "Apparently [kid I quite like at school] told Patrick today that people who don't believe in God are going to hell."
And they both stared at me. Waiting.
Now as it so happens, Patrick got briefly into Greek/Roman mythology last year; backdoor'ed as it were by the close connection between cosmology (Patrick's passion) and astronomy; and the looser connection between astronomy and theology. So we have already had exhaustive conversations about pre-modern times and science and gaps in knowledge and the beliefs and stories that arose to fill those gaps. That was easy. When Patrick - I suppose naturally - pressed me about whether Pluto and Jupiter and Neptune were real, I was all over it. No, I said. When he then asked whether there were other gods or a god and do people still believe in them or what; I was able to tell him that, yes, many people, most people I think, do believe in a divine presence although how they define that and how they worship can differ greatly from country to country, from family to family, and from person to person.
Ultimately, back then, I was able to tell him what I believe and what is most important to me. Namely: it is essential to be kind; it is important to do good things for people; and when it comes to discussions of faith, above all, it is absolutely necessary to be respectful when you deal with the beliefs of others.
So this evening's catechism put me at something of a disadvantage. Not the part where Patrick was fracking with me about my own beliefs (he knows what I believe; he was just amusing himself at my expense because he loves to ask philosophical/fraught questions five minutes before bedtime and watch me struggle to express myself in 300 seconds or less - at least, that's my theory) but the part where he said: "Yeah [nice kid] said everyone who doesn't believe in God is going to hell. Is this true or was he lying?"
My belief (respect all, blur edges - which might not amount to much in the broader definitions of theism but which I nonetheless hold dear) came screaming up against Patrick's need to have everything quantified and parsed and settled True/False.
And I wasn't quite sure how to respond.
What do you think? How does one handle [insert however you want to define the fact that children go out into the world and then they bring home what they find there; seeking parental input on thorny questions]?
PS I have not forgotten the Paraguard IUD questions. I am still collecting data *ahem* but will report back soon. Tentative thumbs up, though.
PPS Oh and I have NO IDEA why Caroline and Edward are suddenly sleeping much better. They have been two to three hour nappers for months (and yes it is lovely - Patrick would sleep for, like, ten minutes) but the past several nights one or the other has just slept straight through until eight or so. Edward's done with the molars, so that helps. Caroline has one molar left to cut but I think she has gotten used to living with her mouth torn up like a highway in the summertime. I have started offering a cuddle rather than something to eat when they first summon me - particularly when they wake up before midnight - and both of them have been amenable, for the most part. A few times Caroline clawed at my face and smacked her parched lips together when I offered mere love; so I fed her. Ditto Edward. So far, so good.
PPPS I just walked into the living room where Steve is sitting more or less in the dark.
"What's up with the lights?" I asked as I flipped the switch to walk across the room.
"Oh, Patrick turned them off."
"If Patrick jumped off a bridge would you?" I said, idly.
Steve stared at me.
"Of course I would."
Oh. Right. Of course he would.