Parenting and The Art of Divine Trickery

Today, I learned an important lesson in parenting: Sometimes you have to trick your kid. Then I realized that God tricks us too, but He’s an excellent parent, so it’s cool.

I hate trickery of any sort. The second I feel like someone has tried a bait and switch on me, whether it be an unnecessary warranty upsell on a used car, or a person at church who makes noises about saying hi to the newborn, but really wants to tell me about which choruses they do and most certainly do not like.

Just give it to me straight. That’s all I ask. If you want to complain about the music, knock yourself out.

A straight ahead approach is completely lost on a two year old, Ella. I know. I’ve tried. I would kill to be able to simply lay out the benefits of a relaxed environment of obedience in our household. I would explain how a system of mutual respect and an understanding of the roles in which we temporarily find one another, i.e. parent and child, will allow Ella to fulfill her desires in a safe, responsible way. As long as I am the Acting Executive Assistant to The Chief Financial Officer of The People’s Republic of Fantasyland, I would also explain that increasing amounts of trust and responsibility will be shifted her direction, and that in the fullness of time, her mother and I will gratefully release her as an independant woman in the care of her God and her sound mind, so that in the mean time, she might relax and enjoy herself and not be a pill if she only gets her way 94.5% of the time.

Aaaaaah. That felt good. Now back to reality.

Tonight, I had an amazing homemade salad with salmon, pomegranate seeds, endives, green onions, and mangos on it. I got it in my head that Ella might enjoy a bite of mango. Ella has quite an eating palate, if you insist I brag. She actually requests vegetables. She eats seafood, sushi rolls included. We’re not total grape nuts around here, her Oreo jones is met and satisfied. Anyways… she has a cool little sense of food adventure, there’s not much she won’t try.

But she wouldn’t try the mango.

C’mon! It’s like a cantaloupe, but cooler, because it tastes better and is from Hawaii, where everything’s cooler!

Nope.

Ooooh… I’m gonna eat your mango! You better get it quick, because I’mmmm goonnnaaa eaaaattt itt aallll up!

How about some more rice? (Handing me a spoonful of Uncle Ben’s finest.)

And so on. I was in no mood to make it a Federal Obiedience Issue. It was a fricken mango, for fart’s sake. All through the dinner I tried to get her to eat some, and she wasn’t havin’ any of it. Finally, towards the end of the meal, I spotted my money clip at the other end of the table and decided to try and get a laugh out of Mommy.

I’ll give you two dollars if you eat the mango.

Unimpressed. Johnny Chan cool. Vulcan cool. Your money is worthless here cool. Then I spotted my change.

I will throw in thirty four cents as a bonus. You know what you can buy with two dollars and thirty four cents at today’s market climate? Stickers.

Stickers. Bingo. No self respecting two year old female can resist their seductive song. It’s like dangling a bleeding persian cat over a croc pit. It’s over.

She ate one piece, and took down her pot. As she counted her winnings, mommy sneakily got one more, then another, and then a verbal concession that mango was, in fact, not the most reviled substance in California. I won! I got her to do it! I knew she’d like it, and she did! And it only cost me $2.34!

Erica quipped that inflation really is something, because she used to fold tablecloths out of the dryer for a dime. A dime per tablecloth? Nope, just a dime. I told her she should have fired her agent.

Then I thought about it, and realized that $2.34 is a pittance to pay if my beautiful little girl aquires a taste for mango, one of God’s sweetest and most delightful fruits. A sense of adventure in cuisine is, in my opinion, a mark of a kindred spirit. What a gift I gave her for just over two bucks.

Money well spent, if you ask me. Maybe I’m not a half-bad parent after all.

Sharp Left Mental Turn Ahead. Be Prepared.

I have been thinking a lot about Aly’s Sex in the Bible post. I had no idea that she and Ash and Ramon were collaborating on such a smashing concept. I only wish it needed a musical score. I have made only smarmy comments thus far, because I have so many thoughts on the issue of Christian sexuality that I don’t even really know where to begin.

One of the things that I have been thinking about is the reality that sex tricks young Christian men and women into getting married, so they can begin (or continue) having hot sex with one another and not feel crappy about it after the deed gets done. I say trick, because no one in their early or mid 20s really knows themselves or their spouse well enough to get married to them for their entire lives! They think they do, but they don’t. Anyone who’s been married can tell you that.

On paper, the idea of sleeping around and living together first seems like a really sound idea, as you can really get to know the product. You know… suss it all out a bit… if you know what I mean. Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more. On paper, the world has the most prudent, thoughtful, sensible approach to picking a spouse.

On paper.

If I were a better blogger, I would have links to back this statement up, but studies have shown that couples (of all races, creeds, and faiths) who sleep and live together before marriage have a lower success rate than those who don’t. Hmm. That’s odd. There could be a myriad of reasons as to why. Perhaps there’s a cheapening of the ritual of learning how to live together. Perhaps the bonds of sexuality aren’t forged in a place of innocence, so they are not as strong. My former boss liked to point out that your best chance of having a marriage survive has less to do with who you are, and more to do with who’s around you, who you come from. We are all capable of being selfish assholes from time to time, but if your parents stayed together, and your friends stay together, you’re more likely to want to try and work it out. It’s just one way to stack the cards in your favor. In an ironic twist, he did recently something selfishly assholic , and yet his marriage survived and is healing.

So… I think God tricks us as He parents us…. for our own good. I think He’s as wise as wisdom itself, and I think He knows us in the marrow. I think He gives us the gift of carnal pleasure as a big lure to get us through that scary door called commitment, and then helps us work it all out for our good and His glory. I’m glad I ate the mango, folks. I really am. I don’t care if he baited and switched me. No one ever pulled me aside and said, psssst, it’s all g-strings and hot oil now, but later it’s gonna be g-strings, hot oil, and steaming baby turd in a diaper too! SEXY!

God bought me off, and as of April of this year, it will have been seven years since I ate that mango. Know what? I still like mangos.

P.S. I think the church often makes a pisser of a mistake with this gentle dance of God’s erotic trickery. I think they take His lovely little mango and slather it in an extra large portion of festering, chunky, inedible guilt-gravy. I believe that we need to completely rethink how we teach our kiddos about healthy sexuality, guiding them towards a marriage filled with eroticism, instead of shame and guilt. I have seen too many Christian marriages fail, and I’m not even 30 yet. My kids WILL NOT learn about sex from their youth pastor. unless I know that their youth pastor gets some serious freak on with Mr. or Mrs. Youth Pastor.

But that’s another post.








26 thoughts on “Parenting and The Art of Divine Trickery

  1. Karen

    So, can we resort to trickery with our husbands too? Mango is not welcomed with open arms in our home… Thanks for a great post Chad!

  2. june

    Ohhhhhh Chad. Chad, Chad, Chad. I stand in awe of the parallel universe you and your happily eating family live in. In our home, I resort to not only trickery but also rewards, punishments, threats, ultimatums, applause, giant desserts, theatrics of every kind, peer pressure, and prayer (not in that order) to get my husband, er, I mean, my sons, to eat. And by “eat” I do not mean consuming your Ella’s sushi, vegetables, and mango (you people!) but rather things as exotic as grapes. And corn. And ham. Perhaps a banana. Before I had children I’m sure I would’ve told anyone (and perhaps I did. Perish the thought.) that no child of mine would EVER be “allowed” to “get away” with being a picky eater and it was simply a matter of “laying down the law” or maybe I would’ve said “you just have to be consistent” or I may have described such pickiness as disobedience (which sometimes it is…and we do address that) and would’ve secretly felt smug in my assumed ability to lovingly nip any such behaviors in the bud. Pre-parentdom is a lovely fantasyland indeed. As it turns out, Brian and I dove headlong into marriage at the ripe old ages of 22 and 23 after dating for about 3 seconds…your insightful post post describes our experience oh-so-well. Two dumb Christian kids crazy in love get married, THEN get to know themselves and each other (oh, how ’bout that, I married a man who doesn’t like to eat! Who knew?!) by God’s grace manage to stay married, and 12 years and two picky eater kids later, I’m gritting my teeth while they all fuss over their grapes and corn but am nonetheless deliriously happy to be here.

