Admittedly, despite my family’s background, I am not the most religious person you will ever meet. To this day, my family still attends church every Sunday, directs choir practice, and my dad is even a lay minister. As a child, I dutifully attended youth group, was made a member of both Lutheran and Methodist churches, lit alter candles, sang alto in the choir, rang church bells, and learned to sleep sitting up in church without snoring.
In not-so-recent years, I’ve experienced what I’ve described to other people as ‘a crisis of faith’. So, needless to say, as much of my parenting style is based on how my parents raised me, my inability to conform to religion has been a road bump with how I raise my kids. But I have never pushed it as a “must” with my kids.
What I did do though, was tell them that IF they ever wanted to explore religion, I would be there to support them. I would not force them to go, would not influence them with my thoughts and/or feelings, which has worked out well.
Over the years, we have attended several different churches. Justin’s decision tends to be dependent upon how much he understands the person speaking during Sunday School, or the quality of doughnuts offered after service. Nick is more influenced by how exciting the lectures are, or how they ask him to integrate it into his Monday thru Saturday life.
Justin is currently taking a break, “I don’t think I should have to go to church every week to be told to be a good person. I think I should just do that every day, on my own. God knows who I am even if I don’t show up for roll call.” He has a few children’s Bibles, and still sits down to talk to me about what different stories might mean.
Nick liked the church he’d been attending until he heard they wouldn’t marry a same-sex couple. After he walked out, and I asked why he decided to leave, his rationale was clear: “God loves everyone unless you’re gay? If you’re straight but you murder someone you can be forgiven for your sins and somehow that’s better than being a good gay person who goes to church because he wants to not because he has to? No thanks.”
I am comforted in knowing they have open minds even though neither has a favorite church today, it doesn’t mean they’re done looking. They like the church my parents go to, and continue to listen to their friends to see if they have churches similar to that in our area. The air conditioning guy mentioned that his son leads the church group and the boys are already asking if we can go. A friend has said that their church is actually held in a school lunchroom – they’re excited to see what that’s about.
Against what seems to be a never ending tidal wave of ignorance, I taught them to be color blind, to appreciate those around them no matter how different they may be, and give thanks in their own ways for what they feel is important not just to them but to the world around them. Religion looks like it will be another one of those parts in their lives that they will be able to make their own decisions about without being bullied, threatened or forced to conform.
What about you? What are your children teaching you about faith? Do you share your beliefs with them or are they finding their own religious voice?
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Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 12 and 16. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and this year returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler.