My youngest son stormed into the house angry and ran up the stairs to his room. My wife came in a minute later and had a pained look on her face. My son, who recently turned 12, was frustrated that he had to go his one-evening-a-week religious education class.
He would have rather spent the evening reading a good book, playing X-box with his friends, or just chilling in his room. I knew that I should say something to him. But what could I say that would sway his opinion?
Stepping up to the challenge
I thought about my many options. I could lecture him about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins? I could pull up various bible verses, go full priest-mode, and pontificate on faith and believing in something bigger than us as individuals. I could play-up the guilt and explain to him how important this year is to preparing for his confirmation and sealing his membership within our church.
I thought too that I could forcefully remind him that I’m his father, that I know better than him, and that he needed to stop complaining and do what I said. I imagined me saying: “Go because I said so” or “Just do it damn it.” (I must admit that this was my preferred option.)
Despite my impatience and anger at my son for upsetting my already stressful evening, calmer thoughts prevailed. I called my son down from his room and we talked. In the end, I fortunately did more listening than instructing, lecturing or talking. I simply asked him to tell me why he didn’t want to go.
He told me that he believes in God, but he starts so early in the morning and gets tired at the end of the day. I couldn’t disagree with the kid. He has to be at his bus stop before the sun has a chance to rise above the horizon and then spends a full day in school. He comes home, does his homework and then runs off to his religious education class, which runs until 8:30 p.m. With that long day, I told him I would be tired too.
My dad moment
We agreed on a few changes. He’ll take a nap when he gets home. I agreed to let him have a few extra minutes of “screen time” on another night. But I also told him about why I believe. I told him about how God has helped me over the years through any number of challenges — some big, some small, but all very important to me at the time.
I then told him about the day he was born and what happened when one of the maternity nurses placed him in a bassinette immediately following his birth. I described how he was wriggling and crying, noticeably upset and out-of-sorts. I simply called out his name and he instantly stopped crying. His simply poked his head up-in-the-air and gave a peaceful, angelic smile.
I told my son how life will bring plenty of ups and downs, rights and wrongs. I told him too that I can’t explain it all. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. I don’t know why some people get cancer or get hurt. I told him that I don’t know why God doesn’t stop bullies or predators who hurt others.
I told him that I don’t know any of these answers. However, I told him that I knew the day each of my children were born that something or someone greater had to be involved. I told him too that I could feel God’s love every time I hugged him.
So he understood that it wasn’t a competition, I quickly told him that I felt the same feeling when I hugged his sister, brother, and his mother too. He even managed to smile at my joke, when I said: “God doesn’t play favorites.”
Living a full life
In the end, I’m not sure I changed his opinion. No miracles happened. No angels came swooping into the room. I still needed to clean the sink full of dishes; the headache inside my thick skull continued to rage-on, feeling like it was drilling a hole through my head; and the work I brought home with me still needed completing, but my son and I both felt better about the conversation.
I’m sure he’ll have his good and bad days this year. I’m sure there will be more than a few Wednesday’s when he groans and doesn’t want to go to class. I’m sure too that he’ll question and probe until he gets the answers he needs.
But I took it as a positive that no matter what, no matter the problem, he knew that we could talk and even share a hug. Now if Jesus could just help-out with those dishes.