It's been a long time since I've been around here, but I'm trying to be a bit more active now that I'm done with my student teaching and am quietly awaiting news on the job front.

Anyway, I am the proud papa of a rather gifted (and I say that with little dad-colored-glasses as he's been speaking complete complex sentences since he was 2 and reading on his own since he was 3) now 4 1/2 year old boy.  My wife and I are generally on the same page as far as religion goes, in that we don't believe in it nor see a need for it, but my family is mostly Catholic.  My brother and sister-in-law are actively indoctrinating their own children into the church (4 and soon to be 1) and have had their 4 yr old saying "grace" at every meal since she was able to do so.  This includes family get togethers, which is the only place my children are exposed to this sort of thing.

My son and his cousin are very close since my son doesn't go to a big day care and therefore has few friends and even fewer of which are close to his own age.  He's very bright, but has recently begun showing a surprising streak of wanting to be like his cousin.  I say surprising because in most other areas of life he's probably best described as "bossy," and definitely a "leader" of sorts.

During the holiday season, he was very adamant that he wanted to believe in Santa Claus.  We hadn't "done" Santa in our family as we don't celebrate Christmas.  We do exchange gifts on Solstice and talk about the wonders of nature and how the days will start to get longer and the nights get shorter, etc. etc...  Then we go to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Xmas to do gifts with them and have family time.  We compromised on that this year and told him that we would "pretend Santa" because that's really all he wanted anyway, and he was happy with that.  So "Santa" did stockings at our house this year.

All that to tell you that the other night, after having a dinner with my parents and his cousins (where his cousin again said grace), he asked if he could say grace, and why we didn't do it...

I'm at a loss.  I want to explain why we don't believe in that sort of thing; however, and here's the rub, we're not "out" to my family yet.  It was hard enough this Xmas when my son let slip "Some people like to pretend Santa" to his cousin who fully and 100% believes in said jolly fat man still and who's parents encourage said belief as part of the "magic of christmas." 

I really do NOT want the news that we here are atheists to come from the mouth of my almost 5 year old in the form of (among other possibilities) "God is Santa Claus for adults..." or simply "We don't believe in grace because we don't believe in gods." 

I worry that any answer I give him now as for WHY we don't believe the same things as his cousin and grandparents will be parroted to them and sound even more harsh and judgmental than most religious people already perceive logical reasons for atheism to be.

Oh, and "coming out" while probably an eventual inevitability, is really not an option right now as we are still very much indebted to my parents at the moment both in terms of money and property, and while I know my parents are fairly moderate, I worry what such news would do to our relationship.  Especially since they've apparently been going to church a bit more regularly lately than they did when I was a teen.

Anyway, not sure what I expect here except maybe some sympathetic readers, a bit of advice from those who might have already shared my position (or those who haven't but have some ideas how to deal with it).  And if you read this far, you deserve a cookie... we have them you know.  We are the "dark side" after all. :-) 


Tags: Religion, advice, christianity, family, grace

Views: 5

Replies to This Discussion

i think you should tell them, the sooner the better. they are ur parets they should love you no matter what! im sure it wont be easy but im sure ur parents would be hurt if u keep somthing that is so big in ur life away from them. so, thats my 2 cents, just rip the band-aid off and im sure wounds will heal over time!!!
I'll take my cookie later (it's too early in the morn) :)

Maybe you can work on a humanist "grace" that your son can start saying before meals at home. You could quote something someone else has said or write something of your own. There are a few ideas here You'd have to decide eventually if you are willing to have him repeat his grace at family gatherings but he might be content just to have the job at home.
I completely understand your situation, especially about not wanting to reveal your non-belief to you family. I am not out to the majority of my family either - ok, almost all. I want to be "out and proud" so to speak, but every family is different, and now may not be the right time for you time to come out. Do your parents perhaps suspect that you are a nonbeliever? (For example, has it ever been an issue that you don't attend church? Did you have your son baptized?) I'm not entirely sure that your son wanting to say grace needs to be a catalyst for you to come out to your parents.

Now, regarding grace...would your son question why a deity is not mentioned in your prayer but it is in his cousins? If not, perhaps you could just teach him a secular thanks and no waves would be caused. In my family, my dad says grace in the following manner "Lord we thank thee for this food and for all thy blessings, Amen" and will sometime add that we are thankful for everyone being able to get together. I imagine that if I were to say grace something like, "We are thankful for this opportunity to gather together with those we love and for the food that we will share today, Amen." (Amen only as an indication that "grace" is over) - I'm not sure anyone would notice that I didn't mention god.

If your son is going to notice that god is not mentioned and is going to want to know why, perhaps you could use the opportunity to teach your son about the food system and also world poverty. You could explain that carrots (for example) start as a seed that someone planted, and then hopefully the weather is good and it rains and is sunny - not too hot, not too cold, not too much rain, not too little, etc., and then it grows, someone picks it, etc. He probably already knows this, but it could be explained in a way that show WHY we should be thankful that we have food (both in terms of the food system, his mother - or you - for preparing it, and that some people don't have food). You could go on to say that some people believe that "god" helps in this process and ask him what he thinks. See where the conversation goes from there.

Hopefully some of these thoughts help!
Be careful if you do choose to tell them. I told mine and I have been 'cut-off' from the family. My children no longer receive birthday wishes, Xmas time greetings or any form of love from my folks. It's important to come out, but you know your folks better than we do, so use your best judgment and reason on that one.

I agree with Dawn. My girls say a form of 'grace' every night. I read them a bedtime story, then each of them tell me what they are thankful for. (Which is usually ice cream and bicycles as they are 2 and 4.) I think expressing thankfulness year round is a great thing, so if you want to call that 'grace' to appease him until he is old enough to understand, I don't think it would be damaging.


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