Tough Decisions

We blink and yet another school year passes. Our kids get closer to the finish-line of childhood, and we just hope that we’ve taught them well and well enough. Though having two kids, I realize that perhaps I don’t have a lot to do with the way they turn out. My oldest, that first day I held him, was quiet and studious. He’s remained that way. The younger kid, he was fighting right out of the shoot. When he was born, the first thing I asked the doctor was, “Why is he so loud?” He was, and continues to be, recalcitrant at every turn: the terrible twos right up to the even worse teens.

god insteadPerhaps the only affect I know for certain I’ve had on my kids is that they feel more in control of their lives than their classmates. When my older kid’s friends were over the other night, I asked one of the girls what she was doing next year for college. She told me, “I’m just waiting for Him to decide.” She pointed her finger up towards the sky. I nodded. She continued to explain the two options that lay before her.

You and I know that she’s simply postponing the difficult tasks of making a decision. We know, too, that it’s not God that works in mysterious ways, but our brains. By sitting on a decision and allowing some time to pass, sometimes our subconscious minds are able to sort through our options and help us decide. Sometimes, sh*t happens and decisions are made for us—a parent loses a job and college is no longer an option, or a deadline passes and an option is lost.

But not taking any action is also a decision. So while this young woman waits, hoping that “He” will decide, she has also decided not to take the reins of her future, not to put in the effort to think things through now.

Although no one is “watching out” for our kids as they start on their own adventures, you and I know, too, that there is also no imaginary man making decisions for them. They will have no God to ask, but also no God to blame.

(I just hope the girl doesn’t take that stance towards birth control: He decides. Speaking of teens and sex, fellow blogger Lisa Morguess wrote about this topic recently. Check it out; she’s got some great ideas: http://www.mamapedia.com/voices/courage-in-parenting.)

Have a safe and relaxing holiday!

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39 responses to “Tough Decisions

  1. This is very encouraging because most of us are raising our kids in a new way that we don’t have an example to go by, and it’s great to remember that at least they won’t point to the sky when they encounter a decision, among other things.

  2. LanceThruster

    On the train home last night, I had an opportunity to do some nice things for a couple of passengers. Simple basic stuff (directions, a spare schedule, loan of a cell phone, shared bubble gum) but I catch myself thinking that I’m racking up ‘karma’ points. My worldview is of a random uncaring (as in not possessing that capability) universe, yet I imagine a kind of Gaia hypothesis ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis ) of benevolent action that somehow has a ripple effect that I hope resonates back my way in some form. While I do not expect a flow coming back to me in a cause and effect fashion, I still feel that maximizing that positive energy whenever and wherever possible, contributes to the greater good, particularly by creating a fertile environment for it to flourish in the acts of others.

    The recent disasters bring forth those who interpret their good fortune as being directed by the hand of God, but I see a pattern where the randomness of human actions can be directed through probability for an overall cumulative and positive effect. The negative example being someone gets yelled at by the boss and goes home and kicks the dog or yells at the spouse and kids (not that some folks don’t deserve a little reprimand now and then). All throughout our society there is a butterfly effect that we are most always oblivious to. We hear of countless stories of good people cut down in their prime with all that unrealized potential lost. Similarly, there is a village shaping the lives of those around us, in ways that hopefully is a force multiplier for mutual and expanded benefit to all.

    So while my vague and nebulous musings may reveal the heart of an irrationalist, and the contradictions within, there’s a core conviction that this approach has merit beyond personal benefit alone and is therefore worthy.

    Character is what you do when you think no one is watching.

    Love is the one thing you get more of the more you give it away.

    Alan Watts said ‘cosmic consciousness’ is the feeling that you love people but can’t explain why.

    In an interview, Mister Rogers told of an encounter he had. A grown man had come up to him to explain he grew up in an extremely abusive household. As a child he would watch Mister Rogers Neighborhood and that it meant so much to him for Mister Rogers “You’re my friend and I like you just the way you are.” The man shared how that simple gesture from this man on the television made him feel less alone, and that he was loved and worthy of love. Because of this tender but powerful message, he was able to break free of the pattern of abuse when he grew up and started his own family.

    So I guess my message is to go boldy forth and increase the peace and love, and know you are not alone. You may not always be aware of the others choosing to follow this same path as you, but they’re out there…and they’re making a difference.

