Now that I have a baby, I’m in a desperate hurry to grow up.
There’s something downright scary about having a blank canvas of a human being living with you. Because nothing quite points out the colour palette of my values like having Arddun watch me and sponge up. It’s almost hypocritical how I expect Tony to take me as I am, warts and all, and yet how determined I am to scrub up and present my most godly self to my offspring, in the hopes that some halo shiny will rub off.
Why is that?
Within the first six months of Arddun’s life, many in my mother’s group had arranged for their bubs to be christened. And the natural question of Arddun’s own christening arose, of course. And rightly or wrongly, my standard answer had been that Tony and I believe in letting Arddun make that decision about baptism herself.
On the surface, it sounds like we’re bringing Arddun up in a religiously-neutral environment so she can decide for herself if God (or gods) exist or not. And yet if she is to pay witness to our everyday lives, it is my deepest desire that she understands what being a (hugely flawed but tremendously forgiven) Christian is. See, this has been my struggle – and my latest epiphany: there is no way any parent can bring up a religious blank canvas. No way.
Because if our actions match our beliefs, then all children grow up either taught that there is God or there isn’t. I think it would be very difficult to be deeply devoted to God, yet teach my child that He may or may not exist. And likewise, that it’d be very difficult to teach my child who God is, yet live day to day like I don’t believe in Him.
Bizarrely, I had spent quite a bit of time BC mulling over Fictitious Kid’s religious education. I’m a second-generation Christian, which means I’d attended Sunday school and worship since I was 2 weeks old, came forward to be baptised when I was 12, and only missed 2 Sunday services before I came to Australia and its daylight savings and ruthless winter influenza. And I had spent five dark years resenting the fact that I could not be sure I owned my own faith. I wondered if I’d been brainwashed, if my worldview had long been coloured by the tinted glasses superglued to my face since birth. I searched for years while vacantly going through the motions of worship, and felt a traitor both ways – either to my family and my God for doubting, or to myself for not knowing how to get to “neutral ground” so I could start to “find REAL truth” unfettered by expectation and upbringing.
It’s a natural course that nth-generation Christians take. It’s part of growing up and taking responsibility for our own values and beliefs. And it took me a long time to get comfortable again. In my younger days, in those days of searching, I had determined to try something different with Fictitious Kid. In desperately unhappy moments, I had wondered if I’d ever been a Christian had I grown up in a freethinking household. And I had wondered if I could bring up Fictitious Kid in a religiously-neutral household, where he/she would be taught all world beliefs (including Atheism) and left truly to decide for him or herself.
But now I’m not sure I could, or that I’d even want to.
Because at the very least, Christianity provides practical guidelines, a value system, and answers the ultimate question of “Why”. And I owe it to Arddun to give her those certainties, at least. And maybe she’ll become a Christian, and maybe she won’t. I have to believe that a heart that truly seeks truth will find it eventually, and so perhaps my job is to soften her heart enough so that it yearns for the journey. Her salvation is not in my hands, but I’ve decided I love her enough to give her the best that I believe in.
I only hope that I have the courage to love her for her choices – and in spite of her choices. And that she knows, just like I know about my own mother, that I’m doing the whole God-upbringing thing for her in spite of my flaws, and because of my deepest love.