Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Lack of Empathy For Ex-Mormons

Throughout my departure from Mormonism, I've often heard countless times that my personal (negative) experiences within the church should have had no bearing on my testimony. I've also lost count of the number of times still active members have told me that I simply didn't try hard enough to understand the doctrine or didn't pray enough. The idea that I could have come to a different conclusion about the church is foreign to them. Some members even believe they have the right to dismiss my experiences as invalid. Simply put, no matter how much evidence I bring to the table regarding my disaffection, it's just not enough.

I've engaged in dialogue with several believing Mormons since I've left the church, and most will pointedly ask why I don't discuss my doctrinal issues. It has been inferred that I only left because I was "treated poorly". The truth is, I don't often speak about the doctrinal issues I had with the church, which is not to say I don't have them. I do. However, as I began to write about my journey out of the Mormon church,  I purposely steered away from the doctrinal issues. There are other Ex-Mormons who have already succinctly described the issues I have with the teachings. The issues I had with Mormon doctrine acted as the catalyst in questioning the religion I had been born into. Yet, I don't believe that these doctrinal issues authentically express my entire departure from Mormonism.

The personal experiences I dealt with ultimately pushed me over the edge. From the way I was treated by members during my pregnancy, my parents abuse, to the way I was treated by The Ex during our short marriage. All of these incidents compounded with my doctrinal issues pushed me out the proverbial door. There is this cultural idea within the church that people who leave, leave only because they want to behave badly. I can say confidently, a good percentage of Ex-Mormons leave for several reasons, and not just one particular event or doctrinal issue.

The rhetoric within the Mormon church regarding those who have left can be summed up in a simple statement: They basically say and think we're quitters. There are heaps of talks and literature within the church that pays tribute to this thinking, trying to demean our valid reasons for leaving. Ex-Mormons who leave want to "sin". Ex-Mormons who leave haven't "tried hard enough". Ex-Mormons who leave are "under Satan's control". Those who leave are often described as weak, ungodly, and evil. Ex-Mormons are spoken of in a way that not only insults, but discounts our personal experience within the church. Even when you do state that you had doctrinal issues, you are often slammed with insults regarding faith, your own intelligence, and motivation. No matter, what you do, you can't win.

It's tiring to hear over and over again that my disaffection means that I didn't try hard enough. It's insulting when I'm told I simply didn't follow the rules, or understand the doctrine well enough. It's demoralizing to be condescended because I allowed the negativity portrayed by some members "get to me". I was told to ignore the poor behavior of those in the church, because "the church is perfect, and the members are not". Like, Louis C.K summed up in his recent opening monologue on SNL, it's our fault that we "got our feelings hurt" by someone else.

Using my experiences as a weight to judge my participation within the church is legitimate. It's ridiculous to think that you should just emotionally bind yourself, repress any negative feelings, and just to continue participating in an organization that often condones the inexcusable actions of their members. Leaving because you have been bullied is absolutely a good enough reason.

Most of the Ex-Mormons I have met in my own life, and online didn't just wake up one morning and leave the church because someone insulted their skirt, or hair style. Most spend, like I did, years contemplating whether or not they should move on from the Mormon church. It's this process that takes years of conscious thought, reflection and a harsh reality your friends and family may actually shun you, whether it be physically or emotionally. The mindset that Mormonism is the one and only true church gives way to a certain superiority complex that trickles down in the place of empathy and understanding.

I sacrificed a lot to be in the Mormon church and I've sacrificed a great deal to leave it. Many lose relationships with family, some lose marriages, and even children. You lose friendships. Some have lost jobs, and have been purposely ostracized in their community. On the other hand, some choose to stay because they know that their world would be turned upside down. It's not as simplistic as leaders within the Mormon church promote it to be.

I left for doctrinal reasons, but I also left because I was treated abysmally. Both reasons can stand alone, or they can be melded together. Either way, they are valid, and worthy of discussion.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When The Show Actually Begins

I was certain, and I mean, absolutely certain, when I had my son that there was no way that being a parent could be harder than dealing with a tiny infant. The crying, the barfing, the poops, the constant input from strangers, friends, and family. The debates, the Mommy Wars. It was a never ending barrage of advice and "how to" while you are desperately trying to figure out what parenthood is. I remember being deeply offended by the insinuation that there were harder battles to be fought as they grew and that, simply put, I didn't know all there was to know about parenting. Because, infants are tough. I was living it, and the fact that it could get more intense was eye rolling at best. 

Where is that humble pie? I probably should eat the entire thing. 

The sleep deprivation of infant years is surpassed by the influx of information on how to deal with bullies. The heated debates on cloth diapering morph into a battle of who is right about screen time or technology. It turns into parent teacher interviews, report cards and sleepless nights worrying that you are doing enough to help them succeed. It's sometimes feeling incredibly awkward at your child's extra curricular activities because it's hard to make adult friends when the only thing your kids have in common is age. It turns into figuring out what battles you want to fight with your kid and which ones you'll just smile and nod at.  It turns into this realization that they are really going to grow up much faster than you think and you'll desperately wish that you could slow the clock down. 

And it's that realization that all those things that you debated about when your child was an infant just simply don't even matter. No one asks you if you cloth diapered your kindergartener, or if your grade schooler was breastfed. There is no place on the report card that indicates you didn't wear your baby enough, or that it's obvious that he or she didn't baby led wean. It's not that these issues aren't important; because in the moment, they are. For a new mother, these decisions feel big and sometimes, they even feel life altering. I wish that I knew that I could make those choices without any worries or stress for the future, because in five years, those decisions will just be a passing thought. 

