Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Religion and kids

I grew up Catholic and Dan Lutheran.  I fell away from the Catholic church after college, I suppose, when some of the big causes and issues the church took on over the last decade were things I very much opposed and felt strongly about on the other side of things.  Oh and all of the hypocrisy that was getting harder to ignore.  I started to look at religion very differently.

We joined a Lutheran church as a family a few years ago but definitely haven't been the best about making it a priority.  This is probably due to a number of things, but primarily because Gus was an absolute animal last year at three years old, and we couldn't get through Sunday school without some major meltdown or disruption or embarrassment.  I started to dread it and feel a lot of anxiety about the whole thing.  And Sundays are our family days and we hated spending so much of it managing children and scolding and fretting over their behavior.

Easter Sunday with their cousins
And you know what?  We are the grown-ups now, so we get to decide how involved we are in the church.  We get to choose our priorities.  Life is too short to do things out of guilt or some sense of obligation, and as much as I do value my Christian upbringing and how it shaped me, we have to do what feels right at the time.

I don't want to make some big statement here about organized religion and what it means to raise children of faith.  I'm not sure I have quite wrapped my head around it all, and what we're going to do as the kids get older.  I just want to say, that at this age, raising littles, I find it all very sweet and innocent and lovely.  A little bit goes a long way, and that's what Gus is getting at a Christian preschool.  We have Gus's school to thank for bringing it back into our house in small ways over the past year. I think talking about how Jesus loves you no matter what and that we should show kindness and understanding for others the way God does for us is pretty much exactly the amount of religion we need in our family right now.

It's been good for us.

Led by the boys, we now hold hands and sing a prayer every night at dinner, a prayer Gus learned at preschool and taught all of us one evening.  Louie LOVES it.  He closes his eyes at the direction of his big brother and sways back and forth like Stevie Wonder.  It is hilarious and brings so much joy to Dan and I.  I've always loved the ritual part of religion, so it makes sense that praying at dinnertime is one part of all of this that works for us right now.

Gus has so many questions for us, for which I am never quite sure how to answer, though he almost always is quick to accept whatever I say as fact. (Which is my primary issue with religion at this age, it can feel like brainwashing when the children are so young and naive and innocent, oh their spongy little brains.  That part gives me the ick.)

The questions and conversations we have are just so funny though.  And they seemingly come out of nowhere.

Gus: "Jesus is my best friend, mom."

Me: "Really buddy?  Since when?  Well, that's very sweet."

Gus: "Yeah, but mom?  Who is Jesus?"

The other day at the park, he even talked to Suzi about it, same thing:

Gus: "Jesus is my best friend."

Louie: "Yeah, he's our best friend, but he always takes away all our toys."


At dinner the other night:

Gus: "Let's play Jesus.  I'll be God.  You can be Mary, Mom.  Dad, you're Joseph.  And Louie is baby Jesus."

Me: "What if I want to be God?"

Gus: "God is a BOY, mom."

Dan: "Not necessarily.  Some people would beg to differ.  Maybe he's neither?  A little of both?"

Gus: "God is a boy."

I'm guessing these conversations are only going to get more complicated, but it is a much preferred dinner conversation over discussions of butts and diarrhea (another current favorite), so I'm going to have to try to step up my game.