Children and Spirituality

“I knew you’d eventually lose your mind.” My friend shook her head dismissing my insane burst of laughter.

“I’m not crazy.” I assured her. “Well, maybe just a bit. I was just laughing at the mental picture of my baby brother dressed in white, looking like an angel.”

My friend’s eyes widen in understanding and she joined my humorous hysteria. And if you knew my baby brother you would probably throw your head back and roar like a lunatic too. My baby brother’s common attire includes humongous T-shirts, baggie jeans with waist bands that stay half-mast over his butt, Jordan sneakers, oversized baseball caps, earrings… all these items come in very vivid colors.

“I’m actually really pleased.” I whipped happy tears. “He is 22 and I’ve never seen him in dress clothes, so I’m looking forward to attending his first communion. I’m going to take so many pictures that day. I’ll treasure them too. He is truly going to look like an angel.”

“I want to go to the party like an angel too. Can I wear a white dress too, mommy? Please! Please! Please…” my friend’s 4 year old daughter was jumping at the beat of her ‘pleases’, making a mess of the laundry I had just folded for her mother.

“Sweets you are not going to that.” My friend removed her child from the bed. “That’s a Catholic thing. We don’t go to those.”

“Why not?” asked my friends husband, who had just got home from work. “What’s so bad about her going to church? What’s going to…?”

I got a hold of the child and walked out of the room knowing that the madness was about to start—again.
My friend is Pagan and her husband is Catholic. My friend’s husband is quite eclectic and he is okay with their daughter experiencing all different religions. My friend on the other hand is not so tolerant. She believes her child should be raised Pagan and that’s the end of it. I tried to reason with her once, and as a result our friendship suffered. Today, I just stay out of the argument.

I’m very particular when it comes to children and religion. Actually, I’m very particular when it comes to children. I don’t have any, so I don’t feel qualified to give any good advice. I have it as a rule not to give my opinion about important issues if I have no experience in the subject. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t ponder about it.

I’ve found myself lost in thought more than once, wondering how to raise a child if the person I go halves with follows a different path, and has the notion that his spiritual path is the one the child should embrace. First of all, I just don’t think that children should be pushed into any religion. Gods! I walked on those shoes and my toes still blistered from the stroll. I believe that children should be allowed to be children. They should learn a bit of everything—spiritual and secular—and be allowed to make their own decision when they are old enough to know what they really want.

A little sobbing voice interrupted my thoughts. “I don’t like it when they yell.”

“Oh hon, they are just talking loudly. It will be fine in just a bit, you’ll see.” I rubbed her back.

“They talk loudly a lot, you know?” she whipped her nose with the back of her hand.

I looked at her little face and felt powerless. “Wanna go to the bookstore?”

Her face lit up. “Story Time!”

“I think is a bit late for story time, but you can pick a book and I’ll read it for you. How’s that?”

“Nice. I like it when you read to me. You sound funny like my daddy.”

“Yes, your dad has an accent too.”

I sent a text message to my friend: call me when is safe to come home.

I secured my friend’s daughter on her booster seat, but my mind was still running wild with questions. Am I going to meet a guy who shares my beliefs about children and spirituality? What about if I don’t? Will I be able to be part of such a relationship?

I pulled out of the driveway, but not before hearing my friend yell one last time. I started singing to drown the noise, but I wasn’t fast enough. The little girl’s lower lip was already trembling. I wished my friend could see what these grownup arguments are doing to this little girl.

I can’t understand my friend’s attitude, but maybe it is because I don’t have any children. If you have children, what is your approach to spirituality when it comes to them? If you don’t have any children, have you been in my situation?


Share your thoughts…

30 comments:

  1. I'm with you on the position that children should not be forced into any religion. They should be free to explore and read about different traditions and then as adults make an informed choice. Also I think Spirit always leads us to the right place in the end :)

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  2. I have a 6 month old and we baptised him as a Roman Catholic, becuase that is our religion. However, I will not push him to become a catholic really. I will tell him what I believe ie the bits and pieces and explain best I can the ones I dont believe and hoefully I'll do a good job and he will be a better Christian than me :)
    REligion is actually simple whatever we believe its just us who complicate it so well my idea is to keep it simple....

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  3. Filho de Logunede, that is why you are my dear Primo--we think alike ;) We both believe in the freedom that can only be obtain through being allowed to make our own choices. At the end, Fate will show us the way.

    Equidae, I was baptized as a Caribbean Catholic and the thought of it brings a Ricardo Arjona song to mind. One of the verses roughly translates to "They baptized me when I was 2 months old and they didn't even warn me". I do understand that my mother and father baptized me because in their own beliefs, if they didn't, I would be easy target for evil. I just wished I had known what was happening...

