Religion


Every night, I try to pray over my babies as I put them to sleep. When I do so, I find myself going through a list of wish-fulfillment. I mean, who doesn’t want good things for their children? Sometimes, I find that my prayers seem to be a way to try and manipulate and control God. Other times, it is out of genuine belief.

Here is what I try to pray for my kids (obviously not all-inclusive) and the thoughts that go through my head while praying:

1) That they would be healthy and live long, meaningful lives. Not really sure what that means or looks like, but I’ll know it when I see it.

2) That they would be spared suffering. But then I think that a life without suffering tends not to produce people of character, hope, or perseverance. So then, I think, perhaps just enough suffering. Not too much that it breaks my children, but not too little that it breaks them a different way.

3) Crap. Perhaps I should just pray for resilience. That they can bounce back from things. But then, I don’t want them to be too self-reliant and not ever learn to trust in God. Or be too glib.

4) I want my kids to be smart and work hard. To know that just because you’re smart and things come easily doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have to work hard and settle for just getting by. (That would be my entire academic career. Oh, let’s call a spade a spade. My entire CAREER, too.)

5) I pray for my kids to have their heart take after God’s own heart. That they love the poor, are humble, and have compassion. That they see beyond the physical.

6) I pray for my children to value the insides of a person. To want to be a person of character as well as seek people who have character.

7) I pray for my kids to be incredibly good looking.

8) I pray for them to be funny – both to me and to people in general.

9) I pray for them to choose to believe in God and Jesus not because they were force-fed it as children, but because they have vibrant, full faiths of their own.

10) I beg God to protect my children from evil. I ask God to protect their hearts and their spirits and their physical bodies.

11) I pray that DD knows her value as a person and as a woman and doesn’t throw herself away at “inessential penises” (to quote Daughter of Smoke and Bone). Of course, I realize that I presume she is going to be heterosexual – which is somewhat of a prayer only because anything else will be hard for her. (See item 2. However, if she is something other than heterosexual, I will always love her and support her and who she is meant to be.)

12) I pray that DS also knows his value as a person – and becomes a man who values women and isn’t threatened by or use them. (Same thing goes for heterosexuality assumptions, here.)

13) Inevitably, I pray God helps me be a good parent.

I can’t remember any more off the top of my head, but like I said before. Not all-inclusive. What do you pray/hope for your children?

Welp, the actual plane trip went much better than I could have hoped. They were both on mostly excellent behavior until the very end of the first 12.5 hour flight. After only 4.5 hours of sleep on the plane though, who can blame them? Thanks to my mom’s awesome friend who is a travel agent, she got us bulkhead seats and I was even able to put DD in a bassinet for a few hours. We had like 3 feet of leg room. Seriously awesome.

Thankfully, at the airport in Taipei, they had a nice sized indoor playground. They also had one huge train to look at but I didn’t know about it until later. DS and DD had a great time. On the 45 minute flight to Kaohsiung, they both passed out from sheer exhaustion the last 15 minutes or so. Of course, that was enough to wire them for the next 7 hours.

We went first to my First Aunt’s (my mom’s oldest sister) house with my cousins and waited there for another cousin to arrive. Then we went to my grandparents’ house. Craziness. The outside of the house had two big tents full of funeral flowers and wreaths. Inside the first floor of the house was an altar and my grandmother’s picture up next to Buddha. We had to bow and worship (my brother and I didn’t use incense so we were just showing respect) to my grandmother’s image. Then we went upstairs to see my grandfather.

They didn’t allow the babies in the house. The family because it was custom and wanted to protect my babies from death and evil spirits. My mom because the family worships ancestors and Buddha which are false idols. So they hire nuns and monks to continually read from Buddhist scriptures to hopefully help send my grandmother on to heaven and protect her from evil spirits. Terribly confusing and I had to have my mother explain everything to me.

