It has taken nearly four years, but it has begun to happen - the subject of religion. In case you're unaware or can't remember, I'm an atheist, and the hubby is a non-denominational Christian. One of the awesome things about the hubby is that we have an agreement - we don't step on each others' toes when it comes to religion. The other awesome thing about the hubby and religion is that he's totally against organized religion and instead takes a more spiritualist approach to religion. I, being an atheist, am also against organized religion, so we end up having some awesome discussions on the matter. But remember: he's a believer, and I'm not. And we have an almost-four-year-old. And let's not forget our respective families. My mom and sis are devout Catholics who go to church religiously (ha - pardon the pun). My dad is agnostic, though I think he's an in-the-closet atheist, but he doesn't butt into these things. Probably better that way. My in-laws are Presbyterian, who, while they don't go to church regularly, still do make a regular enough appearance at church and are fairly involved in their church. PK's eldest cousin has started attending Sunday school semi-regularly. I am out-numbered.
The hubby and I decided a long time ago that if we were to have children, we would expose said children to each of our beliefs, and never bad-mouth the other person's beliefs. I still stand by that belief, and so does the hubby. But it's easier said than done. Especially when you have a parent who claims that god exists, while the other claims that god does not exist.
PK's exposure to religion started during our trip to Aruba. As with every hotel, there was a copy of the Bible in the nightstand drawer. (There also happened to be a copy of the Book of Mormon, but I digress.) The hubby took the opportunity to tell PK the story of Noah's Ark. I don't even remember why he chose Noah's Ark - I'm sure it was related to something that PK had said or seen. Maybe it was because we were going on a sunset sail later that evening. Whatever it was, he told her the story. PK listened intently. The hubby explained to her who god was, and all that jazz. I sat there, and said nothing. It was not my place to say anything. I would've ended up sounding like a bitchy heckler, after all.
The next day, while I had PK in the pool, I told her how mommy and daddy have different beliefs. Daddy believes in god, along with both sets of grandparents, and both sets of aunts and uncles. I also told her that mommy did not believe in god. I also tried to explain to her that it's okay for us to have different opinions on the existence of god, though at her age, I think it's a hard subject to grasp. She went on to say that she didn't believe in god either. I suspect that such a declaration wasn't genuine, as she tends to like to adopt the opinions of those around her at this moment, so it's sometimes tough to tell what's her opinion versus what's her just following the pack.
Today, as we walked to school, the topic came up again. It came up because yesterday, we were supposed to meet up with a friend of hers, Will, for our weekly climb. Unfortunately, Will couldn't make it because his grandfather had died that morning. So this morning she was talking about how when Will and his mommy die, they would meet Will's grandpa in his house. Say what?
So I asked PK where she got that idea from. While PK is incredibly creative, I doubt that she would've dreamed up this scenario on her own. And then she started talking to me about god and how god created everyone. And I went on to explain that some people believe that, but others don't, including mommy. She went on to say that she did. And I, being the eternal skeptic asked, "How do you know? Have you seen god?". To which she responded, "No. I just know."
I guess I should've just dropped it there, but I'm stubborn. I again re-iterated that some people believe in god, and others don't. And that it's okay to believe in one thing or another, but that I just wanted her to make an informed decision before deciding either way. I realize that this is obviously too much for an almost-four-year-old to process, but I felt that I just had to say it. It's only fair, I think. Since she was going on about how god created people, I thought it fitting to introduce PK to the Big Bang theory. And how people are made of stardust. It certainly mesmerized her, but I wonder if it confused the crap out of her.
It's fine that the hubby teaches her about god. He has every right. Just the same as I can share my views with PK. As the years go by, I do stress, however, that this may turn into a point of contention. One parent believes. The other doesn't. I suspect it would be easier if one of us were Christian and the other Jewish. At least, for all intents and purposes, it's the same god. But this...this is so totally different. Our beliefs are like polar opposites. They are so different that we need to be careful so as not to offend one another. I know that there are certain opinions/views that I have to keep to myself, because they are terribly offensive to my theist friends. And I know that I have to be very careful with my wording about god to as to not give PK the impression that my beliefs are better than the hubby's. Just as he must do the same.
I can kind of get why ultimately, so many parents of different religions end up "consolidating" their beliefs for the sake of the children. It IS a terribly confusing subject matter. And very deep and philosophical. It's easier to consolidate than to have to try to explain why daddy follows this ritual and mommy does not. Why mommy believes that when you die, your corpse rots in the ground, while daddy believes that everyone meets up in heaven. It's tough. It's complicated, and nobody wants to deal with it. But I believe that we all have a right to believe in what we want. And we all have the right to respect each others' beliefs. And I think it's a total cop-out to convert for the sake of the kids. What does it say about the beliefs of the parent converting? I think it's a far greater lesson to show your child that there are options out there and that mommy and daddy don't always agree on stuff. Most importantly, it teaches kids that it's okay to question beliefs. Who knows. PK might choose to believe in something totally different. I may not agree with what she chooses, but at least if I know that she chose it because she questioned her own convictions and found the beliefs that best suited her, then I guess the hubby and I have done a good job. As long as she doesn't come back telling me that she has embraced Scientology. Then I think that an intervention is in order.
Raising A Screen Smart Kid in The New York Times
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