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  4. I've thought about this issue a lot as well, and now that I'm dating someone who has four children from a previous marriage, it seems all the more important. Luckily, he and I are both Druids and his ex-wife, a Witch, had no qualms with raising them Pagan, taking them to seasonal festivals, participating in some simple ritual, all that good stuff.

    But I think back on my own childhood--raised Catholic and attending church and Sunday school every week--and I wonder if my boyfriend's kids will miss out on something because, like it or not, the Pagan community just isn't that big or consistent. Even though I was never pushed towards Catholicism, I know for sure that taking time every week to sit quietly and listen to discussions of ethics, love and hope with others, children and adults, had a good effect on me. It made me think about things that I might not have given a second thought.

    So I wonder if second-generation Pagans will be missing something, something that kids raised in larger religious communities grow up with and Pagans who "converted" half-way through life had to work through on their own. Will they be inclined to think deeply about their spiritual lives, to explore the mythology and symbolism as deeply without weekly contemplation? I guess my concern is more social or community-focused than the beliefs and practices themselves. I have no doubt that I'd want to raise my own children with a broad introduction to different spiritual paths, as well as allowing them to see just why my own religion is so important to me, but I still wonder if a lack of stable, mature community members engaging with spiritual work on a regular basis would leave them with an impression that religion was just one more customizable commodity.

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  5. I did a baptism de agua one time at my house for my friend's son. We used an Espirtismo prayer which mentions God but is very non-denominational. I also blessed him in the name of my orisha Logunede and in Obatala, so we added a little Yoruba flavor to it :) I think it is good to give babies a general blessing in the name of the Divine to celebrate their arrival into this world and to bless their path. If you do a non-denominational ceremony, this way no specific religions are mentioned and the baby receives the blessings of Spirit.

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  6. I wanted to thank you for your comment on my blog. When I went to a meeting at the Caribbean Cultural Center many santero/santeras were calling the orisha religions part of the "Earth based religions." I think this is a good designation. Orisha/Lwa traditions, Native American traditions, Shinto, and Pagan religions have in common is this respect for the Earth and the Natural Forces. These are living religions that are practiced to be in tune with the natural world and are still continuing to thrive today. We are not illusionary and we are definitely not dead :)

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  7. Ali, this issue is so difficult. That is the reason I said that I'm very 'particular' when it comes to discussing it. As adults, we want to make the best decision for the youngsters, and as Pagans we really like our believe system and will more likely be prone to kind of nudge our babes toward it.

    I don't know what will work best for my children--when I have them--but I do know that I will be an eclectic parent. I will try my best to educate them in spirituality and not teach them a particular religion. I mean, how do I know if my religion--or any out there--is going to work for them? For all I know, they might grow up to be atheist and I will love them regardless. I think that the key to this mess is in what you said, parents and children should engage in "discussions of ethics, love and hope with others" that way, they will just grow up to be good people. What else can we ask for?

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  8. Filho de Logunede, amén on your last two comments. I believe that babies should be blessed and presented to the Divine. We are cultural spiritual beings and our we can only hope that our descendants will feel the same as we do.

    And you are very welcome. Yes, all "Earth based religions" exist in every atom of this planet. WE celebrate their living power by loving one another, and by understanding that everyone is part of something great and undeniably beautiful.

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  9. I think it's a terrible thing to instruct a child in the ways of spirituality or religion.
    I think our role as care givers or parents should simply be to provide our children or the children in our lives with a wealth of informational sources and the skills to think critically and to THINK for themselves.
    I think if more children were taught to think in addition to having sources of spiritual and religious information available to them the world could be changed in drastic ways in the space of a few generations.

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  10. "our role as care givers or parents should simply be to provide our children or the children in our lives with a wealth of informational sources and the skills to think critically and to THINK for themselves." very well said. I think children--and the world--would benefit from an eclectic approach to education, both secular and spiritual. When it comes to spirituality, I believe the young ones should hear about what it is to atheist o theist, so that when they are old enough, they can make their own decision.

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  11. My thoughts on this issue are pretty similar to Equidae's. We also baptized my son Roman Catholic when he was about 5 months old. We are doing our best to raise him to be a good-hearted little boy.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! Glad you like the recipe! Have a great day! :)

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  12. What kind of parent would you be if you didn't do what you believe to be best for your child? This is why I said that this subject is too difficult. Think about it, how would you feel going to bed every night thinking that you child hasn't been recognized in the eyes of your God? I do not recent my parents for baptizing me, on the contrary, I understand their gesture meant they care for me. I'm also glad because they "raised [me] to be a good-hearted" big girl with the ability to think for herself, so when the time came, I wasn't afraid to make my own decisions. Well, maybe just a little afraid ;)

