At the close of the Book of Mormon Musical performance of "Hello" on the Tony's last night, my 9 year old looked up at me and said "Mom, are they laughing at us or being nice to us?"
Pang. Right to the heart. As with any parent, you hope that your child will never be anything but proud of who they are. This is certainly not the only time his faith will be the butt of a joke. Furthermore, Jr. High is creeping up on us like a thief in the night, and I'm pretty sure just about everything is the butt of a joke in Jr. High.
My answer: "Well, I think that song was actually pretty funny. We can laugh at ourselves and that's OK."
How do you teach that to your children? To take themselves seriously enough to stand up for themselves (because there will be times for that), and to take themselves lightly enough to laugh at the unimportant. Even more complicated, how do you teach them use those two skills TOGETHER?
I've had my share of entertaining conversations about my faith.
I was stuck in a hotel during a big snow storm in New York during the 2008 election cycle. I was hanging out in the business center of the hotel and the news was on overhead. A story about Mitt Romney came on, and the lady next to me said “Look at Mitt Romney. I hate him. Could you imaging if we had a Mormon for a president? Those people are so crazy.”
Me: “Yeah, they’re everywhere you know.”
I don't get offended. I get excited. And I got quiet and I let her dig.
Woman: “It’s some kind of conspiracy!”
Me: “You want to know the scariest thing? I am one.”
Awkward silence . . . until I started laughing.
I was in a meeting once in the Bay Area, where a gentleman in the room said: "Oh, maybe we should ask the Moron, I mean, the Mormon in the room that question". There's a quick mental process that runs through your mind "Is this one worth it?"
Maybe just a little . . .
Me: "Oh, what a smart, fun joke! What are you rolling at? Like a 77 social IQ today? Let's have a grown up conversation now." (follow with a wink and a smile, and maybe a bird in the elevator on the way out of the meeting).
Let's be honest, that one made me a little bit angry.
In my experience, especially with regard to my religion, the best way to deal with it is to disarm them with humor, and then educate them about your perspective and reality and move right on. I've also found that a lighthearted approach actually allows people to open up and ask whatever questions they might be hesitant to ask without worrying that they are going to say it wrong.
But that all doesn't work for everyone. And I've got a a son who's a little more on the sensitive side of the spectrum.
Dad Went on a Mission
"Was Dad like those singers on his mission?"
My husband from the back of the room "No buddy! I was not like that! I was awesome."
I sat there quietly thinking about all of the ones who were probably just like the Book of Mormon musical singers, and thought I'd let my son find that reality out on his own one day if he chooses to go on a mission. The overzealous missionary, the companion from the middle of nowhere that you can't stand, the ones who became your best friends, that one time when a cobra camped out in your apartment in the middle of the jungle, that little town where you and your missionary companions kept a pet monkey named "Bruds". Those guys in your mission who ran into the guerrilla rebel army and took pictures with their grenades and machine guns. That other time when those people threw rocks and bottles at you. That Facebook message you got out of the blue from the Philippines from a man you taught 17 years ago, when you were a 19-year-old boy, letting you know how much you changed his life . . .
The good and the bad.
It's all a mixed bag. I just hope I can teach my kids to take the best of it, and roll with the rest.
In the meantime, at least we've got our own Broadway soundtrack. And hey - it's been called "God's Favorite Musical". That's legit.
And yes, let's laugh! I'm pretty sure that God does too.
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