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.
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.
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!