My brother and I have never seen so many relatives from my mom’s house. My grandmother was eldest of five and my grandfather was eldest of six. It was a briefly disconcerting moment when I met a woman who looked just like my grandmother and they told me it was her younger sister. Paid our brief respects to my grandfather who had to be told who we were. He thanked us for coming. He was sweet but had a cold. (Apparently, he caught a cold, gave it to my grandmother, it worsened into pneumonia, and she passed away peacefully in her sleep at the hospital. It was unexpected.) He was unshaven and in his pajamas. My mom told me that was a way to symbolize grief in their custom.

My grandparents were a love match. They had fallen in love on first sight (very different for those times!) My grandmother was very outgoing and talkative and was working because she had to care for her siblings. My grandfather was more on the quiet side but he also worked to care for his siblings and family. Together, they built our family’s steel factory and have given money to take care of all their siblings, their siblings’ children, and their siblings’ grandchildren. For some of their siblings, they feel as if my grandparents didn’t give them enough. I find that astounding.

They collapsed around 330pm and I let them sleep a long time against my better judgment. I tried to wake DS up, but he was pretty much unconscious and I changed him and let him sleep. DD woke up so I fed her, my mom gave her a bath, and then I nursed her back to sleep.

My mom went to her room to sleep because they have to be up at 530 for the funeral service, then a 4 hour round trip bus ride to my grandmother’s hometown temple in the mountains for a super long service. The kids and I aren’t going because they don’t allow or advise bringing children. I am not complaining!

I did get to nap for about 2 hours then I woke up because I thought we were going to dinner. My mom and I debated for awhile and then she went out to get food. Of course, I didn’t get a chance to sleep until 11pm and then DS woke up all bright-eyed and bushytailed at 1am local time. That’s because it was 8am in California! Then he woke up DD.

I fed him, gave him a bath, and he played with trains. Twice he woke up DD right when she was about to fall asleep. Finally, I broke down and had him watch Thomas the train videos on YouTube. I am currently trying to get him back to bed because he is yawning and still short a good 6 hours of sleep. Wish me luck!

Short of regular “church” attendance, how do you go about teaching spiritual matters to your children? (eg: existence/non-existence of God(s), prayer, meditation, why is there evil?, you know, easy questions) At what age did you start? I am less interested in the outward manifestations of “religion” than the inner processes. Thanks! (Oh, and of course, keep it civil please. Now, go!)

Just because I have told my father that he is dead to me doesn’t mean that I don’t still hear about him from the rest of my family. And lately, there have been several doosies.

A few weeks ago, my dad phone ambushes my brother in DC and guilts him into meeting with my dad for dinner. Throughout the awkward conversation, my dad tears up and looks sad. What a phoney. And even if he is sad at the consequences, he sure hasn’t done anything to change it. I suppose he is allowed to be sad (if it is even true). But whatever. He made his choices.

Today, my uncle called my mom to tell her that daddy bought a half million dollar house in Houston back in October 2010. TWO THOUSAND TEN. 2011. He also took his mistress with him. He told his relatives in China that he is already divorced and that the mistress is his wife. My fucking shriveled up bitch of a grandmother knew all of this and has been lying to my uncle and my mother this WHOLE TIME.

My dad has also linked up with a lawyer to lure Chinese people over to get a US citizenship via investments or another way. That was why he was in my brother’s city a few weeks ago. He has even more plans to bring that woman and their bastard son over soon.

I told my mother I was going to call up my grandmother and tell her in person that she was dead to me. My mom told me not to get involved with that negative stuff. I told her (in anger) that I was going to curse my father every day. She told me not to do that. That it would poison me and that I would have to protect my kids from his sin and all that evil and I shouldn’t do it. I told her that cursing people is Biblical and I planned on doing it every day. Of course, I wouldn’t do that. Not because I am a good person. No, it’s because I can’t even remember to brush my fucking teeth every day – I’m not going to remember and waste my time on my fucking no good dad.

My mom told me a week or so ago that she found out the mistress is from a part of China that is renowned for their witchcraft. My mom is convinced this woman is trying to curse her because she’s had so many horrible dreams lately. For what it’s worth, part of me believes this, and the other thinks it’s insane.

However, the last two times I took my kids to church, the first night, DS had nightmares. The second time, he woke up at 3am barfing for an hour and a half. No other sick symptoms. He was totally fine the next day. Both days after I took my kids to church, DD would cry uncontrollably. (I know, she is just a baby.) When DS was just born and my dad saw him and held him, DS made such a weird cry/noise (scared the shit out of my mom and I because it sounded so strangled and strange) that I am convinced my dad passed on some evil spirit to my son. (Particularly since after that, DS started to have nightmares.)

I have since made my mom do all sorts of things like pray for him and anoint his room, his bed, etc. I know it sounds crazy. It could all be coincidence. Which, the more rational part of my mind agrees with. But I also believe there are things that cannot be explained and are not of flesh and blood and are spiritual powers and principalities. I do believe that people can be cursed and that prayer is powerful.

I also, alternately, think I’ve gone batshit crazy and am using prayer and anointings and etc as totems and superstitions. I don’t think about it too often, but it does bother me in the middle of the night occasionally – especially when I am SO ANGRY at my dad.

Part of me wants to come up with a new name by which I can refer him. Dad or daddy seem too personal and intimately connected for someone’s whose face I want to bash in repeatedly. I can’t think of one right now. All I can think of is how badly I want to call him just so I can tell him to fuck off and die.

Pardon the rantiness. I am a little upset.

So I finally took DS and DD to church for the first time ever this morning. DH stayed home because he had a lot of work, but he’ll join us next week. He’s kind to do it (despite his atheism). I think he is lured by the promise of free donuts and bagels this place offers. (My mom told me how someone she knows eventually became a Christian after he went week after week to a Chinese church solely for their beef chow mein. Hey, the Lord can work with whatever.)

I bit the bullet because I really want my children to grow up in church and learn about God and Jesus and have the chance to decide later whether or not this is something they want to pursue. However, for a long while, I was searching for the “perfect church” in terms of what I personally think/want a church to have. (eg: racial/economic/age diversity, a love for the poor/downtrodden, women in leadership, more inductive type of teaching, etc.) I would spend long hours researching churches via their websites only to find something or other wrong with them and then, ultimately, dismissing them without attending a single service.

After DS was born, I was worried about leaving him alone with essentially strangers (to him and me!) and I regretted not having a church family before I had kids so I could know and trust the people taking care of my baby. Then, I worried that if I went to an English speaking church, that was just one more avenue that my kids would slowly lose their Chinese. 😦 But I am not a huge fan of Chinese churches because of my experiences growing up in one. *sigh* You see where this is going, of course. If I really wanted to attend a church, I would have. I am a natural joiner. I clearly did not want to join.

Welp, today, I bit the bullet. One of my friends from the Mandarin Mommies group attends this huge mega-church about twenty minutes away from our house and I asked to go with. Their daughter, V, is nine months older than DS and they would be in the same preschool Sunday School class for about three more weeks until she turned three. I figured since I have never left DS with anyone he did not know (let alone at a huge mega-church), it would be good for him to have a buddy that he knew very well. I worried all night about DS, but I wanted to make sure we could take advantage of the few weeks left before V turned three.

On our way to church, I explained to him that Mommy was going to drop him off to have fun and then pick him up later and that his good friend, V, would also be there to play with him. I had no idea if he understood any of that. After all, he is two! Anyhow, we walk into this gigantic church (the insides which reminded me of a convention center), DS holding tightly to my hand and staring at everything. I had DD in the Ergo Baby carrier and we waited in line to check in for the children’s section.

OMG. They are huge. The church had a checking in system with touch-screens and they registered my kiddos and I. Then they printed out stickers and stuck them on DS and told me that when I picked him up, I had to show the teacher my matching sticker before they would release DS to me. (Which, when you think about the thousands of people that attend each service, is a good thing!) I felt immediately better about something that never even occurred to me to worry about.

Anyhow, we arrive at the classroom door and DS looks like he’s about to cry. He knows that Mommy is going to leave him there. I’m glad we got their early and I told DS that Mommy was going to go in with him and stay with him until V got there to play with him. He was a little worried and anxious, but we went into the room and when he saw me sit down on the floor, he felt a little better. Then, one of the nice preschool ladies showed DS a bunch of cars and trucks. That was all it took. My child is easily bribed. He warmed up immediately and began to play. When V showed up, he ran up to her to say hi and chat. I then told DS that Mommy had to leave. DS asked me if I was going to feed DD milk. I said, “Yes.” DS then waved to me and said, “Buh-bye.”

