Well, it happened. Just like I knew it would. Except it was worse than I had imagined and I felt more uncomfortable than I might have predicted.
For the past few weeks, Paisley has been asking me a lot about religion and prayer. It all started when she asked why her Grandpa prays before eating. We explained to her that some people thank God before they eat. We told her that some people believe in God, and some people don’t. When asked what God was we replied that he was a man who lives in the sky and takes care of you. I thought that was an age appropriate way to explain a complicated (and let’s be honest – confusing) concept. Ever since then she has been asking more questions. I explained that I used to believe in God but that after looking at the evidence I decided that I didn’t any more. Which led to a conversation about evidence. We talked about believing in flying ducks versus flying pigs. I went through each example, offering evidence for and against each claim. At the end of our conversation she stated that “I don’t believe in a man in the sky or that pigs can fly.” I had a bad feeling about going to see the in-laws for Easter dinner.
My hubby and I debated about whether we should preempt her by telling her not to say anything about God. We decided against it, mainly because I rail against the practice of religion being treated with kid gloves. I don’t want to introduce the idea that religion is any different than any other subject – ask questions, think for yourself, speak freely. So we didn’t and I knew, I just knew she was going to say something.
So, we are sitting down about to eat lunch and Grandpa decides to lead us in prayer. (As a sidenote, leading “us” in prayer really means leading the minority of the people at the table in prayer which feels a bit weird, but whatever, their house,) Paisley listens with eyes wide open and then proceeds to make her way around the table telling each person that “there is NO man in the sky.” When I tried to quietly tell her to sit and eat, she yelled “I have to tell the people who believe in God that there is no man in the sky.” Wow. Grandma was pissed but everyone else just ignored her. She kept persisting, long after it was uncomfortable and my husband eventually distracted her and changed the subject. When we sat down to pray for Easter dinner though, she started again and said “But I don’t believe in G -” before both my husband and I shooshed her. Nobody said anything to us about it (his family believes in evading the elephant in the room almost as much as they do the restoration of the one true church – thank goodness) but it was tense.
My husband found the whole thing hilarious but I don’t deal with that stuff as well as he does (which is funny because typically he tends to be more reserved and rigid and I’m more apt to flaunt convention). As much as I try, I can’t handle verbal conflict. I have a hard time being direct and saying what I mean when what I mean is hurtful or uncomfortable. At the same time, I am proud that we are raising our kids in a secular household. I never want my kids to feel like they can’t ask questions or that they need to be embarrassed about their beliefs and I have been second-guessing myself ever since we left. Did I handle that right? Should we have said something to either explain or defend her? Was shooshing her the wrong thing to do? It’s hard because my in-laws have been pretty careful not to raise or push their religion on us and while everyone knows that we aren’t Mormon, it’s not something we talk about. I find it hard to strike a balance between respecting others and allowing the kids to be themselves.
My favourite part? When Grandma didn’t quite catch what my daughter had said and yelled, “What?! There is a snowman in the sky?” Don’t worry – Paisley set her straight.