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  13. I couldn't agree more.
    I was raised a bit Christian, a bit atheist. As different as those are, I don't really remember a lot of encouragement to find out what I believed. It was more of a 'This is it, pick one'.
    I remember being just thunderstruck and bewildered at a very young age. In my mom's defense, I was very advanced and curious, but at the same time, I feel I would have found Paganism much sooner had I been encouraged to find my own way through life, and more educated on various religions.
    My boyfriend and I have both experimented quite a bit with religion, and would raise our children to think for themselves in all matter, but especially this.
    I would never hide my religion, but there's no way I would push it on them either. And I would answer all of their questions to the best of my ability, or find someone who could.
    I may even encourage them to do what I did-make a list of possible religions, and research and learn like mad for a month per religion. :)

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  14. How interesting! When I had my religious "episode" somewhere between 11 and 13, I started searching religions. I tried everything Baptist to Mormons. The first few months my mom thought that I was just trying to be defiant, by older brother thought I had lost my marvels, my godmother just cried (honest), but soon they realized that it wasn't about them and left me alone.

    I benefited a lot from my religious excursion, that is how I ended up and Eclectic Pagan. I'm very impressed by the beauty of Paganism, but I also found amazing bits and pieces in many other religions. I wanted everything that was great, so I incorporated into my personal Eclectic Vault!

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  15. I read his and had to comment! The poor child omg no child should have to hear arguing amongst its parents!!!!!
    I do have children, I have two little boys or wirlwinds as I have nick named them lol x I am pagan but my husband doesnt really have a religion he never has, although I think it's more of a label issue he has than a belief system! He does like the pagan way and is more involved than he would probably admit to hehe x
    I think it is important for children to have knowledge of all spirituality / religions as then when they are old enough to make a decision they can make an informed choice all by themselves. I will never force my way onto my children as I had that expereince as a child and hated it! It was one of the things that made me turn my back on 'organised religion'.
    My mother in law doesnt believe in anything religious and isnt scared of telling people if it ever comes up in conversation - using her old chestnut of 'if there was a god why does he let all the good ppl die and all the bad ones stay on earth' suppose to some she has a point but I tend to steer away from religious conversations with her!
    I'm sure n a few years my boys will ply me with many questions of why I believe in what I do! Im acually really looking forward to it!

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  16. I have two children and yes parents argue sometimes adn I do feel bad for the times we aruge in front of our kids but it's alos goo dto let them see you make up.. anyhoo I know it's not good when it makes the child cry.
    as for what they are growing up in. my two have been baptised and will grow up as catholic for now until they can make there own decisions on what they want or would like to do. this does not mean that I will not teach them about other religions because my husband is not catholic but the two religions are very much the same with the exception of when you have communion. SO. for now they will grow up as Roman catholic and learn about other religions until they can decide if they want to stay or go somewhere else. Who knows they may become Budist and who am I to say.. ( sorry if I misspelled anything i'm not the best at that)

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  17. Pixie, both my friend and her husband are very nice people. They are just kind of set in their own ways (specially my friend). She really wants to do what’s best for her child, and who can blame her? I’m hoping to get lots of constructive comments in this post. I’m seeing her after July 25th, I’m going to print out the post and give it to her. Hopefully she won’t strangle me *grin* I just want her to see that this is a difficult topic and maybe she should hear her husband out.

    Klynch, you can only do what you believe best for the ones you love. And like my parents, you believe that raising them in a religious setting is the best you can do. I worked out for me and I’m grateful for my parents’ efforts. I became a Pagan and they still love me. And you sound just like amazing, so I’m sure that if your babes decide to become Buddhists, you’ll adore them just the same ;)

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  18. Dang. I can't believe I had missed this post. :-)

    My mom and I were having a similar discussion not that long ago. I was raised to be Baptist, then went to Agnostic, then headed toward Non-denominational. Right now, I don't go to church, though I still believe very much in God and tend to get my biblical lessons from TV these days. Let's just say a bad experience turned me against putting my heart into anyone's church.

    Anyway, now that I'll soon be welcoming in my little wonder into the world, I plan to start going to church again when she's old enough to understand. Joining as a member is out of the question. Instead, I'll go long enough so that my daughter gets the basics of Christianity and leave it at that. What she decides to do later is between her and God. I can only give her the tools that I was given. My hope is that even with a Christian upbringing, she'll be respectful of other religions and cultures. If she's curious, then by all means, go and investigate. That's my philosophy.

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  19. Well I'm glad you got here eventually lol.

    I know you'll do great by your baby. I keep on repeating myself when answering comments for this post, but hey, when something is right you shouldn't change it. I believe that good parents will provide their children with the basic building blocks to becoming good loving adults. A spiritual parent will by default nudge--although some do push--their children toward the religion, which answers the most question for them. Amazing parents will love and support their children if they decide to go in the different direction and when they are old enough to choose for themselves.

