So on Easter, we invited my husband's parents over to have dinner with us and our three kids. We don't go to church and are not religious and we are raising our children without religion, especially now since they are only 4, 3, and 1. We figure we will not even mention religion until they are older and start to hear it from kids at school, something like that. The point is they are too young to make sense of it and we don't want them to be influenced by others about what they should believe. That, and its too morbid for small children to be thinking about death and the stories from children's Bible books are often morbid and scary.
So we have told our parents about our feelings on introducing the girls to religion this young. And yet on Sunday, we felt that my MIL overstepped her boundary and undermined us. She asked if she could say something before dinner and we said sure, thinking she was just going to sit down and say a prayer and the rest of us would just sit there and not participate, like we usually do and family functions. Well, to our surprise, she grabbed the 3 and 4 year old's hands and led them in prayer, speaking in a sort of baby talk voice talking about how wonderful God is and "thank you for dying on the cross", etc. My husband and I looked at each other in annoyance and the girls had no idea what was going on they were just exited that grandma was holding their hands. We weren't worried about them, we knew they didn't get it anyway. We were mostly annoyed with the intentionally undermining of our position on raising our kids. Does this set precedent? Is it an example of what goes on when we aren't around? Those were the questions going through our heads. We didn't say anything at the time so as not to ruin dinner and to be disrespectful to them, but we felt it needed to be address so my husband wrote her an email. He was a little more harsh than I would have been, but he basically told her that we didn't appreciate her making the girls participate in the prayer and then reiterated our beliefs on raising them without religion. For the record, we also don't tell them there IS no God. Our position will be that its up to them to decide.
Here are parts of her response. I know that she was offended and like many religious people, took it personally that we disagree with her on religion and how children should be raised.
You don't have to remind me that you are not religious. I know it by your actions. Obviously you don't live by the Ten Commandments, one being to honor your mother and father. I know you are somewhat respectful to us and I am thankful for that. It does make me sad to think that my grandchildren are being kept from our traditions and beliefs. That's part of their heritage. We are not taking them to church, praying with them at our house or teaching them about God or the Bible.
This part made us sort of angry. She suggests that we lead immoral lives when in reality, we are responsible, hard-working, intelligent people and pretty good parents imo. We are "somewhat" respectful to them. I invite them to come over every single week to see our kids even when I don't feel like it and we include them on everything and never say anything about their religion or criticize them for it, so I don't know what the "somewhat" qualifier is for.
I do pray for you all EVERY day. I love you all. I do hope that my grandchildren know my beliefs some day when they are old enough to wonder and ask because they want to know. And I hope that they do not put a thorn in your heart if they decide not to follow your beliefs. You will still love them of course no matter what, but I guarantee it will make your heart sad.
Go ahead and pray. It's a nice sentiment I guess. I don't mind them knowing her beliefs "someday" either. It's inevitable. Do they have to know them now? At 3 and 4? If they decide not to "follow my beliefs" or lack thereof, there is nothing I can or should do about it. It's not my decision. It's a personal decision. Good for them. I just hope they'd be happy. No thorn in my side unless they get mad if we don't want to participate in their religious practices like this. I would only be sad if they used their beliefs to make decisions about our relationship and that suffered. I would be sad if they decided I was a bad person all of a sudden because I didn't believe in God. That's it.
I intend to make a life journal of my beliefs and where I came from and why I believe what I believe. You might do the same. Maybe then, I would understand why you believe what you believe or don't believe.
It actually couldn't hurt for him to write her a letter explaining everything about why he doesn't believe. I don't think she has ever heard the arguments against what she believes. I have been candid with my own mother about why I don't believe her religion and she has finally come to at least understand my position even if she disagrees with it. You can't argue the logic, only the need for faith. I explained that I am simply not built that way. She kid of gets it now.
**** and I are both saddened by the fact that you were so disturbed by me wanting to say a prayer at dinner on the most Holiest Day of the Year that you had to send such an email. It isn't our first disappointment with family and I'm sure not the last. We all live with disappointment and will survive it and carry on as always, just with a heavier heart.
I don't know whether this is an intentional misinterpretation of what he said, but he never said she couldn't pray. He only said he didn't appreciate it that she tried to make the girls actively participate in it. She even told them to say "amen" and waiting until they did. Annoying. We never used the word "disturbed". He said "We didn't mind that you wanted to pray, but when you made the girls participate, it made us uncomfortable."
He already responded, so I'm wondering she's going to send him another one. I told him to just let it go and that maybe he should just write her a letter explaining our beliefs in an articulate way and leave it at that. Not ask her to reply. They came over last night and acted as if everything was fine. But the there was definitely an uneasiness in the air. For the record I hate confrontation.