Ode To the Middle-Aged Mama

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We meet her first when she sends a scathing letter to her son—what JK Rowling terms a “howler.” Ron Weasley’s embarrassment makes us roll our eyes at the overbearing mother who scolds her son for all the world to hear.

Whoa, mama. take a step back.

She sends her youngest son and his best friend Christmas sweaters—enormous seeming wastes of yarn that swathe her children in embarrassment, again. (Let’s not even talk about the Yule robes.) We silently (or not so silently) laugh at the middle-aged woman who would create such things and believe they’re beautiful.

Then, we discover–we don’t know Molly Weasley at all.

Favorite Books and Favorite Heroes

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Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

While discussing books that have meant something to me, I thought a post on one of my favorite heroines might be fun. Mrs. Weasley. The quintessential mother hen. The character we instantly stereotype—a caring but essentially nonessential woman. What many teenage boys think of their mothers, we suppose. But we agree with that teenage boy, Ron. She’s a good heart, wrapped in mom jeans and irrelevant conversation.

Shows what we know.

Many years after reading Harry Potter, and after a dozen or more movie viewings, I’ve learned why Harry and Hermione don’t, after all, end up together. I’ve come to understand what it is about the Weasleys that draws them both into the family orbit.

It all centers on Molly. It always did.

Molly’s sweaters and letters show us something, if we’re really looking. We see in them, and their creator, a fierce loyalty and love for family that doesn’t care about embarrassment or anything else on its quest for insuring her offspring are safe and good people. Her love and loyalty drive everything—and they know nothing on earth that will intimidate them.

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Photo by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

Harry is drawn to something he’s never known. Hermione Is drawn to what she intentionally gave up (in my vote for saddest scene in all eight movies). There’s something about fierce love and loyalty that cannot help but pull in whatever circles it. It’s a black hole of sorts, but in a positive way.

Love and Loyalty for the Win

“Mrs Weasley threw off her cloak as she ran, freeing her arms. Bellatrix spun on the spot, roaring with laughter at the sight of her new challenger.”

Bellatrix never imagined this middle-aged mama could bring her down. To be fair to Bellatrix, neither did anyone else. We deeply underestimated the lady. We simply never saw what drove her to knit. To bake. To open her home to anyone in need. To risk everything when those “bonus kids” she loved were in deep danger. To bolster her husband’s work in defying evil.

We didn’t see that it was a great work of its own in the fight against evil, those clacking knitting needles and that open guest policy. We didn’t realize that what she really knit together was a web so strong it held and protected so many of the “good guys” we lost count.

I’m pretty sure I whooped too loudly in the theater when she made her heroic stand to protect her daughter. I saw, in that moment, what I should have seen before it. Molly Weasley had been saying, “Not my loved one, bitch” to evil for a very, very long time. And her loved ones were many.

We simply hadn’t noticed.

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Our Story, Too

Isn’t this the story of many middle-aged mamas? Isn’t this why we love her? We feel sometimes so mundane, so overlooked and pointless. Then we see someone who feels as we do about it all—and she doesn’t hold back.

She won’t be irrelevant, and maybe, in that moment, we recognize that we refuse to be as well. We realize we never were.

Women, we are knitting those webs, aren’t we? We’re holding the forces of evil at bay, too, but often in an unnoticed way, and the glory goes to the Harrys and not to the Mollys. It always does.

Yet we keep on knitting

Maybe not literally. I can’t knit to save my life. Yarn skills evade me. But without us, women, where would the fight be?

  • What children would not have been raised who are now the good people we imagined and fought for?
  • What injustices would still be occurring if we hadn’t written that letter or volunteered those hours?
  • Who would still be in despair if we hadn’t opened our ears, our hearts, our homes?
  • What life wouldn’t have been redirected if we hadn’t spoken those words, even in a howler, if the need decreed it?
  • What need wouldn’t have been met without our constant watch at the city gates—bringing casseroles, knitting scarves, cleaning toilets, and yes, protesting on the street corners, telling the truth about sexual abuse, and loving the other?

We underestimated women have known this since Shifra and Puah, since Abigail and Ruth. Too often, we don’t believe in our own power, but God affirms it.

God credits them with the saving of lives, these middle-ages mamas of the Hebrew world. He writes boldly what others overlook. Fierce loyalty and love know no force they fear. They are the specialty of the middle-aged mama.

We’ve been saying, “not my loved one, bitch” to evil for a long time. And the older I get, the more loved ones I accumulate. They come in all colors and languages and creeds, nowadays. Maybe I can’t knit a stitch, but I can expand my reach to hold these new loved ones, too, in a fierce, protecting love. It’s our superpower, women.