That was it. No tears. I kissed him on the forehead and left the room with my friends. He didn’t even notice.

Clearly, my kid is awesome and very easy-going. I am grateful. (Although, part of me is a little miffed. You know, the secret little part of you that wants your kid to love you beyond everything else even if it creates problems for you in the future. Yeah, I know. It’s stupid.) He had a great time and when I picked him up an hour and a half later, he was still in high spirits. We even took home a cute little “drawing” he’d done.

I have a feeling I don’t have to worry about preschool when he turns (or is close to) three. He’s going to be fine (like I knew he would be but still worried anyway since I had never left him with strangers). I’m going to be a mess. Maybe.

At any rate, I will likely continue going here because I am good friends with someone who attends here. The teaching doesn’t sound blasphemous and although large, the church seems like a place with good people. Well, everyone always seems nice until you get to know them, I suppose. πŸ˜‰ (Myself included!!)

Now that I have kids, I look for a lot different things than I did when I was single/unencumbered. I could go to any service I wished. Attend (even if it was far) just for the preaching or a pastor in particular. Or just go because all my friends attended. Last night and this morning, I texted my friend a billion questions about how they brought their infant daughter into the service (their DD2 is three days older than our DD), to where they sat. (This church has dedicated family and nursing rooms. This place is awesome.) As long as the teaching isn’t blasphemous or truly abysmal, I think I’m staying.

In the end, there is no perfect church, right? Just a place you set down roots, intentionally get to know people and start serving (although, I may put that off for awhile). After all, God gave me a brain and opinions and it is my job to pass those along to my kids – whether they like it or not. πŸ˜‰

As some of you know, I am an avid reader and one of my favorite genres is speculative fiction. As a result, I end up reading quite a few books based in a dystopia – and lately, they have been really wearing on my soul. I’m pretty sure that the main reason they have been grinding down my soul is because I now have children. The possibility of a future such as The Road (which, I keep meaning to read, but seriously, the idea is just too fucking depressing) just fills me with such deep, profound sadness.

Of course, I am also hypnotically drawn to articles wherein the headlines blare something to the likes of, “Baby/Toddler/Child isΒ  Raped/Killed/Murdered/Missing” and I have to read it and then sob uncontrollably. DH always asks with such disgust, “Why do you read this crap? You know from the headline that it will be sad and depressing.” To which, I have no good response except that I must.

Which is all to lead into what I mean to blog about tonight. Ever since I became a parent, I am constantly aware of both my intense gratefulness for my children and paralyzing fear (if I let myself dwell upon all the possibilities). They are twinned and I wish they would not be. (Although, one could argue that I am so grateful because I am also acutely aware of all the horrible, gruesome possibilities.)

I find myself sobbing as I hold tightly to DD or thinking of DS (because if I sobbed while holding him, he would be very concerned). Any book or article that I read will immediately feed my fears. When I read about dystopias (shoot, let’s try our current third world countries or the less fortunate in our first world) where children are starving or beaten/abused/sick/dying, etc.

I grab my children and pray fervently for their safety, health, and happiness. I pray, as if by my desperate praying, I cast a spell of protection over my children. I pray to God, begging him to keep my children from harm and suffering. As if my pathetic pleading would protect them. That the sheer act of praying is a talisman, a way of controlling the future and manipulating God to do my bidding. That God is small, petty, and would only do good for my children if I whimper and grovel. Or, alternatively, that God is easily controlled and as long as I say XYZ and do my ritual obeisance, God will provide.

