Letting Kids Decide Who They Want To Be

Let’s just go ahead and do this now-

I am not a religious person.

I don’t attend church or read The Bible even though I have dabbled in both before. For about 3 years there (7th-9th grades), I almost regularly did go to church whenever I could catch a ride with my friends.  There were also a couple of times in elementary school when I would find myself at VBS most likely because my grandmother signed me up.

Before you turn away, I want you to know that THIS IS NOT AN ANTI-RELIGIOUS POST.  Look at the title, I PROMISE who I am in the religious aspect is important to the story…

See, my grandparents (on both sides) are VERY Catholic.  They used to trick us into going to Friday Night Mass which is why when I was older I never wanted to go with them. Both of my parents were forced to go to church every week, and as they grew up, they both came to resent it- to the point that when my brothers and I came into the picture, they adamantly refused to take us to ANY church event even if all of our friends and theirs would be there.  My mom calls churchgoers “Sheeple”, and my dad still makes a face when you mention religion or church- like you want to meet a man who hates it to the “nth degree”, here he is.  He put a “No Soliciting Sign” on his door and calls the police on Jehovah’s Witnesses; like, he does not care.  This isn’t a dig on my parents; I love them for who they are, but this is the reality of what can happen to someone when you force feed them religious, or even anti-religious, beliefs; people, especially kids, don’t like being told what to do, and when they start to go against your beliefs, how you handle that could very well shape where they go from there, and possibly not in the way you wanted…

Anyways, back to me…

Somewhere around the end of freshmen year, I realized that it (organized religion) wasn’t for me.  I remember that some of my friends didn’t want to talk to me anymore, my boyfriend broke up with me, and Friday nights after the Football games became a little bit different since all my friends were going to the Christian student night out thing, and well, I stopped playing that game with them, so it was extremely awkward to go- I tried once, and I was just asked questions the whole night about my beliefs, etc… which made it not fun.  I really just wanted to be with my friends, but getting grilled about my choices was where I drew the line.

It was after that that my friend circle changed, and I met the friends that I still talk to this day.  That was the most compelling thing for me, I had religious friends that I had known since I was 4-5, and I guess it wasn’t a big deal because we were little, and those weren’t the conversations we were having.  But, we grew up, and we started having those conversations, and the moment I made the choice to officially not be religious, they weren’t really my friends anymore.  Sure, they still asked all of those nice pleasantries, and they sat with me in the classes we had together, but they just didn’t reach out to include me that much anymore- it just wasn’t the same.  And it was here that I thought, “wow, I know I didn’t go to church for long, but I’m pretty sure the Lord did not intend for his Disciples to act like this to non-practitioners”.  I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am- I gathered the message of the Book in the time I did go to church.

So, the past 15 or so years, I haven’t been religious… at all, and I often scoff when people claim to be, and then act like douchebags. <— these people are my LEAST FAVORITE people on this planet, true story.

You see, I may not have attended church regularly, but I attended enough to get the gist of the message- treat others kindly and respectfully, do not judge, all the Ten Commandments, etc…; like, I get it, and I’m behind all those things- part of the reason I stopped going to church was because I realized that I didn’t need to get together with all these, relative strangers each week to discuss being a good person (before you get all AHHHH!!! I know it’s about more than that, but you get what I’m saying).  I’ve always been a person who likes to go it alone, and I figured as long as I’m living life as a good, selfless person, what does it matter whether I go to church or not?  Plus, and this isn’t even a lie, I am so busy during the week that the thought of spending an entire morning listening to someone talk is incredibly unappealing even just on 1 day of my weekend; props to all of you for your commitment there because for me, it’s a big no- my weekends are precious and mine.  Back to what I was saying…  Even though I don’t go to church, I don’t judge people who choose to be or not to be (THAT! Is the question!) religious; like, that’s what you want to do and who you want to be, more power to you; I’m happy you know yourself and where you fit in this world.  Please continue doing “you” and please be respectful of those who choose differently from you.

This has always been my position on the whole thing.

Now, let’s fast forward to last week (I know that was a long prologue- but you needed it), and who this is really about…

My husband (also not religious) and I have settled in quite a conservative and very religious area (irony, right!?), and most of my daughter’s friends all attend the same church, so, naturally, they’re all close, and my girl is a bit of the odd-man out because we don’t go to church.  Recently, she’s begun asking questions about going to church, and what you do there, and I’ve answered the best way I could and told her that if she wanted to go just tell me, and I would try and find her a ride with a friend.  My husband said he would take and drop her off, but I, personally, would like to know someone is there looking out for her.

