Welcome, Mamma Crew! Today is Mamma Thursdays when it’s all about us! The mammas!

So, I got into the most interesting discussion with one of my friends. She knows that we attend church on a regular basis. And by daily, I mean two to three times a month. I would love to tell you that I’m dedicated and get up every Sunday, but unfortunately, that has never been me. Two to three times a month is about as regular as I seem to get. In any case, she wanted to discuss with me whether or not I should choose my children’s religion.

So, I got into the most interesting discussion with one of my friends. She knows that we attend church on a regular basis. And by daily, I mean two to three times a month. I would love to tell you that I’m dedicated and get up every Sunday, but unfortunately, that has never been me. Two to three times a month is about as regular as I seem to get. In any case, she wanted to discuss with me whether or not I should choose my children’s religion.

I found this to be an interesting question because I never thought about it as choosing my children’s religion. I grew up in a Catholic family where Catholicism was part of our culture. But I certainly decided not to bring up my children in the same culture and have explored different churches.

Now, we have finally found a church home. And I and one of my daughters chose to be baptized in that church, but my other daughter indeed has chosen not to do so. And I respect that. I think that my attitude perhaps is quite liberal in that I am quite happy with my children being children of faith, meaning that they believe in God, but I don’t necessarily care that much where or how they choose to worship. In the meantime, however, I do expect them to attend church with me as often and as regularly as I do. 

Now, does that mean that I’m choosing their religion? Hmmm… Interesting. Frankly, I think that action speaks louder than words. And I believe that my children will learn our family values because they are on display every day — both in our actions and our inactions — through the friends that we choose to make, and through the community that we want to participate in. I think that we demonstrate our values most clearly in the ways we choose to spend our time, our money and our energy. And I believe that children have, like, this sixth sense — the ability to observe and analyze our parental behavior, and nitpick when there is A difference between what we are saying and our actual daily actions. 

I think it is in the seemingly inconsequential minutiae of everyday life that our children genuinely learn from us what our core values are. Therefore our children learn our values by observing our behavior through our daily lives and the interactions between the families. 

Now, as parents, we can be clear on our values, but we have to be intentional about passing them on through our actions. And if we are going to use words to move on those values, those words must be consistent with our efforts.

So back to her question: am I choosing my children’s religion? Well, I certainly hope not because that is not my intention. I do hope, however, that my children have a relationship with God and that that relationship serves as a moral compass to navigate an incredibly complex world. And I have no concerns that my children will not embrace this value. I do feel that they are embracing it.

For example, my daughter is choosing not to be baptized in this specific church. I feel that she still is a godly person — in other words, someone who believes in God because she reads the bible and she prays, she indeed turns to heavenly father at those moments when she has to make difficult decisions. But I’m also confident that it’s highly likely that when she becomes an adult, she will choose a different church. And I have no problems with that because I understand that even though we share the same value, her expression of that value may be different. And I believe that varying interpretations of the same values are healthy. I mean, she needs to develop her individuality. 

As for my daughter, who has chosen to be baptized in the same church, she’s finding her way. She certainly doesn’t share my beliefs one hundred percent — she’s finding her path within the same religious organization.

Even before we had our children, for my husband and I, family unity was one of our most progressive core values. So in the face of family members who make different choices, we feel that learning to be inclusive and accepting of those choices is essential allies in keeping our family unity. I believe that because we respect our children’s differences and their need to explore things from a different perspective, it helps us bind together and be more committed as a family. 

I do fully expect that at some point in their teen years, one or both of my twins will rebel against attending church, and indeed, my adopted daughter and son, who’s quite a bit younger, will go through the same phase. But all those years of education finally come in handy because I do understand that adolescents have a developmental need to challenge their parents’ values. It’s a normal part of child development. I know that during this process, they will try on many hats. I remember myself I explored Judaism, different Christian ways of worship. I think that the most significant problem is not the exploration itself, but that as parents, we often react in fear, and this alienates us from our children.