Now, it's about morals, life lessons, and finding the right balance between allowing them to develop into their own individuals, and guiding them. It's realizing that those tiny, once completely dependent infants, are now humans and they are becoming independent. It's realizing that the years between now and then are getting shorter and shorter, and the panic that sets in when you envision everything you want to teach them. It's this epiphany that your responsibility goes far beyond providing the basic necessities of life, but setting them up to be kind, functioning members of society. 

It's as though, until recently, I never realized that these children will grow up to be adults. It sounds silly, because no one really believes their child will be a child forever. However, I suspect all parents have that moment when they realize their kids will not be kids forever. 

And it's actually this profoundly mind-blowing moment. 

The Hubby and I have spent countless nights hashing, and rehashing parenting philosophies. We've discussed the incredible juxtapose in our childhoods, and the lessons that can be learned from both. We've confessed our proverbial parenting sins, our worries, and our hopes. Mostly though, after all the talking is done, we come to the conclusion that there just is no easy, or right answer. What will work for us, or what will work for our one of our children simply won't work for the other. I know  from my own childhood experience, that there are actually parents out there that don't really care about the long term impacts of their actions on both their children and others is disconcerting. It's this chilling realization that you are sending your young child into the world, hoping that it finds some way to be gentle and generous with the lessons that are served out.

There is so much now that is out of our control now.

The one thing I can control? It's me. I may not be able to control all the extra noise that my children face when they go into the world, but I can control the kind of parent I am to them. It's not about the activities, or the labels, and it never has been. It's about parenting with thoughtfulness, with kindness, and a willingness to evolve. I need to be willing to admit that I don't have all the answers, that I might make mistakes, and that ultimately, there may be slamming doors despite my best intentions.  

At the end of this journey, I want my kids to know that I love them, that I'm on their side. I want them to be able to look back and be able to say that they knew that we had their backs, even when we weren't seeing eye to eye. If, when they do inevitably leave this nest, I can confidently say that they have become kind individuals, I think I'll be able to claim some parenting success. Until then? I'm going to stop being offended by those who have been at this parenting gig for longer than I have. They've seen some stuff, man. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bad Dreams And Apologies

"Mommy, I can talk to you?" came a tiny voice from my bedroom door.

I looked up to see my daughter peering over the bed at me, her eyes bright with concern.

"Sure," I answered, as I lifted her up and covered her in my big comforter. "What's on your mind?"

"I had a bad dream last night".

I nodded, and took a deep breath. These nightmares, or bad dreams as she calls them, have been haunting us for the better part of a year. They peaked in May, of course, when she confessed that she had been molested. 

"Do you want to talk about it?"

She shook her head vehemently, scrunching her little face, then hid under the blankets.

"You can tell me anything, hun. Remember, you are safe, right?"

Slowly, her head popped out of the blanket, and she studied my face for a moment.

"Why did he touch my 'gina, Mommy? It's bad, right?"

I bit my lip, hoping I could come up with a decent answer. Telling her that sometimes people do things like that didn't seem good enough, because it just isn't really. So I told her what I knew.

"I have no idea. There are people in this world that do really bad things. Sometimes they do it because they feel like they should, sometimes they do it because they can. I wish I knew why he did it."

"It was bad for him to do it." Her eyes pierced mine. It was a statement, but she was also looking for validation.

"Yes, absolutely. It was terrible for him to do it. He shouldn't have, and it's not your fault he did it. He made a bad choice."

"We won't see him again, right?" This time, her voice trembled ever so slightly, her eyes filling with tears. She had more composure than I because immediately, my own tears spilled over the edge, silently.

"Never. That's my job as your Mom. I will always keep you safe from anyone or anything that could harm you. It's Daddy's job too, and we'll always, always protect you."

She snuggled her body a little closer to mine, wrapping her arms around mine.

"And, my brother too?"

"Yes, we'll all keep you safe."

Silence rung through the afternoon air, as the sun shone brightly into my bedroom. I've learned in these moments, the ones where she decides she wants to talk about what happened to her, that it's best if I say as little as I can. It's important that she leads the conversation, and is able to say what she needs to say about what she is feeling or thinking.

"I don't like him, Mommy."

"It's okay to not like him. He hurt you."

"He didn't 'pologize to me. When you hurt someone, you say sorry."

More silent tears escaped from my eyes.

"That's right, when you hurt someone, you apologize. Sometimes people don't get that, even grown-ups. Would you feel better if he did apologize?"

She thoughtfully played with the hem of the blanket, her golden hair softly splaying against her forehead. Then, she looked at me and shrugged, "I don't know."

"It might help you, I'm sure but he did something to you that will probably take more than an apology. Can I tell you I'm sorry that he hurt you?"

"He should 'pologize because it's nice, and I have bad dreams."

"I agree, but I don't think he will."

"His Mommy should make him 'pologize."

I sighed quietly. There was no way for me to gracefully explain that his Mommy was also part of the reason that he wouldn't apologize.

"She should, but sometimes there are people who don't believe that certain things have actually happened. His Mommy doesn't believe that you are telling the truth."

My daughter jerked her head toward me, incredulous. Rising to her feet, she stood in the middle of the bed, hands on her hips, her brow furrowed,

"But he did. He did touch my 'gina, and that's not nice, and I don't like it."

"I believe you. Your Daddy believes you. Anyone who is important and loves you, believes you. It doesn't matter what he or his Mommy think. It only matters that we believe you, and we do."

"And you will protect me from him?"

"Yes. You'll never, ever see him again. I promise."

She held out her arms, indicating she wanted a hug, so I took her in my arms, and wrapped her in all the love and protectiveness I could manage in
that very moment. With her head resting on my shoulder, and one hand playing with my hair, I heard her whisper softly,

"Thank you so much, Mommy."