What do you tell your kids about religion?
I have always been an atheist, as far as I remember. I don’t ever remember believing in a god/God/whatever.(On that note, I didn’t believe in Santa/Easter Bunny/tooth fairy for very long either.)
I am open with my kids about my beliefs, and am sure to tell them that people believe in different things, and they are free to explore. My beliefs are not “right”, nor are they necessarily destined to be their beliefs.
Maybe I’m more of a secular humanist than atheist, in whichever way those are different.
Anyway. I’m culturally Jewish and that is part of my identity. I went to Catholic school and I loved the rituals (from afar, of course–I couldn’t participate, though our very kind, inclusive priest would bless me in the confessional and at communion). I was vegetarian for a long time and now sometimes eat fish. I tell my kids why I make the food choices I do. We talk a lot about kindness, and coincidentally or not, both our kids’ awesome preschool, and our son’s current first grade class, have In Lak’ech as their motto.
…(from the Tucson Weekly) a poem written by Luis Valdez, of Zoot Suit and La Bamba fame. The poem is called “In Lak Ech,” a Mayan phrase that was used as a greeting; the poem in some ways mirrors the golden rule.
In Lak Ech
Tú Eres mi otro yo / You are my other me.
Si te hago daño a ti / If I do harm to you,
Me hago daño a mí mismo / I do harm to myself;
Si te amo y respeto / If I love and respect you,
Me amo y respeto yo / I love and respect myself.
Anyway. On Saturday we went to a bar mitzvah party (we did not attend the actual service, as 2 and a half hours seemed too long for
me our kids and the kids had a ball. The bar mitzvah himself is someone Lincoln has known his whole life, a young man he looks up to (as he does to all good young men–the boy has a great sense of character!)
On the way home, quite late at night, Lincoln asked me if he would have a bar mitzvah, and if I had had one (I didn’t), and why not. I said that I didn’t have one because I didn’t believe in god and I thought it wasn’t right to become a bat mitzvah for that reason. He asked if he could have a bar mitzvah even if he didn’t believe in god. I told him he could ask a rabbi.
I now wish we’d gone to the services, because if he thinks becoming a bar mitzvah is solely about having an awesome party with lots of dessert, cool music, and balloons, well, of course he want to!
But I don’t want to squelch his interest in anything. He has been told about, and is exposed to, in some way, Christianity, through my mother-in-law. It’s not heavy on the Jesus, but it’s still something he knows about.
(He has never believed in Santa or the tooth fairy or Easter bunny–but I told him to keep that to himself because some kids want to believe in that. In general, when he asks me if something is real or true, I just ask him what he thinks….I have not influenced him one way or the other. Clementine, on the other hand, has a nightly ritual of asking me if zombies are real, if vampires are real, if monsters are real, if skeletons are real. It’s like an incantation. I answer no to each question, except the last–”Skeletons are real inside people’s bodies. They don’t walk around by themselves, though.)
Clementine is very interested in Hindu deities, but so far I think it’s mainly because they are so cool looking. She is particularly obsessed with Ganesh(a).
We have some Buddhist items in our house, and Buddhism fits in well with our family’s way of being. So the kids know some about that. But in terms of formal religious education they have none. Lincoln wants to play in a soccer league, so I’m looking into that. If he wants to explore a religious, I will help him find a way to do so.
He’s a bit young to be thinking critically or wondering deeply about religion. But I wonder as he grows up, what is my responsibility, if any, in this process, given my own beliefs. (Shipherd is similarly inclined, though maybe he’s more open to religious education/beliefs than I am…I should probably find out before our tenth anniversary…)
What do you tell you kids, what do you do with them, about religion? What are your beliefs, and how much of that do you share with them?
I’d really like to hear other’s stories about this. Thanks for sharing. If you don’t feel comfortable posting here, you can email me at julie at tucsonmama dot com. Thank you!
Super cute photo of the kids on their way to their first bar mitzvah party..