“I’m losing my religion.” This stark declaration, followed by the poignant narrative of a mother’s dilemma, jolted me [DREAMS OF PLATYPUS — Easter eggs, the cross and the bunny; April 17, 2011]. The closing statement – “If you have any suggestion…” – moved me to try to reach out to fellow columnist, Kristyn Kay Maslog-Levis. Now, I’m sure that many others – more qualified or closer to her – are probably better suited to give counsel; my unsolicited advice may just be ignored. But just the same, I felt it somehow to be a duty.
When trying to sincerely help others, it would be quite easy to become prescriptive and dogmatic – and thereby seem to take on a “holier-than-thou” stance. I myself don’t like others who act like this. Often, the sanctimonious are also the most deceitful. So I’ll try not to be one, but of course it’s really up to the one concerned as to how it comes across. My motivation is that, as a parent myself (and grandfather, already), I may be able to share some ‘pointers’ for consideration. And with our writing columns here on the Metro Post, delving into this could somehow have a “multiplier effect” on the subject matter.
So what do I have to say? I say, just be yourself – a loving parent, together with your husband. No one else could take your places, as far as your child is concerned. Caring for and raising children with unconditional love is a universal human trait, the same across cultural or religious contexts/divides. While you may have become ambivalent about religion in your present situation, this has no immediate bearing on the fundamental relationship between you and your child.
But the funny thing about life is that as we move forward there will come certain times when kids ask questions that make us feel either uncomfortable or inadequate; many times both. No matter how you ratiocinate on the religious aspects of growing up, your own misgivings leave you in a quandary. Still, however, you do have faith – just not being practiced as before (hence, you say you’re “losing” it).
As you both progress into your roles as parents your child (or children) will be the mirror of your actual lives. When we look into mirrors we sometimes don’t like what we see, but feel or believe that we can do something, perhaps even a lot, about it. Since the previous ‘default’ or ‘standard’ answers are no longer sufficient or de rigueur or otherwise unavailable, you will just have to rely on your personal efforts and have your very own selves as exemplars for your child (or kids).
And then comes the point when we realize that no matter how carefully we planned and carried out our lives, there is something missing. Not relative to other people or how they have lived their own lives; but rather with reference only to ourselves and our whole experience of human existence. The faith you maintain at the core of your being makes you admit that such recognition should likewise be within your own child/kids – simply because we (parents) are not the end-all and be-all of their (our kids’) lives, nor are their own selves supposed to be the center of their lives all throughout.
By being parents, we devote our lives to our children; they in their own time also do the same. But when we realize that there must have been a beginning to this seemingly unbroken progression of life, religion actually allows us to readily express such inner recognition and faith – while, on the other hand, ultimately even the Darwinian or scientific tradition does not preclude the existence of a Higher Being at the very beginning of everything. Even if you reject the trappings of religion and its ramifications but just believe in that Higher Being as the source and end-destination of our very souls, then your life and how you lead it will inevitably reflect such faith – which your children will also imbibe, consciously and unconsciously.
Which is why, sooner or later, they will ask all about it. Whether or not you will pre-empt such curiosity is your choice; but we also realize that we do not actually control our children’s minds, nor their dreams, and also not their future, as expressed beautifully in The Prophet –
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
“You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”
I do not presume to know what is best for your particular situation. I can only tell you how I see the issue based on my own experience. I am sharing this because both our positions resonate within the same frame of reference, where religion is definitely a factor that, at least for me, offers intangible benefits which also influence both the significant and mundane elements of our lives. And for sure, you do agree that children are most important to parents.
Now, is it just coincidence how our Father in heaven feels the same way – about all of us?