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  20. I think when parents are divided when it comes to religion and 'what' to be bring their children up as, maybe they should leave it up to the child. That didn't come out well lol. I suppose what I mean is teach the child the various religions and once the child is only enough they can make the best choice for them - I suppose being open minded on all religions helps, even if you don't agree with some of them. I'm biast though I love the pagan way but on the flip side won't push it on to my children....I'm just waiting for the religion questions to start as my eldest boy starts nursery school in november as he wil be 3, I'm looking forward to it.

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  21. I have two children and yes parents argue sometimes adn I do feel bad for the times we aruge in front of our kids but it's alos goo dto let them see you make up.. anyhoo I know it's not good when it makes the child cry.
    as for what they are growing up in. my two have been baptised and will grow up as catholic for now until they can make there own decisions on what they want or would like to do. this does not mean that I will not teach them about other religions because my husband is not catholic but the two religions are very much the same with the exception of when you have communion. SO. for now they will grow up as Roman catholic and learn about other religions until they can decide if they want to stay or go somewhere else. Who knows they may become Budist and who am I to say.. ( sorry if I misspelled anything i'm not the best at that)

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  22. Well I'm glad you got here eventually lol.

    I know you'll do great by your baby. I keep on repeating myself when answering comments for this post, but hey, when something is right you shouldn't change it. I believe that good parents will provide their children with the basic building blocks to becoming good loving adults. A spiritual parent will by default nudge--although some do push--their children toward the religion, which answers the most question for them. Amazing parents will love and support their children if they decide to go in the different direction and when they are old enough to choose for themselves.

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  23. Dang. I can't believe I had missed this post. :-)

    My mom and I were having a similar discussion not that long ago. I was raised to be Baptist, then went to Agnostic, then headed toward Non-denominational. Right now, I don't go to church, though I still believe very much in God and tend to get my biblical lessons from TV these days. Let's just say a bad experience turned me against putting my heart into anyone's church.

    Anyway, now that I'll soon be welcoming in my little wonder into the world, I plan to start going to church again when she's old enough to understand. Joining as a member is out of the question. Instead, I'll go long enough so that my daughter gets the basics of Christianity and leave it at that. What she decides to do later is between her and God. I can only give her the tools that I was given. My hope is that even with a Christian upbringing, she'll be respectful of other religions and cultures. If she's curious, then by all means, go and investigate. That's my philosophy.

    ReplyDelete
  24. What kind of parent would you be if you didn't do what you believe to be best for your child? This is why I said that this subject is too difficult. Think about it, how would you feel going to bed every night thinking that you child hasn't been recognized in the eyes of your God? I do not recent my parents for baptizing me, on the contrary, I understand their gesture meant they care for me. I'm also glad because they "raised [me] to be a good-hearted" big girl with the ability to think for herself, so when the time came, I wasn't afraid to make my own decisions. Well, maybe just a little afraid ;)

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  25. Filho de Logunede, amén on your last two comments. I believe that babies should be blessed and presented to the Divine. We are cultural spiritual beings and our we can only hope that our descendants will feel the same as we do.

    And you are very welcome. Yes, all "Earth based religions" exist in every atom of this planet. WE celebrate their living power by loving one another, and by understanding that everyone is part of something great and undeniably beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I couldn't agree more.
    I was raised a bit Christian, a bit atheist. As different as those are, I don't really remember a lot of encouragement to find out what I believed. It was more of a 'This is it, pick one'.
    I remember being just thunderstruck and bewildered at a very young age. In my mom's defense, I was very advanced and curious, but at the same time, I feel I would have found Paganism much sooner had I been encouraged to find my own way through life, and more educated on various religions.
    My boyfriend and I have both experimented quite a bit with religion, and would raise our children to think for themselves in all matter, but especially this.
    I would never hide my religion, but there's no way I would push it on them either. And I would answer all of their questions to the best of my ability, or find someone who could.
    I may even encourage them to do what I did-make a list of possible religions, and research and learn like mad for a month per religion. :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. My thoughts on this issue are pretty similar to Equidae's. We also baptized my son Roman Catholic when he was about 5 months old. We are doing our best to raise him to be a good-hearted little boy.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! Glad you like the recipe! Have a great day! :)

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  28. Connie Mitan12/29/2011

    I must say, I love your writing style - mixing stories with thoughts, and then getting input, is a talent I never had. Great job, keep coming back for more posts!
    ~Sunfire

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  29. I think it's a hard thing for parents. We want the best for our babes and it is instinctive to try to nudge them towards "the right path" when we believe they are going away from it. The thing is that we'll never know what "their" right path is, regardless of how much we try. We have to let them live.

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  30. Well, I'm very glad you do. I love your prompts very much, too. I need to go back and pick up the latest ;-)

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