I sat in the principle’s chair. It had been a loooooooong time since I sat in a principle’s chair.
Across from me sat a nice man. A patient man. A very empathetic man. I liked him a lot.
On the very last day of school, one of my children had done something very dumb – very typical, very obvious but very dumb.
The principle (with my permission) confronted my child, ” I did this as at your age. It’s not the end of the world. I’m not going to crack down hard, just don’t do it again”
I tried to look stern and disappointed with my child, but I wanted to laugh and smile in remembrance, and I think the Principle did as well. I too had sat in the principle’s office for this very same reason, defensive and scared like my child was, but that was a very looooooooong time ago. My job as a mother now was to be disappointed and stern.
Then the Principal said something that struck me and I haven’t been able to shake it – so I had to write it out.
As I was revealing the struggles I have had with this child, and the strides we have taken as parents to correct this behaviour – and the victory we have gained -he responded admirably, “It looks like you have done everything a parent could and should do, and it’s unfortunate that good parents get judged based on their children’s behaviour.”
“I knew it!” I wanted to shout, but I didn’t. Instead, I smiled and responded “Yes, that is very unfortunate.” (I’ll get back to how I knew it)
As a single mother of two kids, rejection and judgement seeped out of our pores like leprosy. Feeling judgement was a normal everyday experience for me. It came at me like a nipping dog and it became so normal that it didn’t even make you flinch.
This brief meeting with the principle made me aware of all the past scars of judgments that I had repressed as a single mother. And it really, really ticked me off, (not at the Principle but at the remembrance) that after 8 years of marriage; 10 years of church service, volunteering, mentoring, preaching, witnessing, purity and ‘holiness’ I would still judge – and that made me sad.
12 years ago, I went to the post office one afternoon, with my cute little wee one.
“Are you here for your welfare cheque, cause they don’t come till Monday.” the lady shouted across the government office.
“Um, no” I responded, embarrassed that the lineup behind me all over-heard.
I began wondering what I was doing, or wearing, or being, that they would ask that and then I realized, I was wearing a child and no ring.
“I’m here for my mail.” I shamefully responded.
I went to the hair-dresser,“What does your husband do?” they would ask.
“I’m not married,” I would respond
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” they would reply awkwardly.
As I became closer to God, even closer to the point that I was willing to grow in His house, judgement became more sly, subtle and ever more painful.
side note: I love the church, big, small, charismatic, traditional, and what I have to say has nothing against the church as a whole, or against Christians.
For I am a christian, I am the church.
I packed up and moved to a small town, pregnant and mother of a 3-year old, scared, poor and alone. I know that sounds like a fairy-tale but it’s the truth, you can’t make this stuff up. It was in this little town of new beginnings that I stumbled upon this little church on the corner. Oh, the congregation was loving, sweet, helpful and giving. That church was instrumental in my faith. They welcomed me in, but they still clung onto their children like a mother does when an unleashed dog comes around the corner.
I noticed it as my daughter was invited to play-dates, welcomed to sleepovers, welcomed to church activities, but my invites were always returned void, they didn’t want their children exposed to us. – and that made me sad.
I got used to this rejection and felt in a way I had deserved it, and it was my responsibility to earn back my respect. “Respect is earned” the preacher would preach.
I had finally got on my feet, after the worst 6 months of my life, my son clung to life support at the children’s hospital with RSV, my income (maternity leave) was cut off without notice, and I had to turn in my apartment keys with sobs of fear. I was now homeless.
It happened so fast. There I was, a single mom of a deathly sick 3 month old baby, and a very lonely 3 year old princess and the weight of the future on my shoulders.
I moved into my friend’s house, who welcomed us all into her already-full house of 6. She never judged me. Not once. (Perhaps because she was a single mother once, too) and that made me happy and that made me stronger.
My two children and I all crammed into one bedroom, and I began to seek God earnestly for my future.
I remember the day God opened the door for me to move into the city and start university (that’s a testimony in itself for another time) but deep in my spirit I knew that life was going to be different.
Then two women from my church who showed up unannounced ‘concerned for my future’ cornered me…
“We think you are making a wrong decision, and we feel that you are not strong enough morally to go into the ‘real’ world. We feel that God loves you, and wants to protect you, and that you are not ready even though you think you are. We are worried you could end up pregnant again. We think you should stay here, on welfare, and just raise your kids and go to church.”
And that my friends, made me sad, very, very sad. So sad that I spiraled into a very deep depression. I thought to myself – This is it, there is no hope, there is no future for me, this is what I deserve, this judgement is who I am.
Can I tell you that God doesn’t put up with that kind of B.S. long?
