I accidentally took my three children to Book of Mormon a month or so ago, and by accidentally I mean I did it very much on purpose without realizing how incredibly brash the show was.
I knew the mistake the moment we drove up to the parking garage, raindrops studding our window frame, people streaming across the road. “Are we the only ones who brought children to this?” I wondered, heart sinking. I felt the distinct urge to hide them under my dress as we walked in. I felt stares. I felt disapproval on every side.
Here I should mention: there were large posters advertising for a showing of “Annie” the upcoming Wednesday, mocking us. Now THAT’S an appropriate show to bring a kid to.
Of course, Jackson is a small world. Particularly the humans in Jackson that would willingly choose to go to a show that is critical of religion of all kinds. I dedicated myself to looking no one in the eye and thus having no moment of recognition. That’s when I ran smack dab into Julia Chadwick beside the ticket counter.
Of course I did.
I thought about jetting out of the line we were in and moving to another, despite the fact we were almost to the ticket person. “Be strong,” I told myself. Julia Chadwick is a hip lady. She mercifully didn’t mention a word about my children being with me as we entered. She was just trying to get her cell phone ticket to load.
“I’m a progressive, open momma, right”, I said, mantra-like, to myself as we climbed to the furthest up up up floor in the balcony for the cheap seats? Sure, there were no kids in the audience. But maybe that just means I’m the best parent here. It can’t be that bad.
I type this with the most certainty I’ve ever mustered in my life. I mean I cannot emphasize this enough. It CAN be THAT bad. You know that distinct embarrassment when you watch a movie from your past with your children for the first time? You’re all excited because you want them to love it like you did, but suddenly, every curse word and innuendo goes from New Times Roman, font 12 to like Comic Sans font 562 with yellow highlighting. This was that, times 6 million. Many times the scenes or language would’ve made me squirm just on my own. Sitting beside my nine year old and eleven year old with the f-bomb, jokes about rape, talk about female circumcision, constant mocking of Jesus, etc. etc. was a special kind of torture. We would have walked out if I had the moral fortitude. We instead sat there in a kind of joint paralysis:
“Mom- isn’t every church kind of like this? Mom- I told you I didn’t want to go to this.”
“Mom- I’m not enjoying this at all.”
When we finally reached the merciful end, we stood up blinking in the sudden entry of light. I had already apologized 62 million times. Pretty much after every horrid joke, I’d apologized. I tried to cover up Alianna’s ears and eyes. “You’re too late every time, Mom” she had explained patiently, shaking her head in both disbelief and acceptance that she was now permanently scarred thanks to her mom’s very dubious choices and lack of doing her homework when purchasing tickets.
Still, as we walked out Alianna said loud enough for the row ahead of us to hear: “Momma- what did all of that MEAN?”
I averted eye contact as much as I could with every other human over the age of 18 which was literally everyone else in the theater. When I accidentally caught side eyes with my husband, we burst out laughing. I had not only wasted over $200 and a perfectly open Saturday afternoon; I had simultaneously destroyed the innocence of my three children in one fell swoop.
It’s time you know that I am notorious in my family for one thing: choosing wildly inappropriate movies for family movie night. I find highly rated documentaries or movies and I sometimes skip over the rating or the trigger warnings and I assume every time my kids are ready for it. Probably my least-shining movie night moment occurred during a Jane Goodall documentary about mid-way when she had just gotten divorced from her husband and the monkey colony starting eating each other. All three Rust children were sobbing into their popcorn.
I don’t know what it is about me. A peculiar brand of optimism? My desire to bring my children along for all the things? The sense that if I am there to protect them, nothing in the world is too scary? The fact that I just want to be with them? All I know is, for my particular parenting barometer, I went too far with taking the troop to Book of Mormon. That time, I messed up.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned, re-living the shame of it all. But the next day was Sunday, and the sun shone in the “His mercies are new every morning” sort of way. We went to St. Andrew’s Cathedral because Alianna was singing with the choir, and the Very Rev. Anne M. Maxwell somehow had the most perfect homily on how the sacred and profane can be all wrapped together.
As I prepped a marinade for lunch, Zander sat down to do his history homework for Mrs. Truckner and it turned out that the show, though inappropriate for him on myriad levels, was also weirdly-well timed. They had been talking about corruption in the history of the church. The collision of his homework, our conversation, the homily from that morning, and the broadway show from the day before produced this free verse wandering:
All wrapped up together: the sacred and the profane.
Such beautiful words.
And as I’m zesting lemon and squeezing juice into the ziplock bag of marinade,
My son and I talk abuses and evolution of the church via indulgences, Calvinism, Protestantism, and Martin Luther.
Does God know our lives?
Do our choices matter?
My son loves history I believe, but, more than that,
He likes big meaty questions.
“I bet on the quiz she’s gonna ask us what predestination is, and when she does, I’m going to think about you.”
I squeeze the raw chicken to better distribute the marinade. “Why, buddy?”
“Because we just talked about it together. So I’ll remember it.”
This then is motherhood:
When you are not even trying to have a conversation- when your hands are sticky with raw chicken juice,
Then and only then in the swirl of the everyday,
The great conversations happen.
We, in pursuit of two very different tasks:
The marinating of chicken and the studying for a history quiz
(Parallel, not face to face)
Led by his questions,
His mispronunciations throughout,
The glory of the stammer over newly discovered words/worlds.
“What do you believe, Momma?”