Secular Parents vs. Religious Parents

Is it harder to be a secular parent than a religious one?

When you were little and asked where babies came from, what did your family tell you?

Storks? Angels?

I got a ridiculous story about a garden.

Surprisingly my daughter hasn’t asked that question yet. She turned five in April. When it comes up, I plan on giving her a simple and straightforward explanation of sex. I don’t think she’s too young for that and hopefully, it’s a conversation we can continue throughout her childhood.

As a secular parent, I feel I am tasked with telling my daughter the truth. I think it would be easier to be a religious parent always having these ready-made explanations.

Sex, babies, death, the afterlife, gender roles, marriage — you name it, religion has an answer for it.

I always want to give my daughter real answers and I want to encourage her curiosity. If I don’t know an answer, I want to help her find it. I know that will come up. I don’t consider myself worldly or well-read so I think it would be just fine to learn alongside her.

So what do you think? Is it harder to tell your kids the truth? Is it easier to rely on a religion that has all the answers?

Well, one thing I can tell you is that telling my daughter the truth sits a lot easier on my conscience. 

 

So I thought this meme was really fucking funny and it’s actually why I wrote this post. Inspiration comes from everywhere!

I’m so sorry — I don’t know the original artist to give credit to. I see a little watermark but can’t really make it out. If you know the artist, please let me know and I’ll post it.

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no. 27 “Pink”

Dear daughter,

As daddy and I waited to welcome you into the world, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to raise a little girl. We wanted you to grow up to be strong and independent. Did that mean we should steer you away from traditional “girly” things? We weren’t sure.

Eight months into the pregnancy, Pop-Pop and Grandma threw us a baby shower. Everybody loves to buy adorable little baby clothes when they go to baby showers, however, I asked everyone to stay away from pink. Daddy and I were going to do everything gender-neutral. Your room was an “under the sea” theme and we wanted to dress you in yellow, green, and purple. (No pink.)

Gender-neutral is surprisingly hard to pull off in America, but we did our best. However, it wasn’t going to last.

Things changed a couple of years down the road. As soon as you learned your colors, you knew you loved pink. Shit! Really kid? How did this happen?

As soon as you could walk in the store, we let you pick out your own clothes. You wanted pink everything. There were many days that you were dressed from head to toe in pink. 

Three years later and nothing has changed. Your clothes are pink. Your shoes are pink. Your bed is pink. You come into mommy and daddy’s room and steal mommy’s pink jewelry and hair things. Everything is pink.

I’ve caught hell for it. “You shouldn’t dress your little girl in pink every day.” The thing is, I didn’t dress you. You picked out your own clothes and dressed yourself. 

So I started to think, is pink really that bad? It’s your favorite color and it was never forced on you. It’s just something you like.

I’m learning, daughter. Pink isn’t bad — it’s just another color.

On June 18th, 2021, you graduated from preschool. Your graduation was a special event, but you refused to wear a dress. Instead, you wore a pink shirt with a doggie on it, gray leggings, and pink unicorn snow boots — and you looked absolutely adorable!

So now I say, as long as you are comfortable and your clothes make you happy — wear whatever the fuck you want. That’s all that matters. 

I hope you remember this if you decide to become a parent one day.

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no. 26 “The Pledge”

Dear young and impressionable daughter,

Two days ago I learned that you start every day at daycare with the Pledge of Allegiance. 

What? Kids still say the Pledge of Allegiance?

It was at your preschool graduation. I watched you all recite it and my stomach dropped to the floor. (Or maybe that was my jaw.)

I am against you saying the Pledge for a few different reasons.

First, and probably the most obvious reason, is for the phrase “under god”. We are raising you in a secular home and hearing you say “under god” goes against every fiber in my being. One day soon I will tell you why the separation of church and state is so incredibly important and why this phrase completely undermines it. 

Second, hearing your preschool class — made up of kids that are only three, four, and five years old — mindlessly recite words they can’t even begin to understand makes me cringe. Little ones are taught the Pledge completely unaware of its meaning and motive. They’re too young to question it.

And finally, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Just because someone is in charge doesn’t mean they’re right. It is totally fine to question authority — I even encourage it. I don’t know how strong they are encouraging you to recite the Pledge, but you have every right to say no — to sit down and not say it.

I had no idea you were saying the Pledge at daycare and I’m afraid I have addressed the issue too late. This is already part of a routine for you and your classmates. I’m scared of you feeling ostracized from the rest of your class if I call your teacher now and tell her you can’t say it.

However, we will revisit this discussion when you’re a little older and can understand the words you are reciting. At that time, it will be up to you whether you say it or not.

Question everything, daughter.

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no. 25 “Anxiety”

Dear daughter,

We’ve hit a point where shit gets real. 

I struggle with anxiety every day. It’s probably my most debilitating mental health issue even though my primary diagnosis is schizoaffective disorder. For schizoaffective disorder, I take medication and my symptoms go away, but with anxiety, solutions aren’t as clear cut. It is a daily battle for me consisting of some exhaustive highs and lows. It’s a terrifying rollercoaster ride and I think I would do just about anything to get the fuck off of it.

One of my worst fears is that you inherit this awful mental health disorder.

But now I watch you — you’re not as outgoing as you once were. You’re shy. Your teachers say you cry at preschool and you hide in the bathroom when you’re nervous. Yesterday was your preschool graduation, and you looked scared. I look at you and see my own anxiety that I had in childhood and it’s painful.

I’m so sorry, daughter. You come from a line of nervous people. Pop Pop worries constantly and I’m socially awkward. I prefer to isolate myself and stay home alone rather than interacting with others.

Even though I struggle, I still have some advice for you. Recognize when you are struggling and reach out for help when you need it. Don’t wait. Even though anxiety medication didn’t really work for me, that doesn’t mean I gave up. 

I found that meditation helps me. While it doesn’t seem to prevent anxiety, it has definitely made a difference in how I cope with it. I was actively searching for solutions — still am really.

And maybe I’m socially awkward but that doesn’t mean I don’t have support. I don’t have a million friends but I’m very close to my family. That’s very important to me and my mental health.

Maybe I’m jumping the gun here. You’re only five years old. Maybe you won’t have problems with anxiety, but there’s still a lesson to be learned here:

Reach out for help. Don’t wait and don’t give up. Find support. We all struggle with something and I hope you find these words useful. 

I will always be here for you.

Love,

Mom

My daughter graduated from preschool last week!

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no. 24 “Boundaries”

Dear daughter,

If someone makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to be polite. You don’t have to smile. You don’t have to nervously giggle. You don’t owe anyone anything. Set boundaries and don’t let anyone cross them. 

Daughter — I’m not good at this. I’ve put up with so much shit in my life. Creepy guys. Abusive bosses. It’s hard for me to say no and I avoid conflict even when it’s necessary. People have used me — taken advantage of me. 

With time, I’ve gotten a little better at standing up for myself but it’s never easy.

Remember — you always have the right to leave. Set boundaries and don’t waver. Good people will respect them. The rest don’t deserve your time. 

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no. 23 “Holidays”

Dear daughter,

By now I’m sure you know, I hate Christmas. I hate Christmas shopping. I hate Christmas carols, and I absolutely hate that Christmas seems to last the whole damn month of December. 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Eat. Hang out with family and friends. Simple.

You are turning five at the end of the month, and this year you really enjoyed Easter. We had a couple egg hunts at home and at Pop Pop’s and you had a party at daycare. You even said it was your favorite holiday. (I know that’s subject to change.)

Our little family celebrates Christian holidays but not in very Christian ways. Older generations of our family were Christian so Easter and Christmas are traditions, but these days the traditions are secular and we’ve made them our own. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are fun parts of childhood; Jesus is not required to give Christmas and Easter meaning.

My favorite part of any holiday is getting to spend time with our family.

My beautiful daughter — you are growing up and soon will start a life of your own. Make holidays your own as well. Whatever you do, celebrate what makes you happy.

Love,

Mom

How does your atheism affect your kids?

Woohoo! First post on my new laptop!

My daughter starts kindergarten in the fall. I’m very excited for her but she’s growing up too fast! We have a lot of options here in Toledo and we haven’t decided what school to send her to yet.

This brings up one of my fears. New school means new friends. She goes to daycare right now but we don’t have much interaction with the other kids or parents. No play dates. I expect that will change as she starts school.

Maybe it won’t come up (hopefully) but how will my atheism affect my daughter? Will other kids and parents avoid her? On the flip side, what if she gets invited to church?

It’s kind of interesting — I say “oh my god” all the time. It’s just an expression and maybe a bad habit. Naturally my daughter repeated it at daycare and she got in trouble! Apparently saying “god” is like a bad word there. I wonder if this is going to come up at school.

I know I’ve brought this subject up before but I’m really interested in what you have to say now that my daughter’s first day of school is on the horizon.

(On a side note — I am going to cry so much on her first day. I tear up just thinking about it. It’s probably going to be embarrassing for everyone involved. I’m one emotional mommy!)