I’ve been having an interesting issue with my daughter this week. I have to admit, I’m not sure I’m handling it completely the right way, although I’m trying my best. But she’s dragged me into some unfamiliar territory, and I’m not certain how to navigate it all that well. I know some of you have kids, so if any of y’all have comments/advice to share, I’m open to accepting that. Feel free to post anything useful in the comments.
Here’s the deal:
My kid is a pre-teen, which means she’s over the whole Easter Bunny thing. We still do an Easter egg hunt for her every year, because she’s not yet over the chocolate goodies thing (and, come to think of it, neither am I). But recently, she’s been spending a fair amount of time with with a family who lives in our neighborhood. I actually know the family very well and like them a lot, and my kid is good friends with their kids. Now, one of those kids is about to have her first confession, which is a big deal for Catholics. My daughter has heard them talking all about the classes that must be taken and the preparation that must be done before this sacrament is celebrated, and the talk has piqued her interest.
So she began asking me about religion, and Catholicism in particular. She knows that I was born into a Catholic family, and that some of my family still practice the faith, and she wanted to know why we don’t celebrate Easter or attend church the way our neighbors do. I explained to her that, even though the family I was born into was Catholic, everyone has to come to their own decision about their faith. They may find they feel more comfortable with a different religion than the one they were raised with, or they may find they don’t feel comfortable with any one particular religion at all. I also told her why I’m not a practicing member of a particular church – mainly, the reason is that, after I started learning about other religions besides Catholicism, I realized that there were way too many different ideas about God for all of them to be right, and I didn’t know how anyone would “know” which one was “the right one” to follow. I explained that faith means exactly that – belief in something that you can’t necessarily prove, but something that you feel in your heart is true nonetheless. And I explained that I don’t have that sort of faith in any God in particular. I could have gone on about that, and at some length, but I figured that was enough for the purposes of our discussion.
My daughter wasn’t sure how to process this information. She has been OK with the idea of Easter being a family celebration up until now. But, after spending time with the neighbors and hearing their own traditions, she wonders if we should be “more religious” about it too. I decided that, since she was showing an interest, it would be a good time to break out a book I’d bought ages ago, in anticipation of the fact that I’d be sharing it with her when she was ready.
It’s called The Kids Book of World Religions, and it is a really good, objective and comprehensive collection of information about the many different faiths of people all over the world. I had always assumed we’d get into this discussion at some point. And when we did, I wanted her to hear from me that there were multiple belief systems, not just the one or two she always sees and hears about, and I wanted to present these to her in a non-judgmental way. This book does the job very well.
After we got into it a bit, she was definitely interested to find out more about the subject of religion. Still, she felt as if she was drawn toward Christianity in particular. Some of it was based on how her friend next door was discussing it with her. “It seems really nice that Angelina (the neighbor kid) has this whole confession to do, and she gets a dress and a party and she gets treated like a grown up more for being closer to God after she does it”. But beyond that, she was also interested in the Easter story, and she was asking if we could go to church this Easter.
Now, that one threw me for a loop, y’all. I haven’t set foot inside a church since my grandfather’s funeral a few years ago. Neither my husband nor I had any plans to attend any type of service any time soon, and only then if it was because we had a wedding, baptism or funeral to go to. I think it’s important to let my kid explore her questions about her own spirituality, but I also feel like some of this might be a temporary thing, based on how ‘cool” she thinks it is for her friend to be getting a dress, and a party, and fabulous cash prizes.
I ended up telling her that we would not be going to church this Sunday. As it happens, we are driving down to spend the day with my folks and my grandmother, so we would be hard-pressed to make a service and still get to their house on time. But in the meantime, I told my kid that we’d spend some more time learning about and discussing Jesus and Christianity, and other religions as well, so she can see if any of it makes sense to her. I have no problem doing that, and I want her to be satisfied that, if she feels a genuine pull toward some specific belief, she has the freedom to follow it. I also want her to know that it’s OK not to decide on a religion, or to decide that the concept of religion in general is not her thing. She will have to make her own way on this subject, just as I did. I expect it’ll be a while before she knows what seems right for her, but the process of figuring it out has to begin sometime, and for her, that time is now.
At least she’s still willing to do the egg hunt and share some of her candy with me. Her interest in learning about religion is something I can handle. But if she ever turned her back on Peeps and Cadbury, then I’d be truly concerned for her welfare. Not to mention my sweet tooth.