I fill my bucket with imaginary blog bunnies

If you are interested in Mormons or This American Life or Ira Glass or hypothetical situations requiring extreme moral courage, you might wish to go read this post by Kacy. (Also, Kacy is your friend! It says so right on her blog! She’s my friend too! She said so!)

(In my comment over there I said I could write a whole blog post responding to her post, which might make you think this is that post, but it’s not–or anyway there are still things in her post that interest me that I’m not responding to in this post.)

I’m amazed and perhaps a little embarrassed that it’s never occurred to me that if someone pointed a gun at you and threatened to kill you if you said you believed in Jesus, (or unless you said you didn’t believe in Jesus) there might be options (assuming you do believe in Jesus) other than saying so and getting killed and depriving your five children of a mother. Now that I do think about it, I’m sure there are any number of creative responses in such a situation. You could say, “My beliefs are none of your business.” Or, “I’d love to answer that question, but let me first provide you with some background information.” Or, “What exactly do you mean by ‘believe’? Faith is a complex issue and we need to be on the same page with our definitions.” Or, “Let’s talk about you–what are your beliefs? And how did they lead you to be holding this gun in my face?”

Hmm. Apparently I’m the kind of person who’s going to get myself shot anyway.

On the other hand, I’ve long thought that most of the types of hypotheticals where you have to choose which of your children a soldier will kill, or whether to let go of your husband’s arm or your child’s arm if they’re both dangling off a cliff and you’re not strong enough to hold them both, were kind of dumb. In the first scenario, I’d tell the soldier (or I hope I would) that I won’t make that choice for him, and that if he chooses to kill either of my children, it will be on his head and he can go to hell for it. And in the second scenario, I wouldn’t let go of either, but would hold on for dear life until my arms gave out.

Okay, but I’m sure there are ways to re-frame either of the above dilemmas such that I really would have to make a choice. So probably it’s me that’s dumb.

What scares me more than those imaginary scenarios, though, is that I always think or hope that since I’m a mother I’ll naturally do the heroic thing to sacrifice myself to save my child, but what if I’m just slow or careless when such an event arises? Theoretically I’d rather push my child out of the way of a moving train even if it means being hit myself, but probably I’d just stand there stupidly, not able to believe the train is really about to hit my child. Or I’d be too physically slow to save my child.

Maybe it’s better if I’m too stupid and slow to save the child, because I really would hate to deprive my other four children of a mother. Or–no. Actually I’d rather my children be raised by someone else, but knowing that I would have died to save them, too. But mostly I’d like to keep my whole family away from fast-moving trains.

What’s more troubling than wondering whether I’d sacrifice myself in time to avoid a train wreck is pondering the tiny and large daily possible train wrecks of parenting:  trying to figure out when sacrificing myself is what will be best for my child, or when I should save myself. One camp of thought is characterized by the saying, “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” and on the other extreme would be, I suppose, the idea that it’s in sacrificing our own comfort or convenience to serve our children that we find real happiness. I lean towards the second belief, but I certainly believe that without time to fill my so-called bucket, I won’t have anything to offer my children–and I also believe that too much self-sacrifice, especially in the form of indulging children, creates narcissistic children. I suppose the even harder forms of self-sacrifice involve not indulging children, but taking the time to really teach them to work and serve others. (Now it’s just a big circle! Who ever gets served if everyone’s doing the serving?)

That leads into a whole topic worthy of another long post of its own, but to get back to the idea of hypothetical situations requiring great moral courage: I do think it’s easier to imagine that I’d jump in front of a train to save my child than it is to in actual fact, day after day, not get angry at the kid who’s whining at me while I’m trying to complete a phone conversation, to put down a book or get off the internet and really listen to my kid telling me about some complex social conundrum (let alone telling me about about Pokémon or a Zelda game), to not yell when I discover a huge mess, and in so many other small ways to sacrifice myself to save my child.

It’s also easy to forget to tell people you believe in Jesus when no one’s pointing a gun at your head.

I do believe in Jesus. I love Him.

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10 Responses to I fill my bucket with imaginary blog bunnies

  1. Jason says:

    Love you Zina…and this entry.

  2. Thora says:

    Love this entry too. I have also had the thought about the cliff, and trains (although never someone pointing a gun to my head to finish the dishes – more about Mabel’s imagination becomes clear to me. It must be inherited). Or the dilemma – what if you were holding your own child and someone else’s child over a cliff (and why do we jaunt off to the edge of cliffs anyway?) – which one then? Or what if your own child was really a terrible person, and the other person’s child was an angel? Hmmm, better go for your own child then, they need the time to repent 🙂

    Definitely life has much more subtle dilemmas pointing at our way – like the ones you point out.

  3. Whimsy says:

    Clearly I have been hanging out with the wrong mom friends because no one has ever asked me hypotheticals involving gun-waving querying maniacs. Though my husband is always quizzing me about the cliff scenario. Do you think he’s planning on dangling me and my kid off a cliff sometime?

    Regardless, I loved this post, and I do think I have a new blog crush on YOU. Does that make you feel weird? Hope not.

    • zstitches says:

      I’m Zina. I’m your friend!

      • Whimsy says:

        I say this in my head all the time, but never out loud. So I doubt anyone knows I’m their friend. But I’m always glad I know where I stand with Kacy. And now with you, Zina, my friend.

        I promise not to dangle any one of you off a cliff. There are limits to that friendship, you know.

  4. Hannah says:

    A gun in the face? Honestly, I’d probably lie. I’m not leaving my kids motherless over some lunatic with an agenda. Does that make me Slytherin or Huffelpuff?

  5. Very well said. Thanks for expanding on these ideas and yes–the day to day is sometimes much harder than the big deal once in a lifetime stuff.

  6. Virginia Wood says:

    In our congregation we had a man whose father actually faced the gun in his face and deny the church scenario. It happened in Kentucky. He chose to stand up for Jesus. The man fired. The gun misfired. He shot again, It misfired again. The hoodlum left, much bemused about the gun and the misfiring implications. I know that many good Christians have died for defending their beliefs. I’m not sure I would be one of them. I’d probably faint dead away, first.

    I have learned over the years that I’m not much good in panic situations. I freeze in place or run. In my fight or flight moments I seem to always choose the flight option.

    You are “spot on” in your reflections about sacrifice for your children. You do have to juggle the balance between the needs of your children and self renewal. There are dangers when too much time is put into either one of those choices. My kids somewhat struggled their first year of college partly because Mom wasn’t around to nag them to do their homework, supply the ideas and things to do their projects, pick up after them, fix them nutritious meals, bake them cookies, and generally be a Mom to them.

    I once read an excellent article about the vital importance of children experiencing failure in some part of their early lives–friendship failures, competition failures, completion failures, achievement failures, monetary failures , etc. Learning how to handle those things when there are relatively small consequences helps them learn the coping skills they will need when they suffer a huge challenge in their adult years. The danger lies in our handling these failures for them and in not letting them experience the consequences of their failures. I stepped in way too many times to settle a squabble because I can’t stand squabbles!

    I will try not to linger around train tracks, too.

    Aunt Ginger

  7. the MomB says:

    I don’t tell you often enough how much I love your blog.

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