God broke that lie over me and my children’s life, and I went to university despite (probably just to spite) because others thought.
Going to university was the single most pivotal moment in my life – another testimony. I gained confidence, respect, admiration, a 4.0 GPA, and a Godly, Godly, Godly husband who has NEVER judged me, ever. Even though he had to labour and pray for those around him to stop.
“If you only knew her” he would defend “you would love her too.”
Through university, before I met my husband, I started a single parent’s group at my new local church. Dozens of single parents gathered with their children for a free meal and group discussion. – that made me smile.
One evening, as the set up began, my mother (my greatest) had a conversation with another woman in our church as they were trying to organize childcare.
“Well, you know how those kids are,” the woman complained.
“Um, no I don’t. Please explain,” my mother said as she gave her the side-eye.
“Well, you know, those kids come from dysfunctional homes, and so, you know, they are dysfunctional…”
“Oh, you mean, like single parent’s children are dysfunctional, like my daughter’s children are dysfunctional, like those children.”
It makes me grieve, because the one single dad who was being judged had his wife just up and leave him, and he was faced with the prospects of raising a son with the abanodonment of his mother in his future. Another single mother had 5 of those children, her husband died of cancer leaving her in poverty and loneliness. You know, with those children.
I was adamant on our wedding day that it was not going to be a celebration of my sanctification. That it was not going to be a ceremony of my redemption, or a relief of my children’s basterdom coming to an end. I know those are harsh ‘un-christian’ terms, but it was the very air around our engagement and I wasn’t going to have it. What it was was a celebration of two people, who fell madly in love, at the right place, and at the right time, because God had a plan and a purpose for our very being, period.
I had made the decision to put my first daughter into christian school. A very good, private, and very christian school. In order to get into that school you had to ‘apply’ – to make sure you were Christian enough.
Which is fine, because if I am sending my kids to Cowboy School it’s good to know that most of the kids at Cowboy School own a horse – or what’s the point?
Anyway, my fiance’ – my handsome, smart and talented fiance, was over one day visiting his future wife and children. (It’s kind of common for fiance’s to visit their brides to be.) It was mid-afternoon and the phone rang, and my now-husband, then-fiance, answered the phone. “hello……………bla…bla…bla…. goodbye.”
“That was the school- they were just confirming your interview with them on Thursday.”
“Great” I responded “I love you” kiss, kiss, hug, hug.
I sat in the meeting, just me against a panel of 5 very christian people. And they asked me about my Church life, and my thought life, and why I chose their school, and how I intended to pay for it.
Then the really, really Christian lady asked…
“When we phoned the other day, who answered your phone?”
“Excuse me?” I asked in surprise.
“We phoned the other day and a man answered the phone.”
“That was my fiance,” I replied.
“Oh.” she responded with a look of ‘I knew it was a lover!’ “Does he stay there often?” she pried
I wanted to jump up and start b-boxing profanity!
“It’s none of your damn business!” I wanted to rap – but I wanted into this school – so I let the dog nip.
They drilled me on this until I broke, and I had to admit out-loud to the board full of christian men and women, and tell them “we have not had sex.” – and that made them feel relieved, but it made me feel violated and sad.
So here we are 8 years later, a pure wedding night, 2 spousal adoptions complete, three additions, an active elder in the church, a ministry, a heart for God, a desire to raise my kids well, a future and a hope.
I sat in the principle’s office the other day and when he said, “It looks like you have done everything a parent could, and should do, and it’s unfortunate that good parents get judged hard based on their children’s behaviour” and I knew it.
I knew the reason why my daughter’s best friends were never allowed over. I knew as my child tearfully told me how their very christian friend walked into the principle’s office, (to tattle on my child’s stupid offence) and then came out of the office toward their awaiting mother.
“Did you do it?” the mother asked, in front of my crying, terrified child.
“Yep! I sure did!” said the proud gleaming very christian friend of my child.
I knew it, as my child curled into a ball, tear stained, humiliated, and violated, as this friend gathered with others to laugh, and jeer at my child’s expense, her shame and her mistakes.
I knew that this thing, this thing of judgment that follows us, may never leave. And that made me sad.
And this is the very reason why I cling to Jesus and not to religion. He hated this! Oh, he hated this so much. He grieved for it, he died for it!
It makes me weep that after all these years, that I will never break free from this judgement, even from the trusted people in my life and that grieves me, and I know it grieves God immensely.
That was NEVER his heart. So why is it the heart of so many churches and christians?
If it wasn’t for God’s grace this dog would have destroyed me, but I never let it, I refuse to let it.
But how do I keep my children from it?
I can’t – and that makes me sad.