When I think back to my childhood experience with religion I have a smattering of vague memories, but probably not what you would expect to recall when you think of spirituality and praising the divine. My most vivid physical memory is that of kneeling and standing and kneeling and standing. My mother was raised Catholic and if you haven’t been to Catholic church they do their fair share of this during Mass. My fathers side of the family was raised Christian and I had Aunt’s and Uncle’s that frequented church, so we sometimes tagged along with our cousin’s, mostly looking forward to the Rite Aid ice cream we would get afterwards rather than the sermon. I share this not to belittle religiosity, but to simply make the point that as a child I never really felt connected to one religion or another and frankly understood very little about connecting with the Source, God, Jesus, Higher Power, Jehova, Universe, Allah whatever you want to call her/him/it. All I have to say is thank goodness for spiritual evolution.
Now as a parent, I have had to review my own personal experience and make choices about how I will choose to introduce my kid to religion or spirituality. For some parents this choice is very simple – you were born into it, or through investigation you become clear on what you believe and you impart these beliefs onto your children. Some spiritual centers even have specific programs to help you along your way. I know mine is now offering Inspired Parenting playgroups where you can get support and build relationships with other parents of same spiritual mind. But sometimes there are curve balls that make it, well… not so straightforward. What about those couples with mixed faith marriages? I have several friends that have married outside of their faith, which presents another level of conversation. Two of my best friends are respectively a Jew married to a Gentile and a Buddhist married to a Muslim, with grandparents that want to celebrate Christmas regardless. It sounds messy, but mostly it works. I think because they have committed to being tolerant despite their religious differences.
Both of my parents have been open to exploring religion and spirituality from many angles and my siblings and I have been privy to this since childhood. This even trickled into their style as disciplinarians. My Dad, being a former Yogi and Black Belt in Karate, used to make us sit in Lotus as punishment as young kids. Do you have any idea the torture it is to make a 6 year old sit still for more than 5 minutes! Far worse than a beating. Sorry, I digress. In doing their own investigations, they have openly shared with us their realizations around the universal truths and a need to respect others choices for their own beliefs regardless of what we choose for ourselves. This is just one way to go about it, but can you imagine if it was a common practice around the globe to respect others religious practices? How many centuries of bloodshed could have been (and could be!) avoided? Oy vey.
This week we celebrate Passover and Easter and sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the commercialism of holidays. If you celebrate either with your kids of course make it fun, but also take the opportunity to look past the Matzo and Egg Hunts and share with your children the history behind the holiday and how this heritage has helped to shape their current reality. If your feeling a bit courageous, you can even take it a step further and teach them a little about what happens on the other side of the fence. It will only make for more open minds and greater respect for the choices that you make as a family with regards to your own beliefs. Shalom and God Bless.