But sometimes, I think that it doesn’t matter if I pray or not (even if it makes me feel better). Because the odds are, my kids will be fine and grow old and be happy. That they will make of their lives as best as they can. That by virtue of being born in the US to two college educated, high-income earning parents, they will go on to have similar trajectories and be set. Of course, it is not guaranteed, but it is highly likely. Because if you truly think about it, good and bad things happen alike to the devout and the apostate. After all, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 3:45, NIV)

But then, I recoil in fear at this thought (that maybe just by voicing it, I am condemning my children to unhappiness and suffering). And then, (if you aren’t already whirling in confusion by my crazy thinking), I try to reassure myself. After all, who do I think God is? A complete asshole? If, God is really a good parent, surely, I have nothing to fear – that even if the worst of my fears should come to pass, that He will be faithful and good? I mean, if all our parental love is modeled after His perfect love, then I should know that His love for my kids (and me) far surpasses mine. “You parents–if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!” (Matt. 7:9-10, NLT)

My brain whirs and I think to myself, I don’t know that I could continue to believe and trust that God is good if anything were to happen to one of my children. I find myself begging God to not test my faith in this manner – for surely I will fail and I would never forgive Him.

It is truly humbling to know that all my professions of faith quell and quiver before the immense uncertainty of life – which can all be neatly laid at the feet of my God. My only comfort is that God knows all these nasty parts of my soul (and indeed, knew them before I ever did), and that He still will be good to me and mine.

β€œI believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, ESV)

Before I had children, I never thought it was possible to love anyone more than I loved DH. I mean, granted, ours was never an epic, love-conquers-all type of sweeping love. But it was good, sweet and comfortable. The kind of love that lasts and survives the indignities of ten thousands of days and nights. I didn’t want drama or romance. I wanted steady and good. And that is what I have in DH.

So, with that in mind, that you know, we weren’t epically enthralled with one another… I took one look at each of my children after they were born and they immediately surpassed anyone else in the entire universe in terms of my love. It’s not that I love DH less, (although it kind of works out that way), it’s just that I love my children more. I never knew my love could expand into such a fierce, unconditional force that wills itself into being.

Now, when I think of babies in orphanages or broken homes (did you know that babies will stop crying because eventually they learn that no one will respond to them so they just sink into an alarming silence and stare blankly), I just want to weep. When I look at my babies and hold them and snuggle with them, I just cannot imagine anyone willfully harming or not loving any child. Grown ups, yes. They are prickly and horrible and not all that lovable. But it’s so crazy to me that even the most horrible person started off as an infant – so perfect and sweet.

The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine and he mentioned that loving and taking care of children is in line with what Jesus commands as loving the poor and the “least of these.” After all, babies have nothing, cannot feed, clothe or care for themselves, and are completely dependent upon the mercy of their parents or caregivers. It is a heavy and heady responsibility that I am only too glad to do. But it is still crazy.

And to think, that as much as I love my children, that God’s love is deeper, wider, higher than even that. (Is that even possible? Yes, I suppose it is. How humbling! And how comforting!)

I remember distinctly a few years ago, one of my friend’s just had her first child. She was a successful optometrist but she took one look at her baby and knew, just knew, that she was meant to be a mother and that she no longer wanted to work. This was a woman who loved her career and made damn good money doing it, yet she put that all on hold because she wanted to be a SAHM for her son. I thought she was crazy. I just assumed that I would follow in my mother’s footsteps and work.

Well, I had DS and took one look at his beautiful face and knew, just knew, that I was meant to be a mommy and I wouldn’t want to do or be anything else. Two years and another beautiful baby later and that is still the case. In fact, I’m already plotting the third and fourth babies.

I know my mother had to work (you know, those pesky mortgages and needing to put food on the table and clothes on the kids) and would also have gone crazy if she had to stay at home. I also know that my brother and I had a great time being latch-key kids. We basically watched TV for hours every afternoon/evening and became very self-sufficient and independent. But I will admit that I envied my friends who came home to mommies that had snacks and hugs and were involved with the PTA (God forbid!) and were present.

I want my kids to know that type of security (and perhaps even chafe at it sometimes). I want our home to be the place that their friends come over and eat all our food and watch our TV and play our toys and whatnot. I want our home to be hospitable and generous and safe. I wanted so much to have a safe haven when I was growing up – I want that for our kids (and for their friends).

The thought of making a warm home to all folks makes me so happy and glowy. It is a dream come true.

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