I have to break my little rule today.
The Ginger came in last night from playing outside with his best friend (a kid he's been friends with for 3 years now), and he immediately trucked it to the back part of the house. He started doing his chores (on his own, without being told- Red Flag #1), and was putting things away in their places with a little too much vigor (read: slamming shit around- Red Flag #2). I quietly watched for a moment or two, to see if he'd open up about whatever was obviously bothering him, but then returned to my office because I know with The Ginger, he'd have to approach me... and he would.
A few minutes went by, and The Ginger popped into my office and asked, "Mom, are we atheists?"
Whoa. Okay. I knew something was bothering him, but that definitely came out of left field.
Of course I asked the obvious question:
"Where did you hear that word?"
The Ginger walked out of the room. He obviously didn't want to rat out his friend, but I didn't feel
like letting this one drop.
Me: Hey! Get back in here. Where did you hear that word?
The Ginger: I just know it.
Me: You are 10. You don't just know the word "atheist." What's going on?
That's when the tears started in his eyes. My heart started breaking.
The Ginger: I was outside playing with [neighborhood kid] and he asked me if I loved God. I didn't know how to answer because we don't go to church like his family. So, I told him I didn't think we were Christians, and he asked if we were atheists. Then, he added, "Oh, and I hate atheists." Am I an atheist, Mom? And, if I am, I'm scared [neighborhood kid] is going to stop hanging out with me because we aren't like his family. (more tears... which broke my heart even more)
Tears started welling up in my own eyes. Then, the anger set in that there was a possibility my son's best friend would no longer associate with him because of this. I calmed myself and tried to quickly figure out how I was going to approach this situation.
Hubby and I decided before we even had children that we weren't going to raise them under the cloud of a certain religion. He and I have very differing views on beliefs, religion, and spirituality, so we decided we would just raise our kids with general morals and ethics, to treat people with respect, be kind, and when they were old enough to truly understand religion, we would help educate them on all religions and let them choose for themselves.
So far, it's worked quite well for our family... until days like yesterday happened. We had a run-in a few years ago with a family member's child telling my kids we were all going to hell because we didn't go to church, but I handled that one with some grace (compared religion to ice cream, and blogged about it).
Now, with The Ginger a bit older and able to understand heavier issues (and seeing an opportunity for a home school lesson), I asked him if he'd like to learn about the different religions. He shook his head No, probably under the pretense that it'd be a lesson that lasted hours. I decided to go the Cliffs Notes route and explain monotheism, polytheism, agnosticism and atheism, and where his neighbor, me, and his dad fell on that spectrum. I told him it's perfectly fine to believe what you want to believe, and that everyone has the right to their own beliefs. I told him that in our house, we respect all walks of life, and as long as the person's beliefs aren't infringing on our own, then it doesn't matter to us what religion someone is. Then I explained to him the decision that Hubby and I made years ago to let the kids choose their spiritual path when the time was right.
He seemed happy with that. He started to walk out of the room, then stopped.
"So how to I answer his question, if he asks it again?" The Ginger asked me.
Me: Honestly? Just tell him we don't have a set religion in this house, and change the subject. The two of you need to concern yourself with Legos, Pokemon and making your videos, not religion. And tell him it's not nice to say he hates atheists, because Jesus should have taught him to love his neighbor.
The Ginger: Okay.
Me: Wait. Don't say that last part.
The Ginger: Okay.
Me: Wait. Say it. No, don't. Yeah, just don't. Just leave it. It's not worth the potential headache if he tells his mom what you said.
The Ginger: Okay.
And he left the room.
My family has friends and extended family who are devout Christians, Catholics, atheists, agnostics, pagans, wiccans, and plenty in the Little Bit of Everything category. We love them all, and that's the overall lesson I want to teach my kids.
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