Doing my job
“How was class today?” I asked the boy.
“I hate you,” he growled.
This was a fair comment. I knew I was poking the bear when I asked. This was not just any class. This was summer school. Although it is not a punishment, many children view summer school as a violation of the Eighth Amendment which states that no “cruel or unusual” punishments shall be inflicted. The boy is most certainly of the opinion that summer school is a cruel and unusual punishment.
“Good to hear,” I replied. “It means I am doing my job.”
Yes, parenting is a job that can put you right up there with telemarketers. Asking, “How was class today?” was like that call that comes right at the beginning of supper, the one that you pick up without looking at caller ID. I knew the response was not going to be, “Gee, Dad, thanks for asking! I am so happy that you and mom have arranged for me to take this class to make sure I am ready for my math class next fall!” I’ve seen that kind of answer on 1960s sitcoms, but doubt that even in the 1960s children responded like that.
“You have my permission not to do your job,” said the boy.
“Thanks,” I replied, “but only God can give me that permission, and so far He’s been silent on granting it.”
I remember feeling the same way when I was a child. Once, a flyer came home from school announcing a wrestling program for elementary age boys. I’d seen wrestling on television. I could imagine myself climbing up to the top rope of the ring, and leaping at my opponent, whom I would pin to the mat while the official counted him out. I had no idea what real wrestling looked like.
“I want to take wrestling,” I said to my mother.
“I don’t think so,” she replied.
“But Jeremy is going to do it,” I said in an attempt to convince her.
Jeremy was my best friend at that time. I knew that his mother and my mother were friends, and thought if Jeremy’s mother let him take wrestling, my mother would rethink her answer. The thing that did not enter my thinking was the existence of the telephone.
“I’ll call Jeremy’s mother and see what she thinks.”
“No!” I thought to myself. I had no idea if Jeremy was taking wrestling. It just seemed like the kind of thing he would do. “Why do you need to do that?” I inquired.
“She and I already spoke,” my mother replied. “Jeremy said you were going to do it, so she wanted to know what I thought."
That was cool, kind of. It meant Jeremy thought I was the kind of guy who would be a wrestler. Unfortunately, it also meant neither of us were going to be wrestlers that year.
“I hate you,” I said.
“I guess that means I’m doing my job,” she replied.
I have been a priest for 16 years. I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010. If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.