A great big thanks to Molly for her post and for everyone who contributed to the conversation. There were a lot of interesting comments and threads.
I went out-of-town for a few days and didn’t have Internet access, but I’m back to annoy you. I just have a story that I wrote down last week, and maybe you have an “aha” moment from your child or your deconversion that you’d like to share. This was a conversation I had with the younger kid recently.
Like many parents of teenagers, I have a love-hate relationship with my 15-year-old. Don’t ask me who does the loving and who does the hating. I think we both take turns.
I fantasize a lot about whipping out the duct tape during some of our more special conversations. (Please don’t call CPS. I have my urges under control.) This morning, for example, as I’m driving along, bothering no one, my kid says, “I wish you wouldn’t hum. It’s so annoying.” I think about telling him that when he forgets to wear deodorant it’s pretty annoying, too. I think about pulling over and letting him walk to camp, where he volunteers teaching little ones. I wonder how the heck these little kids can adore him when he’s so grumpy. “He’s great,” the camp leader tells me, “such a joy.” It’s funny that your kids are always a joy for someone else yet always a pill for you.
But I don’t verbally punch him back because I’m setting an example (right?), and he is trying desperately to sever the cord between us. I get that. He’s a teenager, and there’s nothing worse than being a momma’s boy.
So this morning, right after enlightening me about my annoying habits, he says, “About religion. Yeah, I’m not so sure about that.” I look around, wondering where that came from. Apparently he had pushed the pause button on a conversation we were having a few days ago. In the meantime, he was thinking, proving to me that he doesn’t just eat and eat and eat and poop. He thinks, too, much to both my surprise and my relief.
“I’ve been thinking about it. There’s really no proof of God. It’s kind of like Santa Claus. You have to grow up and out of your belief,” he says.
I was kind of worried about this kid. His dad takes him to church sometimes, and I really didn’t want him to grow up and become a Stepford Baptist. Being a boy, he respects his dad, who is, in all fairness, a pretty good role model. And being a boy, the last thing he wants to do is identify with me. So everything has to be his decision, his choice, his conclusion. That’s fine.
I don’t want him to believe everything I tell him anyway. That would mean I’m preaching, and he’s just a sponge, listening passively (or not at all) to what I tell him. Blah, blah, blah. No, this is the kid who desperately needs to learn to think because he’s the kind of person who learns the hard way, who takes too many dangerous risks. He needs to understand that jumping onto the roof of a car and holding on spread eagle while his friend puts the pedal to the floor can get him killed. Yes, he really did this, and when I came outside and saw what they were doing, I was the crazy woman screaming down the road behind them.
I know what you’re thinking. This mom needs to get a grip. Her son is crazy.
Maybe. But in all honesty kids do this kind of sh*t. They do. It doesn’t matter how you discipline or how much money your family makes or how much education you have, no one is immune to the dangers, heartaches and frustrations of raising teenagers. If you have an easy child, then hurry up and thank the genetic lottery because you’re damn lucky. Seriously. Our kids are like a lump of clay, and we’re the potter, helping to form them. But while we can affect their shape, they will always be made of clay.
So telling my teenager what to think would be of no use. He needs to think things through himself. I can only ask him questions or answer the ones that he asks.
He continues, “I understand that people want somebody to talk to when they’re all alone or worried about someone they love. It’s like having an invisible friend. But it’s not real. And it’s gotten kind of out-of-hand, especially with adults and how they talk about religion all the time.”
In a way, we’re kind of fortunate living here in Texas where people think religion is a sixth major food group. If we lived someplace else, where belief was kept private, my kid and I wouldn’t be having this conversation about God at this point in his life. He hears adults—strangers–talk to me about their church and their God. And he sees that I just listen. He’s thinking and watching and waiting. He knows my views. Had I argued with these strangers, I would have embarrassed the hell out of him, and he’d have these memories seared into his brain where they could cripple his common sense.
No, I have to teach my kids how to fish rather than catch the fish for them (which they would not want anyway).
“The Bible–I know people think that came from God,” he says, “but there’s no proof of that either. The stories don’t really flow. Sometimes they don’t even make sense.” I ask him if the God in the Bible is anything like the God the Baptist church talks about.
“Not really,” he says. “The God in the Bible is not even nice.”
An “Amen!” popped into my head, which I dared not say aloud for fear of derailing him on this important journey.
Now, if only he’d think about the importance of cleaning his room.