abuse of authority, anxiety, atheism, Belief, child abuse, childhood, children, christianity, disrespecting, dysfunctional family, emotional abuse, family conflict, family quarrels, god, lack of belief, love, manipulation, parenting small children, relationships, religious abuse, religious parenting, secular parenting
The title of this entry says it all, doesn’t it?
Yes, my youngest son stood up to my father regarding some background religious insults that were being thrown at me when on a visit.
The situation when down as such (according to my son):
Grandpa (my father), went to pick up my youngest son to go out to dinner one evening. At some point, going from pick up back to my parents’ home, Brett said that I don’t love God. Grandpa then said that is sad, and that I love the devil.
Yeah, not a lot of context there, but that is my youngest for you. Now, I first thought maybe there was a misunderstanding about what Brett heard. The boy is not the most accurate of reporters, and he didn’t give me a reason why he even mentioned the fact I don’t love God to my father. It isn’t a huge family secret, I am very much out as an atheist. So, I asked Brett how the conversation came about and he said he didn’t know. Personally, I know my Dad has a tendency to audibly thank his deity quite regularly…even at random moments while walking through a store. The guy just feels the urge to blurt it out. I think he had one of those “Thank you, God” moments and my boy chimed in his own thoughts on the comment.
See, my youngest son is 7 years old. At that age, kids are very curious about the world and beliefs around them. He knows I don’t believe in deities at all, and he has been to church a couple times and heard about Jesus. He clearly has not made up his mind on the matter, and I leave it at that. He goes to church now and then, and we discuss why deities can’t be real now and then. A nice little balance. I really think he used my lack of “love” for God as a stepping stone to a broader dialog about lack of faith and what that means to a believer, only he heard something so atrociously shocking, he had to ask me about it.
Anyway, my child is adamant his Grandpa said those exact words. Since I have caught him making up stories about conversations with friends in the past, I called his bluff and said I would call his grandparents immediately. I reiterated that this was a very serious phone call I would make and asked him if he was sure about what he is saying or if he was just joking (like he would normally say if fibbing). Normally he would panic if not telling the truth and he really does enjoy my parents, but on this occasion he didn’t bat an eye and agreed I should call them up.
I ended up getting a voice mail, and honestly, I laid it on really thick with my son able to hear every word I said, so if he wanted to renege on his accusation he could and nothing would be stirred up since I could abort the voice mail. I made it clear on the message to my mother that my son insisted that Grandpa told him that I love the devil. I told her that no matter what their beliefs were, I expected my children to be respectful of them in their home so long as no danger was imminent. I expect the same in return. Additionally, I told her I would not allow any further contact with the kids since such comments about me and Satan were highly inappropriate, and that I could tell he wasn’t lying about what he had heard. So unless proven otherwise, their relationship was severed.
Mom called me back about fifteen minutes later claiming that these conversations did not happen at her house and that she never heard my father ever say anything like that to my son. She said, and I quote this,”He is such a God loving man, Amanda. He would never say such things.” Imagine that in a deprecatory tone. I made it clear to her this isn’t about what SHE has heard said by my dad, but what my son says he had heard. She assured me that a discussion would ensue shortly with my father and would call me back. I made it clear that my decision to sever contact would remain in place unless I knew my boy either misunderstood what had been said or proven a liar. She then began to back peddle a bit saying that she has heard my boy say that I don’t love or believe in God, but that they don’t say anything in response or just agree with him and move on to a different topic. NOW she wants to admit that in fact these discussions have occurred.
“Let me talk with your Dad and find out what is going on,” she says nonchalantly like it isn’t a big deal.
“Well, you better. I wouldn’t normally lend complete credit to my son about this, but Dad has said the same thing straight to my face many times over the years, Mom. This wouldn’t be the first time he has done this.”
“I know. I know.”
About another half hour goes by and she calls back, this time I put it on speaker phone. No, she says my father didn’t say anything like this at the house, ever. I tell her that I will try to get my boy to “break”. What I mean by this is get him to admit he is confused about what was said or is lying. It isn’t very hard to do. If he is the least bit unsure about what he heard when pressed, or is lying, he will “break” and admit it. I tell her he will apologize if he lied, but not if it is just a misunderstanding. Naturally, my father is not participating at all in this conversation, which is really raising a lot of red flags in my mind. Again, we hang up, and I go talk to my 7 year old in the other room.