    And here’s to a better era of sexual disclosure for our good, clean Christian kids…there’s really nothing but room for improvement as far as how that has been handled in the church! Does anyone else remember the many dating tips to live by for Christians…such deep and helpful suggestions as “Don’t do anything with each other that you wouldn’t be comfortable doing in front of your parents.” Gee, that worked.

  3. Cennan

    It doesn’t seem that there’s any talk here about the leading of the Holy Spirit. Christians who become involved should have been praying to their Lord to be guiding them. After all, a Christian by definition is a bond-slave to Christ.

    This article might be of help in that regard: ENDUED WITH POWER FROM ON HIGH

  4. Chad Post author

    Cennan,

    First of all, welcome to Addison Rd. I am sincerely glad you have chosen to spend a few minutes here and share your thoughts. I have spent a fair amount of time reading Pastor Silva’s work over there at http://www.apprising.org, and I am afraid you’ll find that while some of us here are be headed towards the same goal, Christ, we are definitely coming at it from a different angle and place of experience then someone who really resonates with the information presented at apprising or slice.

    I can only assume that you’re talking about the leading of the Spirit in regards to this particular post, and not the blog at large. Forgive me if I am incorrect. I guess I should spell things out a bit more clearly, but the leading of the Spirit is assumed and implied, as far as I am concerned. The post was about an amusing experience I had with my daughter, and how the Spirit led me to make a connection and gain a little insight into the workings of God as He parents us.

    You mention the leading of the Spirit, and I must confess that I get a little amused that you linked to Rev. Silva’s site, as so much of his writing seems to be devoted to making sure that every last jot and tittle of doctrine is correct and pure. He spends so much time criticising other Christian leaders and pastors, belittling and mocking their ministries and ideas, that I often find myself shaking my head and wondering… “Doesn’t he trust the Holy Spirit to lead people in the ways of discernment?”

    So… that’s kind of ironic, don’t you think?

  5. aly hawkins

    Chad, this is a beautiful post. If Lauren F. Winner won’t do the foreword for our project, you and your mangoes are in. And by the way, we included the option of a companion CD in the proposal. I may be calling you for a demo…if the project even gets approved.

  6. Morphea

    Well – Chad, wonderfully written, as usual. I laughed aloud (here at work where such behavior could get my internet user history scrutinized). I have almost no opinion about where sex should come in the crazy-kids-getting-together timeline. Ramon and I dated for 2.5 years, got engaged, then married half a year later. We were sexually active from about month number two, though we didn’t get to home base – wait, does home base mean ‘all the way’? I can never remember – until we were engaged (and that sort of just…happened [snicker]). However, I can’t imagine having begun home life together (after we were married) without the firmest committment in my hand. This from a woman who has personal reservations about the American ecclesiastical institution of marriage since it leaves the gay community completely out of the picture, but I digress. Again. As usual.

    But back to having no opinion – seriously. When people come to me and ask about what I think is right, I can’t say – I just shrug and tell them our story.

    June, you make me laugh. A lot.

    Cennan, I completely agree with you. The leading of the Holy Spirit is a powerful thing. We definitely didn’t have sex until He said OK. And I love the bondslave talk, man. Especially when Ramon has me bound at the wrists and ankles.

    Cerise

  7. june

    Chad, I really really like this post, even though I am sad to say, I don’t like mango.
    But if someone offered me $2.34 to eat a bite of it, I might. I am, after all, married to a musician…income, by almost any means, shall not be shunned.

    The phrase “Christians who become involved” has been echoing in my mind, mostly because it followed my post. Umm……..kinda at a loss here. As a hormone-addled teen, I lived in holy fear of my father’s (earthly) wrath if I wasn’t able to pass a polygraph test in regard to the whole wearing white at my wedding thing. While I’m sure he (dear dad) had good intentions, I wish I had been given more input (from any source) about my Heavenly Father and a more appropriate holy fear. I plan on making my dear boys blush like the dickens with all manner of healthy, Godly mango talk.

  8. Chad Post author

    Yes… the post is a little troubling. I think it’s the insinuation that anyone who had premarital.. ahem… relations was (and most likely still is) out of step with the Holy Spirit.

