This post originally appeared on Oct. 13, 2011
One of the nice things about having a blog is that you get to think of something and then announce it like it has some sort of real meaning.
So today I decided Relax, It’s Just God is giving out its Coolest Mom Ever Award.
Before you send in your nominations, which you were never going to do but it makes me feel good to think that you would have, I should probably mention that a winner already has been named. She was chosen — completely subjectively and based entirely on emotion — by me, on Monday afternoon at 1:20 p.m.
Here’s how it happened:
I was standing under a shade tree in front of my kid’s kindergarten classroom, waiting for class to be dismissed and chatting with one of the other moms, whose name is Erin. At some point during our chat, Erin mentioned to me, sort of off-handedly, that her 5-year-old, Jaiden, is obsessed with learning Mandarin.
Finding that rather unusual, I asked for the back story.
This is what she told me:
In August, Jaiden was in a swimming class with a few other children, including a Chinese-American girl, whom he befriended. As the classes drew to a close, the little girl’s mom invited Jaiden to join their church’s Vacation Bible School. Jaiden desperately wanted to go with his new friend, so Erin agreed to check it out.
Unbeknownst to either of them, however, the church in question turned out to be a Chinese Baptist church full of Chinese Baptist people. And about the time Erin began wondering whether this was really the best fit for Jaiden, the little boy was being happily ushered off to his first activity.
Now, let me say this: Neither Erin nor her husband are particularly religious. He was raised Catholic, but isn’t practicing. She considers herself somewhat nonreligious, having been raised in a family that, as she put it, “changed religions like underwear.”
But here was Jaiden, attending a Chinese Baptist church — and loving every minute of it. In fact, he was so taken with the whole thing that, once Vacation Bible School ended, he asked to be enrolled in the church’s Youth Ministry class AND its Sunday School class, and insisted the whole family attend the church’s weekly sermon and luncheon. All told, Jaiden would be committing three and half hours of every Sunday to the Chinese Baptists.
Did I mention that this family already has a lot going on? Jaiden has two younger siblings: a very active 3-year-old brother and a baby sister with Down Syndrome.
And did I also mention that, while the lunch is comprised of a mouth-watering assortment of Chinese food, the sermons themselves are sometimes in Mandarin with really shitty English translation?
“We’re the only ones in the whole congregation who aren’t Chinese,” Erin said, and then laughed. “It’s tough. It’s tough.”
“How often do you go?” I asked.
“Every Sunday,” she said. “Every Sunday since August.”
And that’s when I knew.
“You,” I said, “are the Coolest Mom Ever.”
My sister is fond of this one monologue in the movie Lars and the Real Girl, in which Lars, who is in love with an anatomically correct sex doll named Bianca, is confronted by his sister-in-law.
“Every person in this town bends over backward to make Bianca feel at home,” the sister-in-law says. “Why do you think she has so many places to go and so much to do? Because of you! Because all these people love you! We push her wheelchair. We drive her to work. We drive her home. We wash her. We dress her. We get her up, and put her to bed. We carry her. And she is not petite, Lars. Bianca is a big, big girl! None of this is easy for any of us, but we do it. We do it for you.”
Now I’ll admit that a Chinese Baptist church is not the same as a mail-order whore doll. Nor is Jaiden all that similar to a deeply troubled but affable 30-year-old. But still. The sweetness is the same — because both situations answer the same question: How far would you go to actively support the happiness of someone you love, even if you don’t fully understand it yourself?
Every single Sunday, this couple with so much going on dresses up their children, and themselves, and marches off to listen to an hour-plus-long sermon they don’t always understand, eat lunch with people they don’t know, and celebrate a faith that isn’t theirs.
None of this is easy for any of them, but they do it. They do it for Jaiden. They do it because they love Jaiden.
So, Erin, if you’re out there somewhere, you are officially RIJG’s Coolest Mom Ever. Congratulations, and keep up the good work.
Or, as they say in Mandarin: 恭喜你, 保持良好的工作。
A brief postscript: I ran into Erin about a year later and asked her whether they were still attending the Chinese Baptist Church. She said no, that they had finally stopped. “Why?” I asked. ”Jaiden just didn’t want to go anymore,” she said. “I think he eventually got sick of eating Chinese.”