Syd has become a voracious reader in the last several months. She reads in the car, during meals, before bed--given pretty much any opportunity. Lately she's been working her way through "Ramona and her Father," which has generated some interesting questions about job loss, family security, tobacco addiction, and religion. The latter subject was broached after I finished reading loud the last part of the book's final chapter, in which Ramona takes part in the church's Christmas pageant. There's a lot of stuff about Beezus looking "holy" (try explaining that concept to a 6-year-old at 9:10 p.m.) and bits of some hymns, which I sang with relish (those church songs are transportational--I could practically smell the incense). As I closed the book, Sydney gave me a shy look and said, "I don't know about the apes and fishes thing, but I definitely believe in God. I'm sorry, Mama."
It was a strange moment, on several accounts. At first I had no idea what she meant by "apes and fishes"--until I remembered that we'd had a talk about evolution a few days before. Now that was a loaded exchange, given that a few days before that she'd insisted I tell her where babies come from ("And don't say "the daddy gives something to the mommy," I want to know exactly how") and I'd used the term "fishies" to describe sperm (I know. Kick me. Hard.) and she had visibly recoiled. Fast forward to the evolution talk; we can all probably imagine her struggle to understand the intersection between sexual and evolutionary fish. And the God thing? What do you do with the God thing?
It wasn't that she professed belief; I'm more than fine with that. Supportive, actually. It was her apology that threw me--the fact that she clearly sensed a betrayal. Sure, her Dad is a staunch atheist, but her Mama? I've always considered myself pretty open with my kids; I'm happy to let them find their own ways, and I'm more surprised when they show similar proclivities to my own than when they digress. For example, last week Syd came home from her first day at Jimmy Club and told me about a cheerleading class in which they'd learned a cheer that ended with a triumphant "we're number one and we'll beat you!" She told me she felt bad about potentially hurting the other group's feelings and tried to get her group to change the ending to "we're number one and so are you." She was voted down but said she was going to ask her counselor about it again the next day. I was insanely touched and proud: talk about strength of character! But at the same time, I recognized how incredibly different we are; when she'd recited the chant my first thought had been "That isn't hard enough. It should be more like "we're number one and we'll crush you."
Point being, we're very different people, Syd and I. And that's an excellent thing.
The religion issue is no different--I'm happy to see her considering the issue, and I'd love for her to find her way into, around, or away from it. Not only that, but I had an incredibly positive, enriching, and at times life-saving experience with organized religion when I was myself a child, and what kind of asshole parent would discourage her kid from seeking out the same? When my mom was terribly ill, when we had no money, when I wanted to learn to play music, when I succeeded and when I failed, when I thought no one loved me, when the other kids were asshole bullies, the church community was there--and not in a creepy "come to Jesus and he will heal you" kind of way. Just a straight up, we-got-your-back, salt-of-the-earth, kind of way. I'd love the same for Sydney. My girl is a social animal; she is kind and loving and gregarious, she craves love and affection--and maybe she'll find that in a religious community. And anyone who dares to suggest otherwise can kiss my agnostic ass.
So why does she doubt my support? Why does she need to apologize? In some small ways I must be suggesting disapproval--which is strange, because aside from shit like bombing abortion clinics or doing this, I would enthusiastically support my kids in whatever they choose to do.
It's astounding, the inner lives of children. Goes to show you never can tell.