    Acutally it’s the assuredness of… well… everything about the post that sort of throws me.

  9. Chad Post author

    I mean… he was like so confident, and yet had to use the phrase “Get involved” instead of what the rest of us call it, which is of course, “humping.”

  10. Jonathan

    Does certainty trouble you?

    btw, it is a serious question – not trying to pick a fight or anything, just wondering.

  11. Chad Post author

    Certainty.

    No, it doens’t bother me. I am certain about a great many things. I guess… certainty expressed while commenting on someone else’s relationship with Christ and The Spirit is what troubles me. Also… I must confess that his choice of website reference gave me a little insight as to where he’s coming from, and raised a red flag, as there are items of certainty expressed on that site with which I certainly have issues.

    I think if anything, my own personal journey has been towards a place of being more and more certain as to who I am, and what I am about, but life’s lessons have taught me to at least try and be a little less certain about issues as they relate to my friends, neighbors, and most certainly, people with whom I disagree.

  12. Jonathan

    Good points, Chad.

    I suppose regarding some theological issues, we have to express certainty. The question becomes which hills we are willing to die on.

    Regarding sex, there does seem to be some grey, especially in the Hebrew Bible. While the seventh commandment does not provide any wiggle room, there is quite a bit of narrative that one could use (and some do use) to make a case for premarital shagging – as long as the guy doesn’t use and abuse the girl. Not much said on a girl abusing the guy, though.

    I, like you, have also learned over the years that just because someone disagrees with me does not make them an idiot, and that I might in fact have something to learn from them. That of course pertains to theological issues – people that disagree with me on political issues are idiots.

  13. aly hawkins

    I think the word certainty bugs me because it has overtones of self-congratulation. As it pertains to religion, I do believe we can have confidence and assurance in some basic, fundamental things: God’s love, His intent of salvation, etc…but these originate from a place outside of ourselves (that would be God), which precludes any arrogance. We can be confident because of Jesus, not because we’re smart or superior.

    Please expect my invoice for $.02 in the mail.

  14. Chad Post author

    Jonathan,

    I don’t think you’re saying this, but just in case you are, I am not making a case to justify pre-marital shagging. I think this issue should be an issue of good, better, best, rather than a simple black and white.

    Not to be overly pragmatic, but I’ve simply seen too many Christian (or otherwise) couples with great marriages who didn’t quite make it to the wedding night. I’ve also seen Christians who towed the line sexually who are now wondering what the hell the big deal was all about? They have about as much fun during sex with their sanctified partner as I have washing the dishes, only with less scrubbing. I have also seen the reverse of these two scenarios play out.

    Here’s what I (I think) will teach my kids:

    1. Sex is great great great. If you have it with 5,999 people, it will be less great. If you have it with 4 people, it’s still less great. If you have sex with one person, and that person is your soul mate, you will experience God’s blessing in a unique way. There will be levels of trust available to you as a couple that other couples will simply not EVER be able to have.

    2. If you have sex with more than one person, it’s not the end of the world. Jesus can handle it. He’s seen a lot, you know. There will not be promise rings or public vows of celibacy, no pedestals for you to fall off of. Guilt over a youthful indescretion will not steal joy from your marriage. You can start again. You are more then simply who you do-or-do not shag. Your relationship with me and Jesus Christ is about more than who you do-or-do not shag.

    I hope that’s fuzzy enough to piss everyone off.

  15. Jonathan

    No, Chad, I did not read approval of PMS (pre-marital shagging) into your posts or comments.

    In fact, I agree with what you wrote. I too will try to teach my kids that sex is great, and that God has a plan that is best if his guidelines are followed, and that a person will not be condemned eternally if they stray.

    As I commented earlier on Aly’s sex post (btw, I would like to see the face of the guy who types “sex talk” into a Google search and gets these threads), I think the church has gone to extremes in relating to the culture, in that sex has been misused by the culture, so the church has said sex is not good.

    Sex is great, a gift of God, and the marriage relationship somehow, mysteriously, gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ relationship with the church. God help me to teach my kids a healthy attitude and respect for these things.

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