March 31, 2016

Atheist Mama: Setting Boundaries with Religious Family...do I haaaaaavvveeee tooooooo?

I love my family.

They're one of my biggest sources of support. We used to live about three minutes from the epicenter of mi familia--my parents' home--but we moved last year about an hour and a half away. Since then, I've really come to treasure the time that I get to spend with them.

They're religious. If you've been reading for a while, you're probably saying, Duh, right about now, but it's relevant. For me, the conflict between my family's belief and my lack thereof is grating sometimes. I feel like I'm a disappointment, and I know that they are worried about how we are raising our children.

And that's where it gets really hairy. Because they are really reticent about their concerns, I'm not able to address those concerns directly.

Recently, we found out that they're reading bible stories to our kids when they spend the night. This wouldn't be a problem (we have multiple bible story books here anyway), but I feel more comfortable handling the kids' religious instruction so that I can be sure that it's done in accordance with our values. We value letting the kids make their own choices--we just provide them with information on a variety of belief systems in the meantime.

For my family, though, other belief systems aren't valid. There's only one truth. That's completely antagonistic to the pluralistic track we've been on.

I'm not good with boundaries, guys. I'm really not. I've worked hard at it, and I've gotten better at it over the years with lotsa therapy, but I'm still nowhere near good at it. Usually I have to be pushed to my absolute breaking point before I will take a stand, and sometimes, I have to be pushed past even that. So the thought of setting boundaries with my family on this subject is really anxiety-inducing to say the least.

So I've been thinking about it, and here's what I've come up with.

First, I googled, because where else do you start? I really enjoyed this point made by a Patheos blogger:

Do you honestly think your relatives’ religious views are going to succeed in “indoctrinating” your child. Not a chance. Children may go to church every Sunday with their grandparents, but they’ll still look to their parents for true religious guidance. So stop worrying so much. Explain to your kids that people have all sorts of religious beliefs, and encourage them to explore and ask lots of questions. Give your child a preview of what they might hear from relatives or friends at school. Tell them it’s okay to believe in God or not believe in God, and that people have lots of different ideas about how the universe was made and what happens after we die. Some people have such strong beliefs that they try very hard to convince others that their way is the right and only way. Encourage your children to listen and be respectful and that they have plenty of time to make up their own minds.

Now, it seems like an out for setting boundaries, but I don't want to take it entirely. It's tempting though.

So I am considering what else I should do in addition to relaxing and realizing that my spouse and I are still the biggest influences on our children. I think it's beyond time to have a conversation with my family about how we're raising the kids as a secular family. I don't know that it would allay their concerns, but I hope that it would help at least a little.

Most importantly, I'd like them to know that I don't mind them sharing their faith with the children, as long as they respect the children's right to have space to decide for themselves someday.

That's honestly all I really want.

Too much to ask? Maybe. I suppose we will just have to see.

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