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.   


Erin said...

Such an interesting topic for me! As I think we've perhaps discussed, we have similar backgrounds but now are definitely not involved in any way with the church. I honestly wish we could avoid it more completely, but obviously Christianity has a way of infiltrating everyday life in this country and that is what it is. Our daycare provider clearly discusses religion with Annie (probably at her urging honestly) and she definitely believes anything that anyone tells her (except for, apparently, what I tell her ;) - whenever she asks me a question, I am very quick to answer honestly about what *I* believe, and to always caveat it with "everyone believes something a little different, and that's okay" - and then she says "Well *I* believe in Jesus!" and I say, that's great! :) So far we have not had any requests to go to church, but if that happens we'll do our best to find something for her. Her Grandmas are MORE than willing to take that on for us too :)

Jodi said...

Very interesting - it's always interesting to see what people do about church especially given their upbringing. I was brought up Lutheran and was fine with it - kind of fell away from it in college and first married, but vowed to get back into it when we had kids. We're pretty good about going to church regularly (at least in the winter), Allie goes to Sunday School and we chose a Christian preschool as well. It's something that I want the kids to grow up with but totally agree about the brainwashing. Allie has started to ask a lot of questions and I don't always know the answers nor know how to phrase it for a young kid. I don't want to infiltrate her with *my* beliefs, especially if I have some facts wrong, so I just defer to Sunday School to teach her the stories and we can go from there. I did laugh the other day when we were going to church (after having been off for a couple weeks) and Allie asked me to remind her brother what to do at church - I started saying about him being quiet and stuff and she said, no mom - you have to tell him about JESUS because that's what church is about. Then, she went on to tell him that Easter is NOT about candy and baskets, it's about God and Jesus and that she loves BOTH God and Jesus. Hahahahahahah

Megan said...

Yes!! The part about how we are grown ups and get to decide!! I was raised Lutheran. Husband catholic. We are members of a Lutheran church mostly BC when we were trying to decide I questioned him on many of the "why do they do ___" and he said he didn't know. I don't thhink it makes sense to participate in something when you have no idea why you are doing it! But yes, I have learned to let go of the guilt/pressure put on by family. We send our kid to Sunday school when we are around. We attend church when we are around. But as you know, with a 2 &4 yr old I spend my time silently entertaining then. I walk away frazzled & exhausted and usually have no ides what the readings or sermon were about. Haha. But I know they learn by sitting through it too. I think following their lead is ultimately the best way to go. Forcing anyone to do anything generally doesn't work out very well!

Betsy said...

We are so happy we decided to send Isla to a Christian preschool! We are terrible about going to church so I love that her school picks up our slack and has given her a good Christian foundation Plus, kiddos singing Happy Birthday to Jesus at Christmas time, and Jesus Loves Me at school concerts...there is nothing more precious! :)

Val said...

Yeah, complicated. Grandma thinks of God with a female pronoun.

How could God ever be one or the other?

I understand God had to be male and Jesus in that culture and time.

But it feels way more complicated than this.

I do love this: How Mark was able to impart his stamp of Christian belief on my kids so that they have faith, that buoyancy of faith, without any icky attachments to earth-binding RULES.

It's what want for them all.

Where we go from here now?

Hoping and wondering. love you, Val

Lisa said...

Super interesting, buddy. I relate so much to this, even without children. While I mostly enjoyed my Catholic upbringing, I hated the guilt that I grew to know well when I wasn't attending mass regularly. But you're right, we are adults now, and get to prioritize and choose what we want to do. And now when I do go (usually to Lutheran service), I actually enjoy it because I chose to go. And frankly, their music and services are more interesting. :)

The stories about Gus are just precious. Picturing you all holding hands and singing before dinner just makes me smile. Love. And LOL that Dan suggested that God is maybe neither or both genders to an almost that went over well. ;)

Julia Goolia said...

Very interesting topic--Love the boys' take on God and Jesus. We get some pretty interesting questions over here, too, and I definitely feel myself bracing for the 'big' questions that lie ahead.

I admire people who suck it up and go to church nearly every Sunday. It just seems to be so freaking exhausting to actually accomplish such a feat! But agree that going to church is not the only way to have faith/religion in our lives.

Great post!

Suzi said...

This is great! Kellen asks to go to church quite often, but we just haven't been able to make it there in a while. I think he just wants to play in the nursery with all the cool trucks, but yeah, it's a difficult topic. And I am still chuckling about the conversation I had with your adorable boys the other day.

K Frer said...

I couldn't find a contact link, so I'll just leave this here! I'm sure you've heard of it, but there's a get to know you kind of survey going around, and I thought you might want to participate. I've enjoyed getting to know you since your moms make it work post, so I thought I'd do sort of a tag-back. My post is here: You're welcome to participate or not, no pressure!