"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

All I Needed to Know about Theology I Learned at the Park

(Above, Samuel, Maia, and Ruth at parallel play in the sandbox)
I meant to write this blog back in April. That was the time when all of my classmates and I were scrambling to get our papers finished for the semester. It's the time of the year when I always joke that the reason they give grad students the offices without windows is so that we don't defenestrate. One nice, sunny day in April I had the opportunity to take Maia to the park, and it brought upon me the following reflection.

Whereas usually I bemoan the advantages of my childless classmates, on this particular day I was feeling the distinct advantage of being a theologian mom. Let's admit it: unless you have a kid, there's just no reason why a busy grad student should spend two and a half hours at a park watching kids dig in the sand. Yes, my childless classmates had absolutely no excuse for not sitting in their crowded, windowless, caves of offices typing away on their computers for ten hours straight in the midst of a beautiful day. Meanwhile, I had several excuses, not the least of which was spending time with my daughter. Add to that the fact that my husband was teaching class at the time, not to mention the benefit of a mid-day work-out, and my spending two and a half hours at the park was completely defensible.

One problem with the life of academia is that it doesn't really provide breaks. Perhaps the pace slows in the summer, but I certainly wouldn't call it a "break." Nor would I call spring "break" a break; that's crucial researching time and grading time. And, let's be honest, there aren't really "weekends" when you're a graduate student. There are simply pressing deadlines and more pressing deadlines. But one great thing about having a kid is that it makes you take breaks.

I think my time at the park often serves as little "mini-sabbaths," if you will. It's a time where my brain can lie fallow and hence discover hidden insights. Ok, I'll admit that it helps that I often run into one of my classmates or his wife, both of whom are theologians (and whose children are pictured above). But our theological musings often have to do just as much with our children's behavior (sharing, not sharing, throwing sand, not throwing sand, etc.) than with the books we are reading.

When it comes to moral theology, I'm pretty obsessed by the idea of formation. And when it comes to park behavior, I'm also pretty obsessed by the idea of formation. Maia is learning to play every day. She is climbing, running, digging, swimming, swinging, talking, sharing snacks, and so on. She's using her imagination (at the moment, she's really into making "birthday cakes" out of sand), meeting strangers, and making friends. Occassionally kids are rude to her, and sometimes she trips and skins a knee. In her reactions to these events, as well as the positive events, Maia is forming habits and acquiring virtues.

Perhaps it is hyperbolic to say that "Everything I needed to know about theology I learned at the park." But I do think that watching Maia at play is ultimately beneficial for my theological education. It gives me pause to think about what life is really about... not so much the frantic work that goes into meeting a deadline, but the reason behind doing that work: the motivation of trying to live God's will and do God's work as a theologian mom.

Maia's Memoirs?

Yes, the life of a two-year-old is full of prohibitions. But I wonder if "NO!" should be my memoir, or hers? Actually, now that we finally have some decent weather, Maia has been spending a lot of time at the park... and hearing a lot less "NO!"s.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Update on Maia's Baptizing

I mentioned in a recent blog that Maia had taken to baptizing (or, perhaps we should say, pretending to baptize) her stuffed animals in the sink of her new toy kitchen. Last night in the tub, she began baptizing her rubber ducks, too, starting with Ms. Duck, who is the biggest. I was truly impressed when I started the Trinitarian formula and she completed it perfectly: "and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," while simultaneously pouring water on Ms. Duck's head.

My first thought was, hey, as long as she's in the tub, she might as well do full immersion baptism of the ducks. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Alexander Campbell, but a full immersion seems to make the most of the sacramental sign.
My second thought was, Maia's little baptizing habit could become a problem. What if she's sharing the tub with an unbaptized sibling, and she decides to baptize him or her? Once she gets the Trinitarian formula down, would that be a valid baptism?

My third thought was, it's probably best that I not teach her full immersion baptism, given the sibling scenario... or how she might interact with kids in the Orchardly Park wading pool this summer. What would I say - "No, she's not trying to drown your son, she's just baptizing him?"

So there you have it. I'm not encouraging full immersion for Ms. Duck after all. Not to mention she has already been baptized. Not to mention she's a large rubber duck.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Academic Complementarity

These days, "complementarity" is a word everyone loves to hate (or loves to love, in some cases). I won't enter into the debate here, but I will say that my husband and I seem to have some academic complementarity. My husband is awesome at doing footnotes. He loves footnotes- everything about them. He loves writing tangential comments, putting in passages in their original languages, and, of course citing texts. He has Turabian completely memorized, and can engage in quick comparison of other citation styles as well.

Last week, I was at the park with the toddler while the husband was checking my footnotes for my paper due that week. I thought I had been pretty footnote-conscious on this paper, so I assumed it would be an easy job for him. When I got the chance to check my cellphone (stored in the jogging stroller), I had more than a few missed calls from him. The message he left was pretty calm. He had a "few questions" about some of my footnotes. When I called him, however, he was a little frazzled. "Fairweather, 245. Do you think people will read your mind? You didn't even give a first name, much less a title! How am I supposed to find the other bibliographical information without even knowing the text?" I answered him, "Scholastic Miscellany: Anselm to Ockham," and threw in some appreciative and thankful comments for good measure.

Next he said, "What about your ibid. situation? You have an ibid. for Cavanaugh when the text is from Kelly Johnson's book! It looks like you reorganized the text without even looking at the footnotes!" "Yes," I told him, "that's exactly what I did, and I am so sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you so much for looking through my footnotes and catching that mistake." Then he said, "Well, when I read through the text, I thought, this is a good paper, but when I got to the footnotes, I couldn't help but start to get upset."

To which I responded, "That's exactly how I felt when I was editing your dissertation. All those long nights trying to re-place your misplaced modifiers...trying to make sense out of your page-long sentences..." etc., "It's almost as though I lose my footnotes concentrating on my text, and you lose your text concentrating on your footnotes."

Ahem. Academic complementarity? I think we make a good team. We not only help each other, but we inspire each other to work on our academic weaknesses.