My kid is confused
Reply #23 - March 04, 2014, 01:17 AM
I'm so sorry to revive an old thread, but, Cornflower, your story reminded me of a similar one of my own. It is a bit long, but in case you're ever bored:
One of my earliest memories as a kid (my memory is very poor so this was probably ~age 6 or 7) was when I was visiting my grandparents in Kentucky. You know, the good old American South, where not being Christian is as odd as not being from Earth. Especially back in the day.
We were about to make the long drive home to CT. My grandmother was saying goodbye to us on the porch, zipping up our coats, kissing us goodbye, and for some reason I asked my grandmother if the baptist church down the road from their farm was the one that they go to on Sunday. My grandmother gently said, "Oh, sweetheart, I don't believe in God."
I was incredulous. I never even realized that it was possible to not believe in God before that moment, and it was painful for some reason I couldn't identify to realize that my grandmother, a person that I loved dearly, did not believe in him. I repeated what she had said in disbelief, and she added, "But you can, if you want."
As a child, that was a pretty sad memory. But when I got to around 13 or 14, and I started seeing the greater diversity of the world and noticing all the problems I had with Christianity, not only the theology but the followers, suddenly I thought back to that memory and, this time, I was impressed. I mean, here is a woman growing up in one of the most Christian areas you can ask for, and my grandmother has been alive for nearly 80 years. She was born to Christians, surrounded by Christians, but, from an early age, wasn't even having it. How cool is that?
Nowadays, even though it didn't happen immediately, I still remember this and have immense respect for her, and a whole new appreciation for her situation. I recently--mere months ago--confided in her about my atheism. She is the only one in my family who knows. I told her about this memory, and she did not remember it, but she quickly apologized and said she should have kept it from me, that she didn't mean to hurt me, that she kept it from her children and her husband and that she didn't know why she said it to me that day. I quickly assured her that there was nothing to be sorry for.
Today, I am so thankful for it, and I have such a deep understanding and connection with her now. It took me nearly two decades to figure it out, but today I understand not only her position, but I have grown to assume some of her loneliness and appreciate her immense frustration over the years. I will always be glad for her honesty. We spent hours that day speaking about religion, about the one time she tried to tell my grandfather she didn't believe in God, about how she secretly watches Bill Maher at night (and she advised me not to do so, though, because he swears, and she is sweet). She had no higher education, and knows little about science, so she asked me to explain a bunch of things, and I did to the extent of my abilities, and she just listened with a sense of vindication as I confirmed for her all these intricacies of nature that she never knew but always sensed and always felt.
What I suppose I am getting at here is that I still remember being at that age where I was confused, where I was afraid and saddened by the disbelief of a loved one, where I still thought I was going to Hell for lying to my little sister a few too many times, where my mother convinced me that, when I felt temptation, I should whisper "Satan, be gone" to myself like a psychopath (true story). Childhood is a confusing time, especially with religion. But I was fortunate enough to have fairly accepting parents, to have opportunities to see the broader side of the world. It was a long journey, and it took me through two religions, but I finally got to a place where my mind is free and I am happy.
Your daughter is fortunate to have you on her side; while you cannot make conclusions for her, you can be an opposing force and a new source of inspiration to her as she matures. Encourage her to think, to open her mind, expose her to different ideas and books and be there to answer her questions along the way. Trust that she will, with your support, be able to form her own conclusions in her adulthood, and get to a place where she feels safe and comfortable. It is painful now for both of you, but it is not permanent.
I am confident that, with a mother like you, there is no way that she will not grow to be an intelligent and thoughtful young woman, capable of formulating her own beliefs and living a life with little confusion or fear. It just takes time and patience, and a lot of support and encouragement. She will change and grow, and her thoughts will mature. And perhaps one day she will also feel even closer to you by the sudden understanding of your position, your perspective, and how you have suffered on her behalf.