“Who’s that man hanging on the wall.”
Thinks to myself “Oh shit.”
It was Sunday. We were at cake bingo. Cake bingo was held in a rather prominent Catholic church here in town. There was a crucifix on every available wall.
I feel the need to insert this here: I’m not religious. I don’t enjoy talking about religion at this point in my life (vs my youth when I loved a good riotous debate). I’ve spent years and years thinking about it, weighing my options. And I have really thought about it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand how important it is to other people. That doesn’t mean that I scoff at anyone who does worship a god. I myself don’t worship a god. I also fervently believe that being an atheist and being a decent human being are not mutually exclusive. I am respectful when someone wants to say grace before a meal – I just sit or stand quietly. I don’t feel the need not to say the Pledge of Allegiance because of the “under god” part – I just don’t say those 2 words. It’s honestly not something I’ve actively thought about for quite some time. Years, really. Then I became a parent.
At first I thought I had an elegant solution: I would simply defer discussions about religion until my kids were older and actively asked questions about it – demonstrated that they were cognitively ready to handle it. I would explain my beliefs, and how I arrived at them. I would do that as neutrally as possible. I would also refer them to other trusted adults in their life – namely their grandparents – to ask them questions. I wanted – I still want – my kids to come to their own conclusions.
But this world isn’t sanitized. You can’t white out something that is as big and as important an institution to so many people. It will catch a kid’s attention at some point.
Several years ago, we would drive past these colossal crosses alongside the interstate and Stella would chime up, “Look at the lower-case T’s.” I would feel kind of proud. Parenting win. Then came talk of angels and how beautiful they are. But what are angels? I sort of insinuated that angels were like tall fairies with feathery wings. That started to get a bit uncomfortable. Then came the death talks and what happens when a person dies, when will I die, when will Stella die. We’ve actually had a lot of those lately for some reason, complete with huge shuddering sobs. I’m not sure why. I honestly think the last one was because her Spanish teacher (of Cuban descent) was talking about Castro’s death. The death bit is hard when you don’t believe in a heaven and can’t look your kid in her huge blue eyes full of tears and say with any sense of certainty that we will all see each other in heaven one day and it will be lovely and we can all eat cake all the time and slide down rainbows. I told her that all of the wonderful energy in her body will be released and will become part of something else wonderful. She didn’t like that answer, and I don’t blame her. She just cried that her “special smile will be gone forever.” DAMMIT.
And now. Now it’s “who is the man hanging on the wall?”
I tried, y’all. But I’m sorry. I don’t feel comfortable telling my extremely literal 6 year old that lots of people believe that a man was tortured to death 2,000 years ago and then he came back to life, especially not in a crowded room in a church. She will draw correlations with zombies. I know she will. And then will come the questions about the torture. SHE’S ONLY 6. I’M NOT GOING THERE. I muttered that he was a person named Jesus that lived a long time ago who was important to many people’s beliefs, and HEY I SEE SOME MORE OF THE GIRLS. It worked. This time.Then we were talking to some other scouts from the church’s troop. They were talking about having mass at school. I was silently willing Stella not to ask about either tumors or weights. I know she’s heard that term in conjunction with those things – not a religious service.
I’m going to have to start talking about this stuff sooner than I thought. I’d ask y’all to pray for me, but….