God continues to affirm when we women use that superpower, that gift of grace, of love and loyalty to continue the quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) fight.

It all centers on the Molly Weasleys. It always has.

 

Who is one of your favorite heroes? I’d love to hear!

50 Shades of the NFL

I had every intention of staying away from anything controversial this week. Playing it nice and safe. It’s so much more fun. But then . . . all the news broke last week about domestic violence and how we must stop it and who is to blame and whatever shall we do?

And I remembered this piece I started writing a while ago and planned to use in February, when a certain movie gets released in theaters. But I think the time is now, not later.

See, here’s the thing. We condemn domestic abuse in all forms, which is absolutely right. We call it out in the NFL, and we should. But when we wring our hands and wonder how on earth we can stop it? When we point our fingers everywhere for blame? We’re ignoring the fact that it is part of our culture, and that’s where it has to start to end. And our culture includes—us. 

We can start to end it when we start to change what we accept as culturally OK.

Which is where that movie comes in. Fifty Shades of Grey. Aka, How to Abuse a Woman and Still Have Thousands of Other Women Swooning over You.

I’ve seen a lot of explanations for why women read the book and are excited to see the movie. 

It’s freeing. 
It’s sexy. 
It’s just a story, so there’s no harm. 
She changes him in the end, so it’s redemptive.

But what about when it’s not fiction? What about women for whom physical and emotional abuse, whether in the bedroom or the living room, because there is really no difference, is no breezy little story?

Here are some statistics on the harm:
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • Three to four million women in the United States are beaten in their homes each year by their husbands, ex-husbands, or male lovers.
  • One woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States.
  • 30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.
That means that for millions of women and children, this is not a fun piece of fiction. It’s their life. So here are the reasons I don’t plan to hand over money to the theaters this winter.


Because to millions of women, pain is not romantic.


Statistically, there are women sitting in our churches whose husbands/boyfriends physically, emotionally, or verbally abuse them. They are there. They are silent. And every time they hear another woman talk about how “sexy” or romantic it is to read about Christian Grey dominating his girl, they’re a little more silent. They live that life. It’s not romantic, or glamorous, or safe. They are afraid, always.

Then they see us imply that they can change that man (they used to dream that, too) and that he’s really exciting when he behaves this way, and they die a little more. We feel genuine compassion for these women and offer help and prayer. But it only confuses them when they know we find their real life great fictional entertainment.

Because our daughters are watching.

How about we prefer this fantasy for
their future?

Bad boy fantasies aren’t uncommon among girls. Why do they say yes to dating the boy they know isn’t good for them? One of the most common reasons girls go ahead and date that bad boy is that they want to be able to change him. They’ll feel powerful and redemptive, and that feels good. They’ll be like Anna, and we’re telling them that’s great. That it works. If it works in fiction, it will work for them, right?

That’s the fantasy. But fantasy it is. A lot of young girls have this fantasy. They don’t end up with the hot guy and the thrilling life. Girls who take this route find themselves abused, stalked, and threatened by the bad boy they believed they would change. Too often, they end up dead. 

Dominating a young woman is a sociopath pattern of behavior that nearly always ends in at best entrapment they can’t leave for fear of retribution and at worst death at the hands of that man. It’s cold, hard statistics, not fiction. The myth of “I can change him” truly kills girls. That’s not redemptive entertainment.

A formerly abused woman tells her story:

During my first semester of college, I dated a young man who tried to control whom I talked to and what friends I could have. When he got drunk – which was often – he called me “a stupid whore,” he threatened me with physical violence, and he pushed me. Afterward, he would cry in my arms, tell me that he was broken, and beg me to help him. I didn’t stay, not forever, but I did stay for a while, because I loved him, because I wanted it to work out, because his emotional vulnerability made me feel more responsible for his emotional well-being than my own. Mine is not an unusual story. Ours are not isolated incidents.”


Can we look our daughter in the eye, or a niece, little sister, best friend’s daughter, and imagine her choosing to be with a man like this? Tell me you didn’t turn away and cringe. Please, stop telling her that it’s OK to give up your dignity and safety because a man is attractive and you feel good being his personal Messiah. It never ends well outside of fiction.

Because our husbands need to know they’re enough.


Think about it a minute. When a woman bids her husband goodbye and heads out to the theater, consider what he’s feeling. You know, that man you promised to honor through everything life throws at you? Sorry, dude. You’re not exciting enough. You’re not good enough. You’re just not . . . enough.

