Saturday, May 18, 2013

"Dumb Idols" Discussion

It's fine to talk about what you think of the piece, but we'd like to focus on what the piece makes you think about. Some questions to start:  

This piece is grounded in the provocative claim that our relationships with our parents can resemble idolatry. What do you think of that claim?

Courtney Miller Santo has suggested that "we don’t truly know our mothers. What we know is the version they’ve presented to us that allows us them to be a parent." Do you agree? If so, what do you see in your parents, grandparents or self that is part of playing the role of a parent?

This piece ends with a scene of restored harmony without a detailed explanation as to how the reconciliation came to be. What does the essay say about reconciliation? How do you think hard reconciliations happen?


  1. Thanks, Hillary. Beautiful piece.

    On my mom's birthday this year, I went to pick up my daughter while my mom was getting ready to go out to dinner. My mom picked out these shoes that were a little worn out and didn't quite go with her outfit, so I took off my shoes and gave them to her to wear.

    My daughter and I walked out into the rain, and she noticed I was barefoot. She was shocked. She could not believe that I would walk in the rain barefoot. Her mother barefoot in the rain.

    It suddenly dawned on me that my daughter doesn't know the person I was before I was her mother. She has no idea that I'm a walk-barefoot-in-the-rain kind of person.

    It was funny but also a bit of an identity crisis. If I am primarily identified as a mother in this life and the next, who am I really?

    Hillary is right about parents being idols---even though I'd much rather not think of myself that way. But there are certain things we do or don't do to keep up the parental appearance.

    I have memories of my own mom being a goofy person who would spontaneously burst into song, but I also remember her as stern and, well, stressed out and frustrated with her unruly children. But I don't think I knew her until after I became a mother myself. We can talk more candidly now about our lives because she is no longer the one to ensure that I am going to survive and thrive. It's up to me now.

    But it doesn't mean she doesn't still mother me. She likes to tell me to stand up straight, and when I was in labor with my third child last fall, she looked so pained for me. I assured her not to worry, and she said, "But you're my baby."

    I guess this is part of the challenge and blessing of parenthood.

  2. Well, golly. This is a considerable piece, in both its beauty and its uses. All of us encounter our parents in difference as we grow, though not perhaps as radically as this. But they humanize, newly, the closer we get to them in experience, even as they live. Their frailty, their vulnerability, is both shocking and comforting.

    I'm glad it has a happy half-ending. Here's to more and better in the coming years. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Lots of things to think about. As children, our security is tied so completely to the idea of our parents as solid pillars. As we grow up and are more capable of handling it, we see our parents as human beings. I might allow myself to be a bit more human than I should be, to my children.

  4. When I was young, probably elementary school, a neighbor friend question how I knew something that I had said to her. I said that my mom told me. She then asked,"How does your mom know that?" I said that my mom knows everything......and I believed it too. Now that I'm older, I realize that my mom always loved to read, not novels but informational things, because she had no time for recreational reading. She wanted to learn as much as she could. She also developed strong opinions about everything. I always considered those opinions when developing my own. When I reflect back on these things I have discovered that she may have been a tad controlling with her opinions, thinking if we adopted her ideas it would be the best for us, her 4 kids. But I feel it really squashed our ideas, not letting us figure out for ourselves if it was right for us. I know she meant well...wanting to protect us and all.

  5. I was struck by the pendular personality of the patriarch. It's dawned on me recently that there are quite a few people like that. Maybe we're all like that in one way and to some degree or another. I'm thinking of obvious cases, though, like church members who serve cheerfully and faithfully for at time, than vanish from the pew for a time, then return, and so on. A character in a story I'm writing is like that. She believes in and needs the Gospel, but is strongly pulled away by another need. She is never at rest. She is always swinging back and forth between two forces.

  6. I loved this piece.

    Most of the time I try not to think about my huge responsibility as a parent and how badly I let my kids down when I am weak. I've just been reading a biography of my grandparents who were consistently very, very good people. I feel proud to be related to them, but also guilty that even with their good examples and sacrifice, I'm still mediocre and my kids could already publish a book full of my faults. (They've already taken opportunity to mention some specifics to me.)

    I like this line:
    “I’m sorry,” he says - awkwardly, like an idol apologizing to a devotee for being made of mere clay.

    And especially this line:
    "The miracle will happen, though, as surely as I live. The broken clay of my heart will soften to mud, moldable again in the Creator’s hand."

    What a miracle forgiveness and repentance are! Thanks for forgiving your father and writing about it so beautifully. It's reassuring that it's okay to try our hand at life (and even parenting) because God made it safe to fail and try again.

  7. Marianne Hales HardingMay 19, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    This one makes me sad. I've had a similar experience as a daughter and my daughter has too (except without the redemption at the end). It makes it hard for me to really feel the forgiveness/redemption at the end of this piece. It doesn't land for me at all. But that's probably just because of my recent experience with misguided hero worship!



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