Well, last week was the big popular church’s VBS, and one of the soccer parents called me and asked if my daughter could go with their kid on bring-a-friend day.   Now, my first reaction was not what most of my friends would have expected, instead, I was like, “Crap, I already paid for day camp for this week”.  But, I figured missing one day is whatever in the grand scheme of things, so I told the parent that I’d ask her if she wanted to go, and let her make the decision between camp and VBS.  Yes, even though I already paid for camp (something she begged to do), the activities she does to enrich her life are COMPLETELY her choice… I just pay for them. Loudly_Crying_Face_Emoji_large.png

Now, at this point, my husband is paying attention, and I get off the phone, and he’s wondering, “why did you just agree to let our daughter go to church?  Are you prepared to answer her questions?”  To which he got the reply, that my dad (yes, remember, the man WHO HATES RELIGION) gave people when my brothers and I made choices for ourselves (including when I decided I WANTED to go to church), and other people felt it was my parents’ job to do so which is:

This is her life.  It is not my place to dictate WHO my child is going to be.

If she wants to live her life in “Christ’s light” or not, that is her decision. NOT MINE.

If she wants to be religious and attend church, that is her decision just as it was mine.  I will find someone she can go with if it comes to that.  If she wants to be non-religious, again, her life, her choice.  She has the complete freedom to make those choices for her soul because WHO she is and the mark she leaves on this world is entirely up to her, and I will love her no matter what.  I can guide her the best way I know how, but ultimately, the choices that are made will be hers.

That’s the thing- she is a child, but by deciding whether or not she is or isn’t going to do something for her soul and her spirit is not my position.  It is my job to make sure I’m not raising an a$$hole, and that the non-a$$hole I’m raising leaves my house every day without malice intentions and with love and kindness in her heart.  And, you know what, without the church, we’ve raised a pretty selfless human- I mean we can’t even kill wasps in her presence because “they’re living things”.  For me, it is far more important that if I was to die today (God forbid), I did well enough that my daughter will not become a menace to society.  It is also very real that if I was to begin dictating these things to her that she would do the opposite just to spite me because THAT’S. WHAT. KIDS. DO. Especially kids in my family. My dad told us we absolutely could never get tattoos, or he’d cut us out of the will- well, guess what? I have 12, my older brother has at least 1, and my little brother is rocking about 8, and guess who’s currently still in the will.  I know my gene pool- you tell us we can’t do something, and we will absolutely do it just to prove you wrong.

This is why it slightly drives me crazy when babies or really small children are baptized- you made that choice for them.  Granted, it is your choice to make as their parents… I guess… and I’m not stepping in on what you choose as a parent, nor would I ever go to someone and say, “why didn’t you let them choose to be baptized?” because it is not mine or anyone else’s place, but…

Is it not better to have your older child CHOOSE that they want to accept Jesus and walk with the Lord?  I would think that, as a parent, it would be far more emotional and powerful to have my older child ask Jesus into their heart and then ask me to be Baptized- even as a non-religious person, I would be honored to attend my child’s Baptism because, again, I raised them well enough that they were able to figure out who they were, and I didn’t need to force it on them.  I get feels when I see my friends post that their older children (6, 7, 8, +) made the choice to get baptized because those kids MADE. THAT. CHOICE.

For me, it’s not about what you choose, it’s the fact that you are allowed the choice to begin with.

I mean, I sent my daughter to VBS for one day, and she decided that she preferred camp- I did not influence her.  I just asked how her day was, and she honestly told me that “the bounce house was fun, but I didn’t like having to sit there and listen to all the talking”- baby girl, that was my problem too, but it doesn’t change that we should live our lives as good people.

So, here’s what it all comes down to…

CHOICE.

We should raise our kids in a way that they feel confident in making decisions for themselves and their lives.  I know my daughter and I will have the church talk again, and I’m still ready for it because it’s not about the actual beliefs; it’s about her journey to discovering who she is as a person.

It’s about the decisions she gets to make for herself, and how I, as her mom, am going to support her in the choices she makes to enrich her life and her spirit regardless of my own personal beliefs.

-The MF

 

 

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