    Just as you are. And that’s why I like you just the way you are.

    • @LT Love what you wrote about Mister Rogers and what you wrote here: “So I guess my message is to go boldly forth and increase the peace and love, and know you are not alone. You may not always be aware of the others choosing to follow this same path as you, but they’re out there…and they’re making a difference.”

      And I agree with the whole idea of putting good out there. It’s the only chance we’ve got at making a gentler, kinder society.

      As for the Gaia hypothesis–for sure, we’re all connected and the planet regulates itself. It has a consciousness of sorts. This is not my idea, but my oldest who is the physics whiz. Basically, he says that our environmental goal as humans is to mine the CO2 plants removed from the air and put into the earth. We figured a way to get it back out of the ground, and we’re just making the planet more habitable for the plants again. Mother Nature developed and uses us to this end, and now, we’ve reached our peak and will decline like every other species.

      • LanceThruster

        On rereading the piece, it seems a little treacly and naive. Though a worthwhile pursuit to be sure, I’m wondering if these actions without being constantly coupled with doing things on a much larger scale as far as donating to organized charities or actively working for politcal change (as much as one is able) will ultimately provide any real net benefit.

        Coversely, I’ve always thought the ones going out of their way not treating people decent are also the ones who go out of their trying to squelch government entities and society from making a difference too so maybe it starts with small gestures.

  3. It always amazes me how many people DO take control of situations but then somehow chalk it up to God. A perfect example of this, I think, was a friend of mine who is devoutly Christian and was pregnant with her fourth child a couple years back. Her due date came and went and she was getting antsy, but she kept saying (and posting on Facebook) that she trusted in God, that He knew what he was doing, and He would decide when the best time for her baby to be born would be. Guess what? She ended up getting induced. If there were really a God who knew best, why didn’t he just start her labor, then? How could she possibly rationalize basically taking matters into her own hands but believing that the whole time, God decided. Bah.

    • Back in 2007 a couple – Ryan and Brianna Morrison – went through IVF in order to finally have a child after years of failed attempts. They made the news because they decided against their doctor’s wishes to perform selective reduction, instead deciding to have all six children that were conceived because they “didn’t want to play God”.

      Only one survived. The rest, according to their blog, “all lived beautiful lives and then went on to be with Jesus.”

      • Why is it that God and Jesus need to kill off so many babies and little kids, anyway? Are they running child labor camps or something? Sorry to be so sarcastic, but if I hear about one more sweet little innocent baby person who’s become one of God’s angels, I’ll be sick.

  4. I think in the end, most people DO take matters into their own hands. But it always feels like when people say that they are leaving it up to Him, it’s a cop out, a way to not take responsibility, you know?

    • LanceThruster

      The most troubling part of that (and I’m dealing with it now in an interaction with a particularly unpleasant group of xians) is that they feel their actions are divinely guided and sanctioned…kind of a mini-Manifest Destiny.

  5. I’m 40 and I still struggle with the task of making a difficult decision, thanks in large part to the fact that I spent most of the earlier part of my life “leaving it up to God” whenever I faced a difficult choice. I never developed the ability to make a tough decision because it always had to be the *right* decision (read: God’s will). I’ve gotten better about it in recent years, but I still have to consciously remind myself that there are no right or wrong decisions, there are only consequences. Just hoping I can ingrain that in my kids as well…

  6. “Waiting for Him to decide” is a decision. It’s a decision to not decide. It’s a decision to let circumstances or someone else decide. It’s an abdication of responsibility for one’s own life. I’ve always had a tough time with even the simplest decision (Jif or Peter Pan?), but in the end, it’s still my decision. I do not blame or credit anyone else for it.

  7. She told me, “I’m just waiting for Him to decide.” She pointed her finger up towards the sky.

    Maybe her dad lives on the International Space Station and has a sweet internship lined up for her … you never know 😉

    I’ve gone back and forth with this issue a little bit over the years. Both my wife and I will sometimes say that we wish we believed in some kind of loving, personal god so we could have faith when the shit hit the fan that everything would turn out for the best. The problem is that we are fully aware that we’d just be fooling ourselves. Even now, there are a few decisions I need to make and I’m not sure which way to turn. Every day I kind of hope that something will just sort of drop into my lap from the sky to save me the effort … which is exactly the same thing believers to except they claim to know who dropped it.

  8. A lot of life is a crap shoot. Atheists know this. Believers made up stories so they wouldn’t have to cope with that uncertainty. If they pray hard enough, donate enough, shut down Planned Parenthood then God will love them more and keep their loved ones safe. Then, when something totally random happens, they’re confused.

    But there are certain things you CAN control…how hard you decide to work on your studies, which colleges you apply for (if “He” was really in charge, you wouldn’t have to fill out those reams and reams of annoying application and financial aid forms), how you treat your body, what you feed your mind. So much in life, we can control. However, that being said, we also know that any one of us can be run over by a bus tomorrow.

  9. Your story reminds me of the lyrics from the song “Free Will” by Rush: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” It’s sad to see anyone surrender their autonomy to an invisible being simply because they don’t have the willingness to take charge of their own lives. I’ve been hearing ads for an online dating service called “Christian Mingle” where the customers explain how this is how they found the match that god intended for them….good thing the internet came along to tell them who they were supposed to spend their life woth or they may have never found a mate!

    Thanks for you posts.

  10. @David Anderson I worked for a lady who believes this–that God is going to find her “knight in shining armor.” Ugh. Don’t even get me started on that one! 😉
    @Mom of Three I just realized there was a double post and will take one of those comments down. Yes, so much in life we do have control over–and so much we don’t, especially the time and place of our death. But I guess it’s important to teach our kids that the one thing they do have control over is how they react to situations….

    • LanceThruster

      Saw this email today…

      Rabbi Yonason Ben Uziel’s gravesite has been the place where singles whose marriage has been delayed for some reason seen open miracles for almost 2,000 years!

      On Tuesday, 26th of Sivan (June 4th), the yortzeit of the holy Tana Rabbi Yonason Ben Uziel, the Great Tikkun HaRasha”sh will be conducted on behalf of any single person who wants to get married on at the holy gravesite in Amuka.

      The Great Tikkun HaRasha”sh will, be’ezras Hashem, will be performed by the Tzadik and mekubal Admo”r Yisroel Pinto shlita, the Tzadik mekubal Hagaon Harav Shimon Amar shlit”a and the Tzadik mekubal Hagaon Harav Meir Karlibach shlit”a at the gravesite in four shifts for 24 hours straight.

      How’s that for some world class hoodoo voodoo?

      • @LT That’s pretty funny. I Google Rabbi Yonason Ben Uziel… “Tradition relates that singles who pray at the gravesite of this Tanah will find their “zivug” — true soulmate.”

        That’s another post, too, the whole “true soulmate” idea. Too many people fall prey to that.

  11. LanceThruster

    FYI, “sh!t happens” as explained by various religions –

    http://aman.members.sonic.net/shit-happens.html

  12. Yesterday the doorbell rang and, after peering out the peephole, I didn’t answer it. What were two conservatively dressed young women doing trying to interrupt our sunny So. Cal. Memorial Day BBQ? Push their religion on us, of course. Boy, did they stick out like a sore thumb!
    Anyway, when I finally collected the literature they left on my porch, I couldn’t help but laugh. Their Baptist church was holding an Open House complete with bounce houses, food, crafts, and just overall wholesome family fun. Yippeeeeee! On the other side of their postcard were (I think) Bible passages referencing sin, damnation, lost souls, more sin, hell, etc., etc. (i.e., everything that would terrify my bounce house loving children). I should have saved the card so I could quote it, but I tore it up and threw it away in my typical dramatic fashion. Several lines mentioned “rebirth,” so obviously these are “born agains.” So what I want to know is: Why the desperate recruiting effort? Is there a soul saving quota one must meet to avoid hell? And, has anyone in the history of time ever actually opened their door and warmly greeted these people? I told my husband that we should have some Atheist-oriented brochures printed out so we could exchange literature with these most unwelcome guests. (Sorry to be off topic, but I adore this forum and knew I could safely express my disgust. Ugh.)

    • @Amy LOL. I love that idea–giving literature right back to them.

      We have Mormons that come around here. I do wonder how many people are receptive? I would think only older, lonely folks who just want someone to talk to!

