Skip to main content

Doubt: A Parable. And a Mother's Love


At first we assumed she wanted to be a monkey. But, no. She insisted that what she wanted to be was a monk. She had just watched a documentary about the Dalai Lama and was infatuated with Tibetan monks. She was also infatuated with dingoes and whether or not they actually ate the baby.


My daughter announced she wanted to be a Fortune Teller when she grew up. This was a grave concern and required the immediate attention of myself, her teacher at the parochial school she attended, as well as the prinicpal of the school, because only God can know the future of one's life and we ought not to fall into Satan's trap by buying into witchcraft and false prophecy. When I turned and asked my daughter why she wanted to be a Fortune Teller she explained that she wanted to wear long flowing skirts and to hear the sounds of bracelets clinking together. She was 8.


This meant conversations were strained, riddled with angst and frustration, shadowed with distrust, and completed in tears. Mostly on my end.


It was a risk to take her to the theater. By myself. With no one to help moderate the conversation between us. With no witnesses in the car. I doubted it would end well. I imagined her rolling her eyes. The way my lips would pinch together and my eyes would narrow in direct reaction to her incredibly obvious unappreciation and lack of respect.

As we sat awkwardly side by side, waiting for the show to start, I wondered why I had even bothered. She will hate this. It's a play called Doubt: A Parable written by John Patrick Shanley. There are only four actors in the play. It is simply described as:

It's 1964 at a Catholic school in the Bronx, Sister Aloysius believes that Father Flynn may have engaged in sexual misconduct against Donald, the only black student at the school. Father Flynn angrily denies and wrongdoing.

I doubt she will enjoy this.

I doubt she will appreciate this.

I doubt everything about this night.

And yet, I am wrong.

90 minutes later the lights rise and she looks at me with a look on her face I can't describe. That's it? It just ended? That's not fair! We'll never know what happened - if he really did it or not!

I'm surprised to find out she was listening. Paying attention. Hanging on to words.

I hate cliffhangers, she mumbles as she exits the row.

We fight our way through the crowd.


Why do you need your ticket stamped? I explain how college kids can earn credit for attending shows. They must watch the show, get their ticket stamped, write a report. I'd like a class like that!

It's cold outside. She's wearing flip-flops. They're cute, but impractical. I swallow the urge to point this out. Instead I ask what she thought of the show.

I liked it. But I can't believe the mom was basically Who Cares? He's gay - just let him graduate. What kind of mother does that?

I think for a minute. She's right. What mother would just "let" their child be abused... just so he can graduate from a respected school? To better his chances at a future? But then... I am a mother. I doubt she'll understand when I say that maybe this is the only way she knows how to protect him. She said the father abuses him. Beats him because he's gay. That if word got out the boy would surely die at the father's hand.

And she thinks for a moment.


It's something. "I don't think it's right, what she did," I explain. "As a mother." And even as I say it, I doubt my conviction. I've been there. Trying to fight for my child. And finding myself surrounded by brick walls all around. I know what that woman feels like. That feeling where you hand it over and do the best you can and just pray that everyone just makes it through.

There's more silence in the car. It's so cold! she says. My feet are freezing! I laugh and point out the flip-flops. But at least they're cute she giggles. Yes, that they are.

We drive.

I really liked that play. It made me think.


Everything. It just always made you think. Like, I don't know for sure if he did it or not. He acted like he did - by leaving, but then, maybe he just left because he couldn't take it anymore and nothing happened.

I don't know what to say because she's said so much. I don't want to come across preachy. Or like a know-it-all. I doubt my words. I doubt the sureness of my voice, so I say nothing.

We're surrounded by silence.

I liked what they said about the pillow -- that gossiping is like opening up a pillow and letting all the feathers fly away in the wind. You can't ever get all those feathers back. You can't ever fix things completely.

I smile in the dark.

I don't doubt her. Who she is. I worry about her. I want the best for her. But I don't doubt who she is: my wise beyond her years child with the sensitive heart and the logical soul.

I do not doubt my love for her.


Brenna said…
Does she read your blog? Does she know you write it, or care?
Brenna said…
I meant to add, Anna hasn't stopped trying to play Baby Jesus since her Christmas pageant at school. The monk bit reminded me.
Phoenix Rising said…
@Brenna: Yes, she reads. She used to read it more often, now she can't be bothered. (There are WAY cooler things to do than read her mom's blog.) She couldn't care one way or the other so long as I respect her enough not to post embarrassing pictures and talk about private things.

I think Anna as Baby Jesus is awesome! Does that mean you get to be Mary? Or a Wise Man? Please tell me she doesn't force you to play the part of the camel...

Popular posts from this blog

The House that God Built

in·stan·ta·ne·ous /ˌinstənˈtānēəs/ adjective 1. occurring or done in an instant or instantly.
synonyms: immediate, instant, on-the-spot

The thing is, she died so sudden.
I didn't have the chance to plead with God, to make all the irrational promises. If he would just let her be okay.... I would start taking better care of my health. I would be nicer to the neighbor that drove me crazy. I would always let someone else go in front of me at Walmart no matter how long the line was. I wouldn't complain. Ever. I would volunteer at the Homeless Shelter. I would clean up after pigs. I would clip the toenails of the elderly. I would do anything and everything He would ask me to do....
There is a box on her death certificate that captures the amount of time between the initial injury and the time of death. It reads "seconds." I wish it read "instantaneous" because she deserves a clever word like that.
Fast forward five years.... definitely taking MUCH longer than "…

Seeing Avery All Grown Up

One day I'll tell you about the freezing cold we left and the heavy bags we lugged, full of supplies and medicines. I'll tell you about arriving in Port au Prince and walking across a cracked concrete parking lot to board an old school bus with a flat tire. How the heat was suffocating after months of below zero Wisconsin winter weather, how the people crowded and walked too close to moving traffic as we searched for a tire shop that was barely more than a couple men sitting on overturned 5-gallon buckets on the side of the road next to a pile of old tires, everything covered in dirt.

I'll tell you about waiting on the bus while they removed the tire and I'll recall the loud explosion that rocked the bus and scared the life out of me and how I was relieved to learn it was just the tire blowing after being filled too far. (They didn't have any gauges.) And then I'll tell you about the fear I felt when I realized we didn't have a tire and we were stuck on th…

When Your Imagined Life is Nothing Like This One

There were so many ways I imagined my adult life would be....THIS is not one of them.
I posted that on my Facebook wall last night. It might have been seen as funny except my choice of hashtags gave me away:
treading water getting nowhere piles of disappointment not many successes worn out and exhausted out of options

I always imagined my life would be thrilling. Full of exciting adventures and people from all over the world. I would dine at Ethiopian, Thai, and Indian restaurants. I would write books, teach English, coach forensics and direct the play. My husband would be charming and funny and not care about gender roles when it came to household chores. He would beg for at least six kids and I would fall in love with him all over again each time I caught him giving good life advice.
I would take photographs and travel the world documenting the people I came across. I would adopt a sibling group of three or maybe four and work on foster care policies because the ones we have aren't work…