Forget sex. Religion is the really thorny issue.
I’m afraid it’s the tricky issue of religion today, folks. And the even trickier issue of how to parent two children with entirely different religious views, neither of them matching your own.
I’m not religious, and am undecided on What It’s All About. I have a vague idea of Something Out There, but have no idea what it is and am happy to wait and see. Or not, as the case may be.
I’m quite happy for everybody else to do their thing, whatever it might be, as long as they let me do mine, fuzzy and haphazard as it is. I used to have a pathological nun-phobia, caused by a frenzied attack of unsolicited Catholicism when I was in hospital giving birth, but am happily over that now. Am now able to watch whole sections of The Sound of Music without trying to burn myself at the stake.
I’ve always thought that it’s not something I need to teach my children as such – rather that they should be exposed to different ideas and then let them make up their own minds. Sounds very straightforward, right? Hah!
Enter Exhibit A. Son Conor, age 14, Views with a capital VAH. Entirely unimpressed with it all, a cynical conspiracy-theorist, perched precariously on the agnostic fence but leaning more towards the resolute heathen. Grumpier and more likely to scoff than me, but fine, I can deal with that. Just have to teach him the fine art of shutting up when he might offend.
Exhibit B. Daughter Layla, age 7. She’s the thorny one. With her, the mandatory Bible Ed lessons seem to have stuck. And that should be fine with me. Except that she asks difficult questions that I don’t have the right answers to. Like the one at 5 years old: “Mommy, are you a Christian? Because my teacher said that if you’re not a Christian, you’re going to hell”. (Nice one, preschool teacher, thank you very much). And the more recent thoughtful musings in the Father Christmas vein, like “Do you really think God exists ” etc.
She is very young, a long way from forming her own concrete opinions, but for now, wherever it comes from – she considers herself a Christian and believes in all the things that I don’t. So how do I answer her questions about my own messy beliefs without contradicting her and making her feel like she’s wrong? For all I know, she could be right. We’re caught between Teacher Said and Mommy Said and mommy wants to be a tad more sensitive than teacher was. When she asks me if her hamster has gone to heaven, the best I have to offer is “Maybe he has, what do you think?” which is pretty weak when you’re 7 and looking for answers from the person who is supposed to know everything.
So I’m stuck. I can’t lie and pretend to believe what she does, that feels wrong. Yet the more I prattle on vaguely and tactfully about different people believing different things and so on, the more doubt I instil in her. And that’s not what I want to do, if she needs something different than me.Then again, I could be overthinking this. Ideas, anybody? A lil help?