I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all, I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
The Incredible Hulk. Is he a goody or a baddy? A big green and barbarous superhero, the angrier he gets the more powerful he becomes. Over the years Hulk has been portrayed with an array of personalities, from brutal barbarian to brilliant warrior and poor Hulk’s true identity has been lost along the way, having been manipulated and moulded by the minds of all sorts of comic crazies and superhero artists. I’ve never been a big hulk follower myself, the little I saw of Hulk growing up was perhaps a glimpse of him whilst my big brother marvelled at the TV.
With so many characters in life, whether it be real or fictitious, the truth of their nature can often be thwarted. The creators of The Incredible Hulk found inspiration from Frankenstein and with such characters we know there is so much more than what meets the eye. Shelly’s horror story is more than a horror story, it is a poignant tale of a beautifully intelligent and complex man that was shunned from society because he was misjudged and misunderstood. His super strength, heightened sensitivity and ugliness horrified the people so much that he ran for his life and with a tormented heart found refuge in the wilderness.
Could it be said that too often as a society we have stifled the gift in some incredible people? In fear of how they might have appeared and behaved we have shunned them and supressed the very thing that they were made to become. Especially children. What at first appears to be a horror in actual fact turns out to be something bright, brilliant and beautiful, but the vital tool to this metamorphosis is the gentle nurturing of these incredibly precious and delicate little lives.
When I look at my incredible son and I see his eyes wild and sparkling with the gift within him, excitement wells within me as I revel in the thoughts God shows me about his future. It breaks my heart to think that If this little man in front of me was born into the wrong family such mighty gift could have been snuffed out, boxed in, or even worse, beaten out of him.
The name of my firstborn son means ‘to rest’, I have often laughed out loud at the sheer irony of this truth because if you know him he is the most spirited and exuberant little character you might ever meet. He takes his imagination and physical exertion to a whole new level of genius! Hulk Smash can bite the dust when my boy comes to town!
I’m unashamedly proud of my little man’s gift to lead and live fearlessly. Granted, with this excellence has come tears, sweat and blood and has without doubt served to be (and will continue to be) the painful refining of me, but I am so grateful and privileged to have been trusted to nurture and take responsibility of raising such an excellent little fellow. Perhaps patience and self control are the two fruits in me that I struggle to bear so on this rocky road of parenting, I have through gritted teeth ploughed through the last 5 years in a crazy haze of triumph and tribulation. When my little lion roars woe betide, hold your ears and run for cover!
Over the last 5 years of my little Hulk entering the world we have had two very good quality plasma TV’s broken, and many an expensive toy ruined, such as the full sized Buzz Light Year pretty much broken within a few days of purchase, and bought in one of those moments where you (or perhaps just us) gave in to the blitz that became him, when he catastrophically coveted what his cousin had and would not and could not get the thought of Buzz out of his mind. My husband and I went to Infinity and beyond and Toys R Us as soon as physically possible. What is more, I’ve had my fair share (or unfair share) of being punched and kicked and not to mention the scribbled walls, decorated radiators, broken stair gates, bath tub and a daily splattering of food up the walls and in the carpet. Yep, and that’s just to mention a few…I am humbly learning the art of holding material things less tightly. There really is no point in having anything precious in my house apart from people! And that is where the line is drawn and he must sit on the bottom stair and have a think about why it is wrong to hurt another human being.
Thankfully, the public meltdowns are few and far between these days but I will never forget the terrible time we had on a bus journey home one day. I can’t even remember exactly what he was enraged about (probably ice-cream related as a tank full of tears is stored in heaven on this topic) but he lay prostrate in the bus aisle at a horribly hot and busy time of day and many a grey head shook in disapproval at the apparent disobedience displayed before them. One grumpy old man tutted and spluttered that I should “give him a good smack” there and then. At this point, I pulled him up and gave him a big long hug and whispered in his ear that I would get him whatever he wanted as soon as we got off that blasted bus! I glared at the old man with eyes that said, “I will do the very opposite of your suggestion thank you very much”.
But to be honest, I have not always found it easy to be true to myself in public. The ridiculous urge to act more strict than I really am to please the people around me has sadly risen in me from time to time. It is so hard to be counter cultural and go against the overpowering expectation that children should be silenced and quick to obey and if they do not then they should be trained like dogs until they get it into their little heads.
However, I am praising God that by His gentle Spirit, I am becoming more gentle and learning to give my children the respect that they deserve, especially in the early years where it is now finally becoming more recognised and proven that developmentally children’s brains are not actually capable of empathy and impulse control (And if we are perfectly honest, this battle continues into adulthood). Sure my 4 and a half year old knows full well what is right and wrong, however when he sees red, in that very moment, I promise you come hell and high water that thinking about the consequences is far from his raging mind.
When I lose it and scream like a fish wife not only is it not a pretty sight or sound, but i’m left feeling saddened and empty and realising on reflection that if I had just dealt with the situation calmly and often in the opposite emotion to what my child is feeling then I am not only modelling to him a better way but connecting with him and helping him to help himself. Yes, I guess we can condition our children through fear of punishment but my question is, does God do this to us? Or rather does he let us suffer the natural consequences of our foolish actions? Sure He tells us what is wrong and shows us a better way, but is he aggressive or is he patient, loving and kind, always protecting, trusting, hoping, persevering, never failing?
Oh how merciful, compassionate and slow to anger is our loving God and my ultimate prayer is to parent in the way my Father in heaven parents me. He doesn’t shame me. Sure, I feel the shame, but that in turn is just a warm and open invitation to be intimate with him. I want my boys to know that no matter what they have done wrong they can turn to me and know that I have forgiven them. I don’t want them to fear punishment and retribution because I do not believe my God is a punishing God. He corrects and he connects and I will do everything i can to do the same, in passionate faith that the gift within them is being stirred.
My little Hulk is a brilliant warrior and for every demand he makes will be a man of high standards, for every uproar a zestful voice to be heard, for every argument a respectful man of his word, for every lie a man of great integrity, every distraction a brilliant perception and for every meltdown a wild and wonderful man after God’s own heart.
So what’s my point? My point is, to every parent out there that like me has felt at some time along the way like Dr Frankenstein, and gone to bed at night feeling out of your depth and in total despair at what on earth you have made, and what on earth to do with this little barbarian runing wild and pressing your every button (even the ones you didn’t know were there). My cry to you is keep going! You are doing a brilliant job! And although correction and connection is a vital tool to have to shape our little ones, let us do what our Incredible God does so well; in all His glory he sees past the rebellion and through the blood of his son He makes a masterpiece out of us.
My prayer is for our children to be seen and heard, to raise their voices and no longer be silenced. For their big feelings to be understood and for their views to be respected. We can learn so much from these little people. In fact, Jesus says be like one of these little ones because the Kingdom of God belongs to them.
Like in the words of Mary Shelley, my little Hulk with all his love and rage is a brilliant boy and will grow to be a mighty man and no power of hell will stop him.