I have been thinking deeply about what is important to teach our Pud about our faith and how to help him learn and develop his own as he grows. This topic comes to mind after a rather unfortunate event occurred with my niece last week, when a “false prophet” declared that “all science is lies and obscures God’s truth” during her Sunday School lesson. The young teacher was only spouting what she had been taught by her parents, but certainly this was a problem for my niece- her mother is a biologist- a scientist. A 9 year old had just been told that her mom works in lies. Imagine the earth-shattering revelation this was. Thankfully, she went to her mom and asked the right questions, and her mom was able to explain that science isn’t evil in and of itself- and that being a scientist doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to have faith in God and know Him. My niece is fine now, but certainly, she will probably have lingering questions.
As we’ve been walking our neighborhood, another issue has been throwing itself in my face more and more: Halloween. I’m struggling with this. For many Christians, this is a holiday from which children need to be protected for faith reasons, but interestingly, this isn’t my struggle. Mine is the gore and scariness that comes with it. Young children’s minds need to be protected, I firmly believe, because they cannot handle some images and ideas. I feel especially strongly about protecting Pud’s innocence while he is young, not just because we are to watch what we put into our bodies and our minds (the Temple of God), but also because B and I both have vivid imaginations. I am easily frightened by my own imagination, which is most active during sleep. Pud inherited my sleep crazies, so I definitely want to protect him from frightening nightmares and thoughts for as long as I can. Good sleep is a precious commodity. I feel better knowing that the greatest fears he has right now are the normal toddler fears: of mama and daddy being gone for too long, of everyday things that can hurt him if he isn’t careful, and the like.
So why is this titled “Faith and Parenting Struggles”? Because some of these issues that we face as we parent require a strong faith, not only in God for his merciful guidance towards making wise choices, but also in ourselves to stick with our convictions and beliefs about what is best for our children.
I have, as you may remember, been very committed to finding a church home that I feel is welcoming of young worshippers. It hasn’t been an easy road, and it has required some humility, but we have found a place to belong that feels like it will be a good fit for our family. I had to let go of the need to find one that teaches children the way that I would, in favor of B and I doing so entirely by ourselves at home and in our daily life around the community (which we were already doing, of course). My sister and niece’s situation confirms that this is the right choice; I cannot trust churches to choose the best teachers for my children when so few truly knowledgeable Christ-followers will volunteer their time for the youngest among us. In order to be that volunteer myself, I have to be committed to a church for at least 6 months, so please understand that I’m not trying to avoid this responsibility myself. I know that I cannot control of what my children decide to do with their lives when they grow up, but I can control what messages they hear while they are young and unable to reason logically enough to know when to discard what might be messages from “false prophets.” By worshipping with us, we know for sure what Pud is being taught by others about our God and our Bible, as well as the world around us, and we can talk with him about what he’s hearing. This protectiveness may make us sound like religious extremists, but in reality, we’re protecting him from extremist and possibly false doctrines with which we disagree (such as the idea that “ALL science is lies…”).
Making rational and sound decisions to protect his mind and heart isn’t easy. Halloween’s less fun, more scary side is, literally, all around us. How do we protect him without putting a blindfold on him every time we take a walk or head to the store? This is our first time to deal with this from the parenting perspective, so we’re trying a couple of different approaches:
- when we go into stores and see scary masks and Halloween decorations, this is our chance to check them out without them being on a person (because that totally makes them scarier)
- while walking, I try to pick the streets and sides of the street that aren’t so scary. If I find one which has “that (over-the-top) house” on it, I’m trying to wait until after Halloween to go back to it.
- we won’t be trick-or-treating. We are still debating whether we will be giving out candy or not, but probably not (with the excuse that it occurs during the hours we are doing the bedtime routine).
- We are going to check out the young-children-friendly Halloween events/activities at our zoo. This will give us a chance to have fun dressing Pud in a cute costume (maybe as Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes?), give him the thrill of seeing others all dressed up in fun costumes, and ease my worries about trick-or-treating.
What do you do about the whole Halloween thing? Do you celebrate? How? What do you do to protect your children’s hearts and minds (and souls)?