    • i kind of love this idea. I may have to print up my own atheist brochure to leave out for the religious folks who come to our door. Speaking of which, I actually got a wooden sign from Etsy that I hung right near our doorbell. It’s bright red with white lettering, about 12″ X 12″ and it says, “NO SOLICITORS. We have a religion, we give to charities, and our kids are selling what yours are.” Do you know that the church people STILL knock n our door.

      • Sigh. They just don’t get it, do they? Their religious craziness blinds them to simple things like politeness and respect for personal space and privacy. But I do love your sign. So clever!

      • Seriously, Lisa? That’s unbelievable. In that case, if they ignore the sign, there should be doorbell that gives a big shock or a loud scream!

    • LanceThruster

      Then there’s the joke about atheist liturature being just a blank sheet of paper (because we believe in “nothing”).

      • LOL. I like that one. Imagine the look on someone’s face, especially since we’re often told “atheism is a belief, too.”

        • When atheism is so often associated with certain people or types of people (i.e. Dawkins, Silverman, Hitchens), then it’s easy to see why the religious consider it a belief system. Combine that with the likelihood that a lot of people can’t wrap their heads around not having faith of any kind, and we’re in a situation where no amount of explaining will make a difference.

          That said, I’m still working on my parents … slowly but surely …

        • The blank sheet idea is wonderful (and requires so little effort!).
          I have “The Ten Commandments” (for Atheists, of course) posted in my house. My sister gave it to me a while ago. I don’t know who wrote them and I can’t find the web link, so I’ll type them here:

          I. Thou SHALT NOT believe all thee art told.
          II. Thou SHALT constantly seeketh knowledge and truth.
          III. Thou SHALT educate thy fellow man in the Laws of Science.
          IV. Thou SHALT NOT forget the atrocities committed in the name of god.
          V. Thou SHALT leaveth valuable contributions for future generations.
          VI. Thou SHALT liveth in peace with thy fellow man.
          VII. Thou SHALT liveth this one life thy have to its fullest.
          VIII. Thou SHALT follow a Personal Code of Ethics.
          VIIII. Thou SHALT maintain a strict separation between Church and State.
          X. Thou SHALT support ye who follow these commandments.

          Pretty good words to live by, I’d say. 🙂

  13. Wow, Debbie, I can so relate with this young lady in your article!

    This young girl’s parents are probably Christians who rely on “god’s will”. They have created this nomad who’ll either be “waiting” on everything or when she actually makes choices will be questioning everything she does. She’ll be full of insecurity, and let downs. I think this is so common among many Christian women. While I was at bible school in your neck of the woods years ago I would see many male students seeking to further their education, career or looking to fill ministry positions. It seemed to me, that most of the girls would just end up back home with their folks (like I had) or married. It’s with good reason they call it “bridal college”.

    My parents and my husband’s parents are Christians who really had very little, if anything, to do with our abilities, interests, and talents. They didn’t seem to know their children too well, and whenever they had the opportunity to shoot down our dreams they did.

    As a parent I make a conscience effort to encourage my children in the things that they love. I am more than willing to spend the money, time, effort, and even the drama to cultivate their passions, talents, and academic successes.

    I always tell my boys that I don’t want them to work a factory job or desk job unless they REALLY want to or it is strictly while they are in transition from one thing they love to another. My kids are only eight and five years old, and it’s obvious that the oldest is academically inclined and musical. We’re about to start the youngest on a different instrument that he has shown great interest in. We are also aware that he’s not quite like our oldest for he is more about nature, and tends to “go with the flow” much more smoothly than our oldest.

    When we take the time to give attention to our kids’ abilities we are simply molding them into amazing masterpieces of confidence and identity.

  14. I did grow up going to church on Sunday (and Wednesday) and my husband grew up going to Catholic school (but not church). We’re not particularly religious, but I do want our children to be exposed to Christianity (along with other religions). I want to give them the tools to make their own decision about religion, and I think the only way to do that is via knowledge. I also like the sense of community that can come from being involved in a religious group. Finally, I do think that some Bible stories provide a good framework for living your life (be kind to your neighbor, etc). As a result, we have decided that when we have kids, we will expose them to church (probably not every week though) and as they grow, allow them to make there own decision regarding their beliefs.

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