My awesome dad visited us recently for the weekend. Conservatively religious man that he is, I know it pains him that my children don't have formal religious experiences. And I know that he must have lots of worries about my soul and the souls of our three, unbaptized, boys but he doesn't really ever say that and I'm grateful to him and I am also pretty impressed with that. I often remind myself that it must take a lot for my dad and my mom (though they are divorced) to hold their tongues when they see me living a lifestyle so counter-culture to religious indoctrination. I would like to think that they see me as a good person who's doing a pretty darn good enough job at bringing up their grandboys and so they are resigned to hold back. That doesn't stop them, however, from indoctrinating those grandboys.
I have pretty much come to accept that my mom and my dad, separately, are going to tell my children that Jesus is the son of God and is the key to salvation. I'm pretty sure they are going to tell them that Jesus loves them. And I'm pretty sure that they are going to tell them that God is in Heaven. Some people might suggest that I should not be okay with that. But, I am okay with it. I'm okay with it because I can talk to my kids, later, about what that all means. I can tell them, when grandpa leaves, the truth; that no-one really knows but different people believe different things.
I actually need my boys to see the influence of religion from safe family members so they can have a good familiarity with the concepts and the ideas. I feel like it allows them to relate more to religious people and Christian themes, which they will need to do to live in this midwest world.
To tell the truth, my boys find religious ideas a little bit, well, funny. So, back to my dad's visit. He was helping out at bedtime, reading books and tucking in the boys, who share a room. First, he tucks in oldest son. Now, my dad is a guy with a big ole personality. He's very very loud and truthfully, kinda crazy. In the very best way, mostly. So, tuck tuck goes the covers and then a kneel to the floor, prayer hands, here he goes, "Dear God and Jesus in Heaven, watch over boy while he sleeps and keep him safe from harm, Amen." I, sitting on the other boy's bed, pause. I feel tense. Not because I am shocked by his words, but because I am worried what my older son is going to say.
He doesn't say anything.
He laughs and giggles and roars with hysteria. This, to him, is the funniest thing he's heard all day.
I cringe. My poor dad. :(
Undeterred (or maybe just hopeless) dad moves on to younger son.
Same prayer. Same response.
Oh boy. I have some work to do, I think to myself.
Now, in the moment, this all happens pretty quickly and my dad, being pretty manic (literally) moves past quickly as well. Out he goes, lights are off, kisses goodnight, end of bedtime routine. But, it doesn't end for me, internally. I know at that moment that my boys need to learn respect for religion. The true conversations we have had with them about religion have backfired just a bit to the point of a lack of formal respect for the practice of religion.
I know some people, particularly some athiests, feel that we should not respect religion, but people instead. And, I see their point, but I don't agree. For my children, I want them to have respect for the practice of religion. Mostly, that is because they will be rubbing shoulders with practicing Christians their entire lives, so they must have respect. At least they must SHOW respect.
A few days later, my husband and I addressed the giggles. With sensitivity we discussed the importance of valuing other people and the beliefs they hold. Somewhere in the talk I uttered the phrase, "praying isn't funny,son." And he got it. But I did ask him what he thought praying was. And he said, 'talking to yourself?' And I said, 'oh yeah?' And he said, 'maybe, or maybe talking to the Universe?' And I said, 'oh yeah? Cool-I like that.'
And that was a pretty neat conversation.
Sorry, dad. : )