Since growing a human in my belly, the topic of whether we should give our kiddies a "base" on religion or spirituality is something I've started to give more thought. Personally, I had one religious parent and one non-religious parent. That led me to be raised Catholic, and exposed to my mother's belief system. But even from a young age, I would challenge what I was being told strictly because I was being told "this is how it is" and there was no room for my own thoughts, opinions and developments. My sister, however, was more apt to do her homework when the priest came over to tutor us. We weren't raised any differently from one another.
My family's life experiences have since shaped our belief system as a unit, shifting into a more spiritual and individual practice than one of organized religion. Where losing a parent young and being diagnosed with a terminal illness a few years later, I could have personally flown heavily into my family's religion of choice, but instead I felt propelled even further out of it.
But would I have found a system that works for me had my mother not toted me to church on Sundays, capturing my First Communion and Confirmation? Would I have known to question whether I believed in heaven or even myself? Or was I always this way and just rejecting what someone else was trying to show me? It's a tricky debate.
A DIFFERENT TIME
There has been a significant shift happening on our planet. From our ecosystems to our economics, change is inevitable. When we start constructing things with the intention that they will never change or that they will last forever, we're disrupting the natural balance of the universe. I'm grateful we are growing into a more aware state as a species, recognizing our flaws with racism, female and male equality, even the medical system, though we still have a lot of work to do. But we will always have a lot of work to do. We are constantly shifting and growing into a better version of what we once were. Or at least, we're striving to.
This idea floats over to our spiritual beliefs. Where my mother may have once been scorned or slapped with a ruler to question her priest, I was not. The beginning of her spiritual journey may have been one of rigidity, but it is certainly not now. And that experience has shaped her practice today - and even mine. One of my mother's Spirit Guides is the Virgin Mary, a prominent character in the Catholic belief system. Where as the notion of a "spirit guide" is not. She had to discover spirit guides outside of the religion she was raised on. But one of her spirit guides is also based on the religion she was raised on.
When I pitched a fit in the backyard every time we were walking to church on Sundays, my mother wasn't miffed that I didn't want to go to church. She was stressed that she was a single parent trying to discipline and raise two daughters on her own - one of which was hell bent on defying her wishes. I can't imagine my mother having told me that Catholicism was something I needed to believe in and there was no room for discussion. While the religion as a whole may have made me feel that way, my mother most certainly did not. She was just giving me her base. She was giving me something to question. She was giving me idea that I could explore further when I was ready. The generations my mother and I were born into have different energies around them. And mine wouldn't be what it is without hers being what it is. The same would go for her mother. We expand on one another.
THE OTHER EXTREME
But now we have a lot of families comprised of "child kings" where the children seem to be the head of the household, making the decisions mostly because mom or dad are scared of doing something wrong. With so much information out there available to us, we have a hard time determining with certainty what is the right way or wrong way to do something, particularly in raising children. And sometimes, mom and dad can have differing ideals in this area. Everyone has an opinion and while we're busy trying to make our own, it can feel really daunting. Instead of making a decision, oftentimes no decision is made and I think this is actually hurting our kids.
The world has gotten smaller. We have access to far more research and information than our parents did - and just imagine the type of knowledge our children will have access to that we don't even know about yet. If we expand on our parents, our children therefore expand on us. By teaching our children a "base" on any religion or spiritual belief, paired with the encouragement to think for themselves - to question when they have a question and to actually ponder what they're being shown - we're opening them up to an avenue of exploration to find their own spiritual path. We're not telling them what is the correct or incorrect way to think about something. We're saying, "You should think about this."
It doesn't matter if you're toting your son to church or showing your daughter how mom sages the house, our children learn from our actions, not just our words. By not doing anything, are we depriving them of the ability to even explore? Sure, we may have a naturally curious offspring, or he or she may be exposed to individuals that show them different ideas, but we are their first encounter regarding the idea of an afterlife and a belief system.
IT ISN'T ONLY YOU
When discussing this with my spouse, I told him I wouldn't hide my crystals when our son came, and that our son would probably carry crystals in his pocket. He would see me meditating or saging, and he'd hear me talking about spirits. "Oh great, you're going to make him the weird kid," was the response I got. But then... I sat and listened to my spouse talk about our nephew and how he sees his Grandma everywhere, even though she is deceased. Our nephew can tell us who she spends time with and that she is in heaven, despite never hearing any of us talk about heaven. My spouse talked about this with awe and fascination. If our son was in the room (which he arguably was) he would have been privy to hearing his dad talk about this, too. Derek wasn't voicing a particular opinion. We were just talking. Since he and I don't have identical views on the afterlife, had our son been present, he would have be forced to make his own opinions based on the differing views from mom and dad.
Here's an example: Grandma might pass away when Olivia is only four, and we might just tell Little Livvy that that is it: Grandma is gone. We might tell her Grandma is now in heaven - because it's just easier than getting into it. Or, we might tell her Grandma is just gone, but Aunty Sue says Grandma is in heaven, and Uncle Peter might say Grandma is still with us, even if we can't see her. Now try being the four-year-old.
KIDS ARE PRETTY MAGICAL
When we're still young, we haven't learned what we are and aren't supposed to do yet, or what we are and aren't supposed to believe in. And while it can sometimes be enlightening, that's why kids can sometimes be embarrassing when they aren't politically correct. But it makes you wonder what they actually see when they're talking to someone who isn't there, or what they think when they see or hear something for the very first time. We desensitize children so they can fit into our version of society, and this is where giving them "a base" might seem like a deterrent. Are we our most spiritual when we are first born? How does my nephew know of the concept of heaven, and that Grandma isn't with him a lot lately - she's spending a lot of time with Grandpa. Where does a child come up with this? My nephew isn't in daycare yet, and he primarily spends time with family. And we haven't taught him how "we" think about these types of things yet. So where did he get it?
Another expecting girlfriend of mine feels a big pull to church lately, but she's torn over whether she should expose her four-year-old to that environment. "If he wants to be a buddhist, then I want him to be a buddhist. If he wants to be a Christian, then I want him to be a Christian." But I'd offer her son is already what he will be and that by exposing him to her church, she wouldn't be changing that. She'd be encouraging him to seek out his satisfaction when it comes to spirituality. Oddly enough, since she is pregnant right now, could it be that child that is craving the religious environment?
Kids are pretty magical, born or unborn. Sometimes we underestimate their awareness. How many times has a child said something profound to you that makes you scratch your head in awe? It is very possible they already have all their spirituality coursing through their tiny bodies and it's up to us - their educators - to show them how to listen to it. And what better way to show our kids how to do this by living by example? We aren't telling them, "This is the right way to be spiritual/religious," we're teaching them, "This is how mom is spiritual. How are you spiritual?"
As a soon mom-to-be, the varying opinions I've received on how to raise my child is astounding - spirituality included. But we've been having families for an eternity, and we know inherently what is right for us and our families. By trusting yourself, you will know what is right for you and your family and that won't necessarily be right for your brother's family or your best friend's family. Explore what works for you until it feels right. Have you given your children a base?