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The God Club

2014 May 13
by WWGD

KariHerer

Let me preface this by saying it’s not a post about religion…my father taught me not to talk about that and politics at the dinner table. ;)

It’s a post about parenting.

My husband and I were raised in a spiritual vacuum.

It’s not our term, it came from a recent episode of Parenthood, but it sums it up perfectly.

Religion played some role in our early childhood, but that role rapidly diminished with time and the only memories I have of going to church was on Easter (big in the Greek Orthodox community) and when someone died, to light a candle. I won’t speak to my husband’s experience because it is his and not mine, but it wasn’t far off.

We were always sort of ok with that. Where we grew up in Montreal, most of our friends and neighbors had similar spiritual upbringings. We all knew what religion was and what religion our family was and it basically ended there. Some (not like us) got married in a church, some (like us) baptized their kids, but other than that, religion in the traditional sense didn’t play a big role in any of our lives.

And until now, we’ve still been fine with it.

But now we have children. And we live in a community that puts a strong emphasis on religion, whichever one you choose. It is a pillar in our friends and neighbors’ routines, beliefs and daily thought-processes and while it was a slight adjustment for us, we’ve come to understand it and respect it.

And suddenly, to use it as an opportunity to finally examine our own take on it.

You see Little D came home a few weeks ago to tell us she had joined “The God Club” at school, led by a little boy in her first grade class.

She is the only other member.

In God Club, on Tuesdays at lunch, this little boy talks to her about God, tells her about church, shows her “how to” pray.

And our little girl, already well on her way down the same spiritual vacuum we grew up in rather comfortably, is eating it up.

It makes for interesting fodder at the dinner table (yup, right where we’re supposed to skip over it). She tells us what her friend tells her about Jesus and Easter and God (some of it seemingly right on, some of it not). She tells us what she thinks about what he tells her. She takes a bite of pasta and asks for more.

We sit and listen. We take it all in. We ask a question or two.

She offers an answer from what she has learned in God Club.

From a six year old. On the playground. By the handball court. On Tuesdays at lunch.

Clearly the bigger question was one we had to ask ourselves: do we want to raise our own children in a spiritual vacuum? What role does religion play in our lives? Should we change that? How? When?

And furthermore, what club is next? Just when you think you’re doing ok at this parenting thing – they eat, read, sleep and go to the dentist regularly – the universe (or perhaps God himself?) reminds you that you have so many more steps to take. So many more lessons to teach. So many little thoughts to cultivate and support and nourish.

You can’t live in a parenting vacuum. You need to take on these issues – and so many more – and figure out what they mean to you and what you want them to mean to your children. You need to have the conversation with your partner and with your kids and keep the conversation going…before all of them just take place on the playground.

So we have asked Little D to keep us posted on God Club. To let us know what her friend shares with her so that we can share our thoughts and experiences as well (we won’t bring up the vacuum analogy, don’t worry). We’ve invited her to ask us lots of questions and we promised to have lots of answers and to find the ones we don’t have.

And we’ll be sure to ask lots of questions of our own, in turn.

Because our little club has four members.

And we need to ensure we stick together.

*image above by Kari Herer

7 Responses leave one →
  1. elizabeth permalink
    May 13, 2014

    I grew up and am still growing each day in a Christian home. Just out of curiosity, I often wondered if you had a religious background. Children are great for this and many other reasons. They remind you of things you don’t think about anymore and maybe they are the things you don’t want to think about, but you probably should.

    Either way. I am intrigued by this little 1st grade boy who knows enough about God to start his own club. So cute.

  2. Karsha permalink
    May 13, 2014

    Our gREMlin is asking questions about God, too. I feel so guilty about not knowing how to handle it. Totally know we gotta figure this one out, soon. These kids are so smart and ask SUCH good questions these day, huh? (PS – is it acceptable for us to just tell her to Google it? KIDDING!)

  3. May 13, 2014

    I grew up with an athiest father and we attended a Unitarian Fellowship when we were young. And that was about it. Not a lot of God talk. But my “club of 4″ then was a good club. We learned some stories from the bible because that is useful to know, since many people in our world follow the bible. But mostly we learned how to be good people. And that all people come in different shapes and sizes and yet, we are all equal. We were taught that most people are good and that some people are not so good and that sometimes there will be things that people do that just don’t make sense. We were taught that jokes about women, about blacks, about gays or any singled out group for that matter, wasn’t a joke worth telling. I am now growing with my own little club of four each day and we talk a lot about God. And I tell them what I believe. We sometimes talk about stories from the bible and I tell them what I think happens after we die. And then I tell them that they get to choose how they want to believe. What feels good to them. I leave it open because I do believe that each of our relationships with God, the universe, our higher power, mother nature or our inner strength, however or whatever you call that for you, is sacred and often times private. Something to talk about with your very own “club”, whether that’s your family or in your place of worship. I know this is a heated topic, but I just wanted to share a perspective from someone who doesn’t relate to organized religion so much as she relates to the human spirit and the need to connect with that higher power – however you see that working for you.