Real Supermen? They do dishes. There is nothing sexier
than a man doing dishes.
In real life, a husband may work long hours, have dirt or grease under his fingernails, and forget about the baby spitup on his sleeve. He gets tired, cranky, and sick. In real life, there aren’t very many men with no real work to do, good looks that never get messed by playing with the kids or sweating through a car repair, and enough money to give a woman anything she desires.

Most husbands are normal, average guys trying to do their best for their wives and keep their wedding vows in good and bad. Don’t tell them that’s not good enough. Ladies, that’s as good as it gets. That’s amazing. That’s a blessing from God, and don’t forget it.
It’s not only the NFL culture that turns a blind eye to domestic violence. It’s our culture as a whole when we take the same real thing that happened in a elevator and put it in a bedroom story and call it entertainment. It’s not harmless. It’s not fiction. And it’s totally our call whether we want our daughters to believe the myth or not. I choose not.

selling our daughters at the Super Bowl

And now, for those who care–which would definitely not include me–we know the participants for Superbowl 2014. I won’t be watching. The Bears are not playing. Although my three-year stint living in Seattle does at least give me a team to root for. 


Its advent reminds me of a conversation I heard almost a year ago while watching my daughter in gymnastics. I doubt much will have changed this year. But one can hope.

Interesting conversation among parents at the gym aren’t unusual. Eaversdropping, especially for a writer, is almost required. Not surprisingly, the talk that week spun around the Superbowl halftime show. I mean, what else do people have to talk about on a snowy Monday night for 2 1/2 hours while waiting for our daughters to finish learning forward rolls and back handsprings and hurtling themselves at immoveable objects?


The ladies were noncommittal. “So, what’d you think of Beyonce?” 
“Well, you know . . . she sure can dance.” 
“Yeah.”
“But it was kind of . . . I don’t know. What did you think?”
“Uh huh. Lots of people weren’t too happy.”


Then one of the dads jumped in. “I thought it was great. I didn’t have a problem with it. Loved that dancing. But hey, I’m a guy. So, it’s just OK with me, you know?” 


The moms smiled, shrugged, and went back to watching the window. I couldn’t gauge their opinion.  


Meanwhile, his daughter performed cartwheels out on the gym floor just past that pane of glass. My daughter was there, too, learning giants on the uneven bars, a skill she had feared and now loved. I put my daughters in this sport partly because I knew, in a world that would attack their body image cruelly, gymnastics would teach them that those bodies were strong and capable. 


I wanted to ask. I really did. So, random guy, if your daughter out there started performing Beyonce’s dance moves instead of flips, would it be just OK with you? If she came home and informed you she had a new role model that no longer involved Olympic medals but gyrating lady parts in Victoria’s best secret, would that be just OK with you? 

I’m sorry–I didn’t quite hear your answer.


I’m guessing not. But if not, the message you’re communicating to her on Sunday staring at the TV isn’t matching up with the one you’re paying big bucks for on Monday. And I hate to tell you this, but little girls and big girls alike don’t have a hard time figuring out which message will get them adoration faster.


“But hey, I’m a guy.” Said like it’s some kind of an excuse for having a lesser moral compass than the average not-guy. Which is, if you ask me, a giant insult to guys everywhere who do seem to know the difference between their brains and their other body parts. 


Still, why does it matter? It’s just a show, just an opinion. It doesn’t mean anything.


Unless it does. The US Attorney General estimates that over 10,000 women and girls are forcibly brought to the Superbowl each year to be sold, up to fifty times a day, for the pleasure of “guys.” Some of them are twelve years old. About the age of this guy’s daughter. 


While Beyonce sells sex on the field, pimps sell it in the shadows. We create a difference in our minds, to make us feel better about enjoying the show, but there is no difference to those girls. As long as we’re “just OK” with a culture that teaches our girls their bodies have a market value and our boys that girls are available solely for their pleasure, we’ll continue to be OK with selling children and women. And for some reason, we never seem to connect that with our daughters on the other side of that window, whom we believe aren’t touched by it. 


This kind of in-human trafficking, using women and young girls like disposable sex toys, won’t stop as long as guys are just OK with “being guys.” 


The enslavement of women and girls around the globe will not end as long as guys are just OK with “being guys.” 


The chances of your daughter being sexually, physically, and/or verbally abused will continue to escalate as long as guys are just OK with “being guys.” 


Yes, women can and should play a huge part in ending this. But ultimately, it’s men who must step up and not hide behind “being guys.” It’s men who have to say, “That could be my daughter, wife, sister. It’s not just OK.” It’s men who need to stop being guys and start being men. 


And in the meantime, sir, do you happen to have a son at this gym, too? If so, keep him away from my kid. She’s been taught that her body is strong and capable. I’d hate to see him get hurt.