Dinnertime is important to me. We almost always sit at the table for dinner, and it’s during these times that we have some of our best conversations. As no topic is really off-limits in my house, dinner table topics range from “how was your day?” to politics, religion, and genetic research. We were discussing religion when Matt announced that he was a Buddhist.
“I’m a Buddhist,” he said between bites. He didn’t notice the sudden strangled, confused silence around him. His brothers and I were speechless, and those comments his brothers might have made were bitten back because of the sharp look I shot them.
Matt is not….
Matt is…. Well, Matt is passionate. He feeeels, strongly, and frustrates quickly. He feels strongly especially when he believes he has been wronged or insulted, and then, boy, does he come out swinging.
Boychild has a temper, and this is part of the reason I pulled him out of school and homeschooled him for almost two years. His temper and quick frustration mixed with ADHD made it important for me to temporarily slow things down for him and teach him the skills he needed to keep his head from popping off; to understand his nature and learn ways to maximize his positive, minimize his negative. He worked hard and he did so well, and the boy I sent back to school last year is a sweet guy who knows how to cool his jets and breathe deeply. Most of the time.
His isn’t, however, the name that pops into your head when you think about prime candidates for Buddhism. At all. Like, that would never even occur to you. And so there was brief, heavily loaded silence when Matt revealed his inner Buddhist at dinner.
“You’re a Buddhist, buddy?” Asked Jake.
“Yeah,” said Matt, without looking up. Which was good, because the look on Jake’s face didn’t match the calm of his question. He looked as if, in the midst of laughing uproariously, someone had shoved a beachball up his nose. I think reigning in his disbelief was causing him pain.
“You’re a Buddhist,” Riley clarified. He wasn’t convinced.
“Yes, Ri.” A bit of an edge this time, and Matt looked up at Ri, challenging him.
Oh hell, here it goes, because the one raw button Matt still has is the one Riley’s finger knows how to push. Expertly.
“Matt, you are NOT a Buddhist!”
“Yes I am, Ri! I’m a Buddhist if I say I’m a Buddhist!”
“You hit me and threw your football at me before dinner! You’re not a Buddhist!”
“YES I AM! I AM A BUDDHIST, RILEY!”
And all three are tripping over each other’s words, fighting about who is a Buddhist and who is not.
“You THREW A FOOTBALL AT MY HEAD!
“THAT WAS BEFORE DINNER. NOW I’M A BUDDHIST!”
“Buddy, do you even know what a Buddhist is?” Asks Jake. Oh, cripes. Why? Why?
“BE QUIET JAKE!”
“I just asked!”
“He doesn’t know because he isn’t one,” adds Riley, helpfully.
“Enough.” I say. “E. NOUGH. First of all, if Matt wants to be a Buddhist, that’s great.”
“But he threw a football at my head!” Riley is half-amused, half angry. The intelligent part of him sees the absurdity of this moment, the emotional part feels it has gotten the short end of my parenting stick because of the focus on Matt, and he’s a bit resentful. He will probably always feel, as older siblings do, that his younger brother has gotten away with something; has gotten off easy.
I hold up my hand to forestall Matt’s response.
“Buddhists love football,” I say. ” They totally love it. I’m sure he threw the ball at your head peacefully. Like you do.” I get his resentment. I do, and Matt is going to have to understand that there is a reason his family is reacting this way.
“Matt does know about Buddhism, because we’ve read about it. ” Matt nods as I say this, his dignity slightly restored by my defense of him. “But Matt, Buddhism is a path and a process and takes practice, like anything else. And the reason we are all surprised to hear you say this is that we’ve seen a lot of your temper, ok? But I think you’d do great with it, just like you do great at everything else you put your mind to.”
He nods. We’ve had this discussion before; that we can go forward but it will take time for our memories to completely fade. I’m proud of how graciously he accepts this.
“If you want to be a Buddhist,” I continue,” I can get you some more books on it, and I’ll help you, OK?
“I’m going to be a Buddhist,” he says with authority, and Riley snorts with derision.
“Stop.” I say to Ri. “A passionate person can be deeply spiritual and peaceful, and someone like Matt might really do well with Buddhism, so don’t be like that, Riley.”
I have no doubt that what I’m saying is true. If Matt wants to be a Buddhist, he will end up making the Dalai Lama look like an unhinged violent reactionary by comparison.
Matt will be the most f***ing passionately calm Buddhist, ever, damn it!