Andy certainly can test those individuality boundaries. And frankly, more than fearing her individuality, sometimes I’m just irritated by it. I wish she would just conform just a little. While most of the time, I am incredibly proud of her, Andy certainly has a strong moral compass. For example, we were once at the kids’ favorite stores since they became teenagers — or preteens, instead — which is Coles’, and we passed by a basket that had one shirt in it, and I passed by it because that kind of stuff makes me nervous. What if the person is around? What if they see me taking their basket? Of course, I would give it back, but it just makes me uncomfortable.

My husband is the opposite — he looks around, he checks things out, doesn’t look like there’s anybody next to it; okay, he’s going to take the shirt out and use the basket. But in this case, he asked Andy to do it. And she said, “No! No!” Now at that point, she was less than three feet tall, and my husband is 6’2” — big German guy — and yet she stood her ground. She wasn’t disrespectful about it. She told her dad she wasn’t going to do it. The basket belonged to somebody else, and we brought her up to never take somebody else’s things. It’s not only part of our religious values but part of our cultural values, our family values, and so she wouldn’t do it. My husband was distraught, and I had to remind him that we had taught her to stand up for her beliefs, and what a beautiful thing it is that she’s able to stand up to my husband because it means that she’ll be able to stand up to other people. And she has often done that. She stands up to her peers, and me — and I admit it doesn’t always make me happy — but I accept it. And I try not to react out of fear. Or out of frustration, which I sometimes do, because I understand that it’s important to her to practice the values set we have taught her.

Now during this discussion, my friend said something that I found quite insulting, which was it should be evident to all people, but unfortunately, it is not that children should be allowed to choose what to believe in. Now I found it insulting because the reality is that children are not equipped to know which values to select, how to express values, or even how to act on them. It’s our responsibility as parents to help them develop those skills. 

Of course, she then argued that children should have a choice — they should have the freedom to decide for themselves what they want to believe. Really? Throughout the many years that I taught, I indeed found that my students had some interesting ideas about what was important in life. For example, some chose to believe that drinking was not problematic. Some chose to believe that smoking was not problematic. They felt that choosing to drink or smoke would not have long-term consequences in their lives, and I already know several of my students struggled with breathing disorders and a few with alcoholism — which is not to say that everybody who drinks will become an alcoholic. I’m certainly not making that argument. But there are inherent risks in placing a value on these types of activities versus others.

Now, this is not the same thing as choosing whether to believe in God or not or choosing which religion to practice. It’s certainly not the same thing. But the whole point is that we, as parents do not give our children a lot of choices. We decide whether they should be vaccinated or not. We determine whether they should wear clean clothes or not. We decide whether or not they should go to school or not, or what school they should attend, or what homeschool program they should be doing. We make a lot of decisions for our children based on our values and what we feel is in the best interest of our children. That is a responsibility that we took on when we decided to become parents. And I think that as parents, we should commit to allowing our children to develop and enhance their human capital. 

I can’t tell you the number of times that I taught children of hugely financially successful families whose children had such incredible problems that when the parents passed away, the children were unable to maintain the parents’ lifestyle because they were not able to develop or the parents were not able to transmit their values system to their children.

Whatever our values are, be it religious or otherwise, we should be deeply devoted to the notion of helping our children become healthy, committed, vibrant individuals. I know that in today’s society, we have a plethora of opportunities and that these can lead to some complicated elements. Still, I believe that passing on our values and our ethics are essential because otherwise, we create a sense of entitlement, overindulgence, and indeed of materialism and lack of motivation.

I often hear parents complain that their children are incredibly materialistic but yet had no idea of what it entails to earn the assets that are required to maintain that lifestyle.

So back to the original question that got me into this whole discussion: should we choose our children’s religion for them? At least for our family, it’s not an issue of religion. For us, it’s an ongoing process of nurturing what we believe are excellent values. And we think that those values are essential for our family to flourish, not just in this generation but in the generations to come. 

My husband and I believe that ethical values are the most critical assets we as parents will leave our four children. So we are committed to doing our best at providing an environment in which they will acquire those values.

If you share an imperfect journey to motherhood, please subscribe to our blog (www.oldermomsblog.com) or podcast (https://apple.co/34m7mUi). Till next time…  Toodles….