I have mentioned here on several occasions that I’m Catholic but if you hung out with me in real life you probably wouldn’t know that unless you asked. I have been pretty careful and pretty selective with what I’ve taught my kids about religion. Spirituality is of the most profound importance to me and when it’s dumbed down in order to teach children a list of things they should and should not do, it’s reduced to something inane and even dangerous in my opinion. (And hello, you don’t have to look very far to find many adults who never outgrew the inane interpretation and the scam artists who take advantage of them.)
So I have a Bible for my kids. I have books about saints. I say prayers with them sometimes and I answer their questions as they come up without trying to speak to them on their level necessarily. Often they give me a blank look, but I figure when they’re ready, they’ll make the connection. I don’t want them to think of God as some sort of policeman waiting for them to screw up when they do something wrong, so I don’t say, “you shouldn’t lie because it’s a sin.” I say, “you shouldn’t lie because it’s disrespectful to people who trust you, it can hurt people and particularly if someone asks you to lie to Mama, they could be putting you in danger.”
Although if I can’t get someone to behave in public I’m not above saying that SOMEONE will kick us out of the store or the police will take us to jail if you don’t get your seatbelt on!
Don’t judge - sometimes a mother needs help from on high.
Little One goes to a Catholic Montessori Preschool which is obviously fine with me – they’re a little heavy on the religion, but he’s also reading and writing (legibly) at four and a half so we just cut them some slack there. However, as I’ve mentioned my nanny is quite religious and I really really REALLY wish she would not discuss Jesus with my kids. (But she is a great nanny so I just tell the kids she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and not to believe anything she says and we keep asking her to come back week after week.) She brings them all these pappy children’s books and sometimes Little One asks me to read one and I tell him to go put it away and that Mama doesn’t read that crap. (I know, I’m mean, but unless you are the parent or have been honored with the role of Godparent you really should not give children religious items. It’s presumptuous and rude. And it really offends me.)
I rarely discuss much to do with Jesus. We do read the Bible, but we’re reading it in order and we’re at about the part where Joseph’s brothers leave him for dead. (If you’re not religious, that’s roughly like being on Chapter 1 of War and Peace - for three or four years.) We’re not even close to Jesus entering the scene yet, and at the rate we’re going he will have come again in glory to judge the living and the dead by the time we get there. (And my vehicle will probably NOT be un-manned, in case you’re wondering.) But I’m trying. Really. A little bit.
So between the nanny, preschool and Easter, Little One has really been obsessing about the “Jesus dying on the cross” story lately. He’s been picking that part from the Bible to read as his bedtime story a lot. The other night we were reading it and he kept interrupting me. First he said, “Mama, I want a toy cross and a toy Jesus.”
I said, “That’s called a crucifix, I’ve got some I’ll show you and I’ll see if I can find one you can have to play with.”
“Well, I don’t want one where he’s just stuck there in one position,” he huffed, “I want one that I can stick him on there but he comes off too.”
“Uh – I’ll see what I can do,” I said and tried to continue reading the story.
Then he said, “I want a toy Blessed Mother too and a toy Mary Magdalene and toys of all the bad guys who nailed Jesus to the cross.”
“Mama, I don’t want one where Jesus is alive on the cross. That’s not what I’m talking about. I want Jesus to be dead on the cross.”
“Yes, I got it, Honey, I’ll see if we can find that somewhere.” …trying to continue reading the story...
“Oh and Mama, I need a toy God too.”
“Well,” unable to hold my laughter in now, “Silly – what do you suppose a toy God looks like?”
Looking at me like I have two heads, “Well, I don’t know, Mama! I just want one!”
“I don’t know if there is such a thing, but I’ll see what I can do,” I said, trying to finish the damn story already so I could tuck them in and hit the wine bottle.
(My husband suggested we choose a white teddy bear with a Ninja headband to be the toy God or else a jar that we can close and pretend that we’ve trapped the essence of God inside. But I told him I’m not going to hell for his amusement.)
And Little One said, “I’ll just put God in the clouds when I’m playing so He can be at Heaven.”
“Ok,” I said, “But God isn’t just in Heaven, God is everywhere, in your heart, everything that we see that is good and beautiful and love is God.”
And J chimed in, “What about my Wii guys, sometimes I make girl ones and they’re beautiful.”
(My husband shrugged later, “tell J he is the God of his Wii characters, technically speaking.”)
“Well, J, I was thinking more of greater things that are beautiful, like when people do good things and rainbows and forests…”
“And flowers,” J added.
“Yes, definitely flowers.”
“And burnt up posters, sometimes I think they can be really beautiful.”
“Er, um, sure,” I shrugged.
(I had no idea what this meant and later asked my husband if we’re raising a psychopath or what, when he reminded me that this hole-in-the-wall restaurant we like had a fire many years ago and they just kept the burnt up paintings as part of the new décor because they actually look kind of cool, and we’d discussed this at length with J last time we were there. Whew.)
It’s not that I mind talking about Jesus, it’s that I don’t like to have to run around behind and clean up after what may have been said about him already. Ironically, my husband doesn’t mind in the least, because he thinks it’s all dumb and meaningless anyway and that they’ll figure that out on their own. But I care deeply about what they learn about the life and death of Jesus, even though I freely admit to them that it’s a myth and happened so long ago that nobody knows if it’s “true” in the historical event sense of the word or not. Because it’s important to me regardless, and I’d appreciate it if people would shut the hell up so I can share the reasons why that is with them as the opportunity arises naturally – or, you know, when I get around to it. Whichever.