Parenting with the Pastor: Screaming Goats and Generational Sin
My Thanksgiving day began with a discussion of generational sin and ended on the screaming goat note, but really, it's a better title the other way. It might seem random, but it isn’t far off from how most of our Thanksgivings tend to go. Throw in the occasional Turkey Trot and less than occasional mimosas, and that’s pretty much how the Champs (and the Champ hyphenated husband’s last name extensions) roll. We like to be consistently weird. At this point you might be wondering what all of this has to do with parenting. Stick with me people. The weird always has a point.
There were a few striking differences this year. Let me take you through our day. This was the first year I’ve ever made Thanksgiving dinner predominantly on my own. My husband, Geoff, was alongside for cleaning, mashed potatoes, gluten free biscuit making, and other things, so please know I don’t discount the team work involved. However, I’ve never made the majority of a Thanksgiving dinner, and never without being crowded by my family while we all make our own separate elements and step on each others’ feet. The mimosas and early morning 3 mile Turkey trot always increased the feet stepping and the length of time between when we said dinner would be ready and the time it was actually ready. (I definitely noticed the prep being a smoother process this year. My feet also remained safe and the lag in time was shorter, so perhaps the mimosas and early mornings were less than helpful?) Geoff, our kids, and I sat down at 2 pm with a fairly traditional meal, served on paper plates instead of my mom’s fancy dishes, and we all enjoyed our meals. We tried a bit of video chatting with my parents and sister, but that got very confusing and we really couldn’t hear with three different phones, so we all hung up and ate our meals in our own houses. I prayed over the meal, instead of my Dad, and the conversation was much quieter and less confusing.
However, as different as this year was, somethings invariably remained the same. My parents were available via video chat and I was still able to make my Dad incredibly uncomfortable by making jokes about the turkey neck and how it resembles another part of anatomy. There were plenty of “huh’s” and “what did you say?” moments over video chat, but that’s fairly typical due to certain people consistently forgetting to use their hearing aids (it is also possible that hearing aids are left out for the turkey anatomy joke moments). My parents walked me through prepping the turkey, which was different, and my dad gave me a moderate amount of crap for not making homemade rolls. Since he makes homemade rolls most years, this was new. We all showed off the desserts we made. I blamed my sister’s homemade rosemary bread for the judgement over our rolls out of a mix. Geoff, and I’m sure Vince, rolled their eyes at the Champ antics.
My Dad and I had a long conversation, early in the day, about generational sin. Having a theological and/or political discussion often accompanies our morning breakfast and then prep routine. Normally everyone is involved, from my Uncle Denny to my kid Ike, and we all squeeze our opinions in somewhere. This year, it was just my dad and I. I am going to expand on this a bit to share what we discussed because it’s in the title and it’s important. The conversation went like this: we both agreed that one of our country’s major sins is the systemic oppression and racism of all BIPOC. It began as a foundational sin, and became generational because we won’t name it, won’t acknowledge it publicly and/or in our history books, and we won’t repent of it and until we repent we are stuck as a nation. The narrative around Thanksgiving is inaccurate and racist. We’ve based it on a story of unity between pilgrims and First People. That first year may have included a feast of some sort, and it definitely included Squanto and his people being generous and helpful, but Squanto was eventually enslaved and genocide followed, and when the US became a country we embraced the idea of Manifest Destiny and shoved everyone else onto small spaces of land that got increasingly smaller as we got increasingly greedier. We shouldn’t have an official holiday celebrating that fact. Move the date, recognize the gratitude we should all feel at the end of Harvest season, and stop using racist narratives to prop up our ideals that were wrong in the first place. Thus concludes the overview of the morning’s discussion.
Let’s now move on to the second part of the title. You might ask how screaming goats enter into the day’s events. If you have to ask, put down your reading, watch the newest animated version of The Grinch, and come back. Someone brought up it’s brilliance early in the day. After the meal, when every one was a little punch drunk from too much food and a touch of exhaustion, my mother randomly texted “Screaming goat” in the family chat. I replied “Yay, screaming goats”, my mom said she couldn’t stop laughing, and we all, in our own houses and in our own times, watched The Grinch. Add in a laugh track from three different places and a few GIFs of screaming goats, and that was pretty much our day. Pie was had, of course, but no one needs to ask how much pie. There was one more text from my mom at bedtime that said “Zoom or what” and we all went to bed a little confused, but happy.
Let’s talk about what all of us has to do with parenting. Things aren’t always as consistent as we might like in our lives and in the lives of our kids, and kids like consistency. We’re constantly being told that kids need routine and structure and familiarity. That’s a little hard to come by lately. Additionally, there is an increasing awareness of how important it is to have conversations with our kids that resemble the one my dad and I had. Things won’t change in this country unless we talk about the sin of racism, acknowledge it, and change how we talk about it. So, despite the break in routine, some things have to change.
I have been telling my kids for years that Thanksgiving is a holiday with roots in racism and pain. What might seem like a fun and innocent story to my white kids, isn’t so fun and innocent for kids growing up with the knowledge that their people have been routinely abused and killed by this nation. And believe me, nobody wants to tell their kids that that US committed such grave sins and that we continue to commit them with our silence and celebrations. For a lot of us, the adorable, precious moments version of Thanksgiving with everyone sharing and eating is a much more comfortable story to tell. That doesn’t mean it’s the right story to tell.
This is where screaming goats come in. Once you’ve had the hard conversations, and had some time to process, you have to bring in fun. We all need humor and lightheartedness right now. It can’t be always be a party but that doesn’t mean a party like atmosphere shouldn’t at least make an appearance.
Let’s get our Aesop on now and wrap this up:
My parents haven’t always talked about the genocide of First People on Thanksgiving, but they have always made us aware of the fact that things aren’t equitable and fair. From an early age, we were taught that all of us working our way towards a more just future was essential, and that we had our part to play. They made mistakes, my husband, my son’s dad, and I have definitely made mistakes. We learn, we own up to those mistakes, and we move forward. And we enjoy the screaming goats as they come, because everyone needs some version of screaming goats to keep us all from giving up and giving in. I hope you all found a way to celebrate a time of gratitude and togetherness, I hope you all stayed safe, and I wish you all essential and joyful weirdness in the days to come.
The following picture is from a previous year. Everyone stayed home this year.