Sunday, 6 February 2011

What To Do?

I am a mild-tempered man. Yes, I may rant and rave on this thing, but in the end, better that I tap keys than deliver a dry-slap to a passing pensioner, no? Apart from in front of Saturday night reality TV when I am rage-incarnate, I am just a ball of fluffy loveliness. 

Until just now ....

My little girl, my darling daughter, all three-years-old of her returned home from church in a ponderous mood. She is only like this if she is once again contemplating issues of mortality and the theology of death (I often wonder if Paul Sheppy isn't her real dad, at times), or if someone has been mean to her. Without exception, such a person is another child, one of her peers, and we attend to matters accordingly.

Until just now ...

She is fairly shy or perhaps measured. She is well-socialised as any clergy kids are, but she is cautious about who she speaks to - no bad thing in the large public gatherings that my work and life expose her and her sister to. It is a frequent thing that complete (or relative) strangers speak to them like old friends, or (as happened this very week) grab and squeeze their cheeks. For them to have a healthy reticence in the face of all this attention (wonderful and kind as it is) is a useful skill.

Well, this very day, within the context of the Eucharist at which we had all gathered to celebrate, someone accused my perfect little angel of being rude, because she didn't speak to that person (someone she hadn't seen in nearly a year). Were it another child, Rebekah would have stood her ground, but when it is another adult, all she could do was package it up, internalise it, believe what was said and take it home quietly. 

I have discovered a new emotion. Fortunately, I only learned about this after collar-off time, so was safely locked into the house. Why? Because this emotion is a dark one, one that propelled me towards a fury the like of which I have not felt for some time. I wanted to fight for my little girl. I wanted to do the index-finger-jabbing-chest thing, ask what the devil they thought they were doing. It is in the heart of most parents to protect their youngsters, or to seek retribution when they seem to have been wronged. I now know this first hand, and was, I confess, alarmed by my own fury. They are my kids and I am their dad, but here we have the old balancing act thing again, because I am clergy, and clergy do not habitually throttle people. I am now at a loss to know what to do in this thorny world that my children will have to journey through. I know that my collar will hold me back, and whether that is right or not I don't know. I jealously protect my own, but for the first time, I feel that there is a barrier to that in some small part. 

I don't know how to end this post. At the moment I want to take my little girl's pain away and do death in equal measure. I am a nice man, and also a priest, and at the moment, I am not sure how this stuff works. 


  1. There's nothing more likely to make me Hulk-out than someone upsetting one of my sprogs, so I know where you're coming from, and am equally stuck for a way to keep a lid on it.
    I'll calmly put up with pretty much any amount of insult, or unpleasantness aimed at me, but it's a different matter if the kids are effected.
    When it's happened, walking away and cooling off before trying to tackle the issue further has helped, but it still creates a mountain of rage inside your guts.

  2. Good advice and a typical route for me, on the whole. That said, it is also reassuring to know that I am not the only parent in this 'place' - not that I would want it for anyone.

    Thank you!

  3. I love this quote: 'clergy do not habitually throttle people'; though there have been some clergy I would gladly throttle (not many)

    This is a case where Mrs VC needs to speak to the person concerned and explain that a year is a very long time in a child's life and you have brought your children up to be cautious of strangers!

  4. I think the main thing you need to do is to explain to your daughter that sometimes grown-ups can say silly things without thinking. Then make sure either Mrs VC or yourself, if calm enough, tells the adult in question, what you have said to your daughter and why.

    I'm sorry that people can be so thoughtless. Hope you can have a Day Off soon.

  5. Personally I think people like this should be banned from attending. Or at least given detention, and a thousand lines of "church is a gathering of Christians, not a club for incurable self-centred misanthropes".
    Seriously, I am increasingly tending to tell people what I think of their behaviour when this kind of thing happens. There is a risk, as you say, of becoming Mr Grumpy Vicar, but on the other hand, if bad behaviour is not checked, it just encourages it.
    I've also come to realise, through bitter experience, that when it happens to your own family there is a temptation not to speak out in a way that you would do if the victim was someone else. This is a mistake. They need you to stick up for them (unless someone else can do it - maybe incumbent in your case?)

  6. I'm with Charlie - and I love the idea of giving them detention and lines.

    you must practice the art of verbal throttling - I think it comes with time. A real expert (like one of my current acquaintance) can leave someone thinking how nice they are until they get home and it sinks in what was really said. Very satisfying.

    (Or, given that I am now angry too, set Yer Mother on them!)

  7. And so the day ended. I thank you all for your sense and kindliness, and pause only to say that this whole issue is made worse because the person concerned is herself a mother of a three-year old.

    The poor mite hasn't found her mojo since this all happened, despite a fancy-dress party and some hippy gloop that I made with chickpeas! But words will be had - oh yes, words will be had!



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