  4. May 14, 2014

    I really enjoyed this Raluca, and as someone without kids, it definitely provides a glimpse into something I need to consider!
    Also, I wanted to say to @Anna that I really loved your perspective and your approach. I think if I were in the position, I’d attempt the same. :)

  5. amy parent permalink
    May 14, 2014

    interesting. I also grew up in Montreal, and as a Catholic Public school graduate, i think its safe to say the environment is more about culture than religion. Having been here for twenty years, I think Americans distinguish themselves by their religion.Its what makes them different from each other. and they’ll latch on to anything that does that. As an anglophone, we latch on to our language and our culture.

  6. May 19, 2014

    When we decided to marry, we knew religion would be part of our married and – hopefully, at that point – family life. Neither of us was particularly church-going at the time, but wanted to stay grounded in our Christian faiths – both Christian, but also different. You see, he’s Orthodox, and I’m Lutheran. I think only if I were Quaker (and my ancestors were), could the churches, practices, and even some of the beliefs be more different. We’re still navigating it.

    We chose an Orthodox wedding and baptism for our children because Lutherans accept all, and Orthodox get a little iffy on the baptism front. We take our kids to Orthodox Sunday school. But we celebrate the holidays and honor the church calendar from both perspectives. It’s starting to take on a bit of a dance feel, as our 6.5yo now asks questions about why I don’t always go to church with them, or why I go to a different church. And yet, the most important thing to us is to raise them in a Christian and thoughtful way, where they have grounding traditions and faithful ways…even if my being separated from my own because I’m taking them to “their church” can be painful for me.

    Long comment, but for an important parenting moment. What you and skater hubs are doing with your little ones is spot on – listening, remaining open, and wondering, yourselves, about what you want to do going forward. There is no one answer.

  7. Christina B permalink
    May 21, 2014

    Let me first start by saying that I consider myself to be a devout Christian. However, I was raised by parents who only thought about God from 9-10 am on Sunday mornings. I am also the sister of two loving, wonderful adults who are not Christian, but they are my very best friends. I am also 44, and a homeschooling mom of a fantastic, and fantastically strong-willed 13 year old boy. I tell you these things only because I hope to offer you a little background and insight into my opinions.

    I am definitely in agreement with many of the things I’ve read above. To their responses, I would add only one thing: Relax. You’re doing a great job, Mama! You and your husband are obviously loving, attentive, supportive and empathetic parents. As long as you’re also teaching her some of the other keys to a happy, successful life–and I’m sure you are–such as resilience, responsibility, integrity, self-discipline, independence, respect for herself and others, and a love for learning, I’m certain she’ll be just fine. :)

    Imho, your daughter’s involvement in this little club is a reflection of her friendship with the boy and normal childhood exploration. I think she’s starting to try on hats to see which ones flatter and fit. What is most important now is that she knows that she is allowed to explore the whole world and everything in it, and that she has plenty of time. She needs to know that it is perfectly acceptable for her to slowly change and develop over time, to eventually become the woman she was meant to be and whomever she dreams she can be, even if that’s not exactly like everyone else in the family. She also needs to know that if as an adult, she decides that she wants to go to church / temple / mosque / some other worship center, because that’s what feels right to her, that will be her prerogative, but until then, you and your husband will do what you believe is best for the family, according to your knowledge and experience.

    As a result of this boy’s enthusiasm, if she presses you about going to church, you might mention to her that some people attend a particular kind of religious services every week until they graduate from high school, only to completely leave all religions behind or choose another one. Furthermore, many people don’t have religious training at all during their childhood years, only to discover religion as adults.

    The point is, if she chooses to do that that will be then, and as long as you continue to encourage her to ask good questions of herself, such as: is this for me? Am I following or leading? Growing or stagnating? Does it feel right according to what I understand is right / honorable / true? then she’ll be just fine.

    Until then, keep doing what you’re doing and don’t worry. It sounds as though she’s a bright, curious child, and that’s a very good thing. If you were Christians, I would advise you to pray for her and keep praying. In the absence of that, I will offer you the advice of my great granddad, which turned out to be the best parenting advice we have ever received: Listen hard. Communicate continually. Don’t let your pride get between you and your child. Don’t be afraid, as 99.9% of all parenting fears come to nothing. Love hard and don’t judge.

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