Making new friends. Despite our differences.

The other day my kids came up to me because they took issue with the neighbor girl’s claim she was more religious than they were. If you have kids, no doubt you know that if they can find something to compete about, they will.  As I pointed out to them, what defines religion or spirituality isn’t–at least for me–how many hours you put in at church and how often you go (we’d undoubtedly lose on that score!), but rather how you treat others. Are they being kind, forgiving, generous? (I wish I could say they’d score yes to all the above, but it is a process, LOL!)

I don’t know what it’s like for kids in neighborhoods living in other parts of the country, but in Utah, you just can’t escape discussions about religion on a weekly basis. I grew up in Utah and even though we attended Catholic schools, we were always cognizant that we weren’t part of the predominant religion. We were treated differently. Even if we went to public schools, the experience would likely have been similar since in Utah public schools there is such a thing as seminary–where Mormon kids attend a religious class during a break in their school day. They were separate buildings–but they usually just sat outside in the parking lot of the school.

Cathedral of the Madeleine down town SLC

Cathedral of the Madeleine in downtown Salt Lake City 

The point of this blog post isn’t to cry woe is me or bash any particular faith. I imagine in Boston or other cities where there’s a large Catholic population, those who aren’t Catholic have the same experiences.  What I want to bring to my kids is that the focus should not be on what religion you belong to and let that control your friendships and opinion. After all, that can change as they grow up and make decisions for themselves. What’s more important is the type of person you are, how you apply what you bring to those you interact with.

LDS Temple in Downtown Salt Lake City

LDS Temple in Downtown Salt Lake City

Unlike my neighborhood growing up where I never fit in, my new neighborhood in Sandy is full of people who are more liberal and open to other faiths. Interestingly, my kids’ favorite neighborhood play-friends are actually Mormons. And I’m experiencing something I haven’t experienced in my whole life growing up in Utah–a close friendship with a devout Mormon mom. A certifiable primary-teaching, stay-at-home mom. And I truly call her my friend. Our daughters have sleep-overs together and our sons (mostly) play well together. My daughter has gone to ward events with them and we even recently attended the girl’s baptism. I hope it shows my kids that we can belong to different churches but still understand and respect other peoples’ points of view. I even have brought elements of this relationship in my upcoming debut book (*insert shameless plug*).

But I will admit it’s a learning experience for all of us. Like when I mentioned “Go Obama” on my friend’s Facebook page–not appreciating the level of loyalty she and most Mormons had to Mitt Romney. I’m afraid we didn’t speak for two months! Where ten years ago I probably wouldn’t have dreamed these relationships would be possible, today I accept it as the best thing for me and the the kids. The fact that I send my kids to Catholic school where they also gain a strong feeling of community probably helps in having a more open attitude about this.

I hope that our relationship with this family continues and that our kids learn that it doesn’t matter if you’re Mormon, or Catholic, or Methodist, or Jewish or whatever faith you may be. What matters is how we treat each other. Respect each other’s differences. In the meantime, I’ll try not to incite any more Facebook riots and my kids will try not to compare who has the “best” religion.  We’re learning!

Lily last month after her 1st Communion, on the heels of her friend's Baptism.

Lily last month after her 1st Communion, on the heels of her friend’s Baptism.

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9 thoughts on “Making new friends. Despite our differences.

  1. Boy is this a deep one, Ashlee. Good for you for tackling it and for doing the subject so well. I think you nailed it. Respect. If we all could just respect those who think, believe, and act differently than we do, life would be lots more pleasant. We wouldn’t have kids growing up thinking there was something wrong with them and then acting out in ways to hurt others. Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    • Thank you, Marsha! I’ve toyed with this topic and kept backing out. But so many things come back to it, so I figured I’d segue-way into it now, since I imagine it’ll probably crop up in future posts! Hopefully in more humorous/commiserating ways. Can’t wait for the release of your book! Next month, right?

      • Around the 15 th of July, but I don’t have the galleys yet. I don’t know how all the timing works. I know my publisher is busy redoing our website and bookstore. I’m kind of worried, it’s gonna get bumped back. I start at blog tour July 31, so surely it will be out by then.
        Ashlee, I can’t find a FB or Twitter button on this so I can post it on FB and RT it. Is it here and I can’t find it? I’m notorious for that. This was especially important, and I’d like to share, but just in general it’s a good way to get the word out. Lots of folks repost and RT. When does yours come out?

      • I am sooo new at this but I THINK the share link is on there. I enabled it and when I go the post, I see a ribbon that says share followed by links to Facebook, Twitter, etc. I think it starts at the end of the post but before the comments. If you can’t see it on yours (mine is administrative), let me know. Maybe I did something wrong! It has been known to happen…

        Thanks for the comments! Crossing my fingers your release date doesn’t get pushed back. I guess the worst thing that could happen if it did, is it gives the publisher more time to get the inevitable bugs out of revamped web page, right? Oh, and mine isn’t slated until February 2014 (a month I love not just because of Valentines Day but it’s my birthday!)

  2. I am soooo blind, Ashlee! Of course the buttons are there. I’m not sure how I missed them. But I’ve FBed and tweeted now. Feb is great for you. Symbolic. Your birthday and your book’s birthday! Also, plenty of time to get blog tours set up, to decide if you’re going to host other authors, decide on other ways to promote. Okay, off to work on the stuff to submit another book. Spent so much time on getting the book ready, I hadn’t worked on the synopsis, blurb, or tag line. At least not in along time. LOL

  3. Howdy! I came across your blog through Marsha’s Facebook post. I have a 2.5 year old girl and I know that at some point we will have to deal with a similar issue, but from our own perspective. My husband is atheist, and I am agnostic. I don’t think it matters what you say you follow (or don’t) at some point there will come a time where the differences will cause problems, especially in children where competition can rule. I would like to think that we will do a great job instilling in our daughter tolerance, acceptance, and love for all faiths, sexes, races, orientations, etc. When the time comes, I hope she is able to also show…that we can belong to different churches but still understand and respect other peoples’ points of view.”
    Thank you so much for this post. I enjoyed it very much.

    • HI Rhianna,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I agree that inevitably there will be a point when there’ll be more problems, particularly as they get older. But I’m hoping they can get move past it and remember the things they have in common more than what makes them different (and rejoice in those differences, too).

      Thanks for your thoughts and comments!

      Ashlee

  4. Ashlee, thanks for tackling this subject. As a Lutheran raised in southern Idaho, we’ve had the same situations come up. It’s hard to remain open-minded, but I think you’ve done a great job. I’m not sure I could be so forgiving when a Go Obama post would cause a two month rift. You’ve summed it up nicely. The most important thing is to teach our children that all religions are good.

    • Hi Stephanie,

      I can’t say I was as open minded growing up. I was definitely a lot more bitter, but I’ve learned it’s really about the people. In any religion, there’s bound to be those who think their way is the only true way, and those who are more open-minded and goodhearted. My own family tree is a mishmash of Catholic, Methodist, Christian Scientist and even Mormon. So I try to be open-minded and want my kids to be the same way. I do think it helps being able to give them a strong sense of community, in our case, through school and church.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comments!

      Ashlee

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