Call me Tisiphone, Megaera. or even Alecto.
Sometimes I wish I were a goddess- the classical kind- filled with strength, truth, beauty, justice, power (rounded out by patience and humor). But I’m not.
When I most resemble a deity it is as The Furies. Not just one, but all three. The legends vary but the women are described as having serpents entwined in their hair, eyes that dripped with blood, wings of bats. In some tales they were born children of Nyx- the night. And their role here on Earth was to punish the wicked unceasingly and without pity.
Not, I assure you, a pretty sight.
There are plenty of childhood antics that lead us to frustration, exasperation, even desperation. Yet in my very unscientific survey of casual-conversations-with-friends, nothing, not one other act, whips us up like offspring squaring off against one another. Squabbling. Bickering. Arguing.
Why do The Furies erupt within us at the sight of our children fighting? Why, when we hear playful banter escalate to painful tears do we reach an internal temperature rivaling the sun’s? What is going on?
I think it is both simple and complex. Child One instigates. Child Two retaliates. The scenario plays out in mind-numbing repetition over and over and over and over again. Maybe with the slight variation of the players switching roles. Even though their behaviors makes us mad, this is the simple part.
The complex piece? I think the true Fury is aimed at ourselves. We are the wicked, and the ceaseless punishment is pointed at our tender vulnerabilities. It is fury masking fear. Fear that somehow all of our hard work- our blood, our sweat, our tears, and most of all, our love isn’t enough. Fear that as parents we are failing.
Yes, we worry when kids aren’t learning to read, or ride a bike, or tie a shoe. But our well of patience is deep. We know these tasks take practice. Learning to be kind, generous and respectful do, too. No one behaves perfectly. We help our children untangle the knots of shoelaces, we can teach them how to untangle feelings. Slowly, with understanding, we can model how to resolve conflict, stand up for ourselves, exit a situation. And just as we keep an eye on wayward laces that threaten to trip us up and fall, we can watch over our children as they practice communicating, stepping in before there is harm.
It all sounds good. So easy. So straightforward. So manageable…but…what about The Furies?
As the stories tell, it was Athena who helped transform The Furies from avengers to The Graces. The Goddess of Wisdom called to them again and again and again, and finally, finally they relented. And changed. The same can be true for us. It will take practice to bank the fires of Fury and enter the peace of trust. We are benevolent. We are compassionate. We are wise. The children we love, despite the moment’s evidence to the contrary, are loveable and filled with love. And we are, too. We are enough.
Athena, where art thou? If you see her…keep me posted.