“Can you do me a favor, sweetie? Can you think really hard for a minute about your talk with Grampy and what he said about me? This is really important. If you heard him wrong (I give him an out), then it isn’t a big deal, okay? It’s important we get this straight.”
“He said you loved the devil, mommy. He picked me up from Daddy’s, and we were almost back to his house and I told him you don’t love God, and he said you loved the devil.”
“Are you really sure? This is really serious.”
“Yes, he said that!”
“Are you willing to call Granny and talk to her?” There is no way in HELL he would want to talk to her if he were lying.
So, to really test him for a bluff, I pulled out my phone. The dial pad was lit on my phone screen, I looked at him and began to dial. Not a peep of protest. This kid was being honest. Still, I went through with the dial, and I assured him I would leave it on speaker phone and would step in if anything got mean. He didn’t seem phased at all, in fact, as soon as my mom answered, he demanded to know why Grampy wasn’t telling her the truth! Straight out of his mouth with authority! MY stomach was in knots, but obviously his wasn’t. My mom of course told him that lying wasn’t nice and that he makes up things sometimes and he needed to stop it. He immediately responded, calmly I might add, that he wasn’t lying and then retold what he told me about the car ride conversation.
“You know what, you need to talk to Grampy,” she says in an authoritative tone, thinking that would scare him from the phone I guess. My mother always used Dad as the bully stick. If I made her mad, she would say,”Wait until your father gets home!” knowing full well that meant he would take the belt to me. Sometimes, she wouldn’t even warn me. I would go to bed, only to be woken up at midnight and have him yelling at me and hitting me with his hands or a belt. He would get carried away on occasion and she would step in telling him to stop, but always doing so calmly, and never checking to make sure I was okay afterwards. My father was her personal pit bull, and she just sicked him on my 7 year old. I looked across the bed to him nervously, hoping he would back away and finally admit he was confused about what was said, ANYTHING, but not be subjected to my dad’s wrathful temperment.
My son didn’t flinch or back off the phone at all. As soon as Dad got on there saying,”Boy, what is goin’ on?”, my boy leaned towards the phone speaker and said,”Grampy, why are you lying? You said mommy loves the devil, remember? In the truck?”
“I don’t have those conversations around here, son, and you need to think about what you are doing right now. Lying ain’t nice.”
My mother can be heard in the back ground at this point telling him it has to do with the truck ride, not conversations at the house. See, mom wasn’t in the truck that day, it was just grandfather and grandson, and I could tell she was panicked a bit. Dad says to her,”I don’t know what happened in the truck. I don’t care about that, and I don’t want to be a part of this either. You hear me, son? You need to think about what you are doing. It ain’t right to add things on to what is said. I’m not going to be a part of this. I don’t know what your mother is trying to stir up, but I don’t have those conversations. You need to quit adding things that didn’t get said to conversations.”
My son looked like he had been smacked, but he wasn’t looking sad, he was looking angry! He leaned over and said loud and clear,”I am not lying, and you did say that. I don’t want to come over anymore.”
“Excuse me? What did you say?”
“I don’t want to come over anymore. Bye.” And he got up and walked away from the phone, going back to his video game like nothing happened. I was floored as I hung up the phone. I was sure I would have to step in somewhere or that my boy would tear up and admit he lied, or something, but he didn’t. He didn’t even break a sweat, and I envy that.
I was so worried about his well being, but I think it was because of my own unresolved feelings of intimidation and anxiety when dealing with my father, I just assumed that would be the natural reaction for the child as well. Apparently, I still have a lot to learn about distancing oneself from emotional situations involving my children’s struggles with family and friends. I can’t let my own baggage overshadow their own coping skills and obvious ability to handle it. This is the same lesson I learned when my eldest daughter proudly proclaimed her atheism on FB and she had my father, and another family member ramming scripture at her from every direction. I was worried about her feeling intimidated, but then I saw she simply deleted their comments and continued on. As she put it, “I don’t force my beliefs on them, and I don’t think they have the right to do it to me.”
Man, I’ve got a lot to learn from my children.