by Church Lab Interfaither, Cindy Haag
My children are all at different places with their own faith, but no one felt like learning about how other faiths had destroyed their own.
As I sit here in the quiet, alone in my home in mid-August, it’s nice to look back and reflect. My three youngest children are back in school and my oldest is at work today, but eager to headback to her university in the next month. There are so many natural phenomena that lendtowards reflection, but autumn for parents of school-age children is one full of several different emotions.
I stepped back and decided to take this conversation to who I think are the real experts. MY experts. I asked my kids.
This year the folks at The Church Lab asked me to reflect on motherhood, diverse conversations and raising kids. Initially, I had a handful of ideas and stories, but there was also a voice that said, “You’re no expert. You hardly know what you're doing most days,” so I stepped back and decided to take this conversation to who I think are the real experts. MY experts. I asked my kids.
Like most things in parenting I got some unexpected replies. Some that make me extremely proud as a parent and some that help me remember we are ALL “in process”. My children are 19, 17, 13, and 9. I gathered them around the kitchen table and asked them to share their thoughts on practicing interfaith dialogue at school.
“Being exposed to a variety of cultures, languages, and religions from a young age is really important; it helps you be open minded.” Then this middle child somehow disappears. How do they do that?
Child number four’s quick reply was, “What is interfaith dialogue?” Uh oh. After a quick simple explanation the response was, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen you do that” and Child Number 4 left the table and room. Thirty seconds in and we’re down one expert. Number 3 says, “Being exposed to a variety of cultures, languages and religions from a young age is really important; it helps you be open minded.” Then this middle child somehow disappears. How do they do that?
My second born is one of few words. When it was his turn he simply said, “Proclamation on the Family.” This public statement from the leaders of our church is very familiar to me, yet I was momentarily baffled because I did not see the connection he was making. When asked to elaborate he pointed out one paragraph that says, “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.” This sums it up for him. He then left the table. Number 2 gone.
Our firstborn and I are now alone at the table. The idyllic image of a deep and lovely conversation with all my children has been shattered. I have a collection of one liners. This is not going as planned....
Then, my firstborn starts to talk. Really talk. Sharing how she feels it’s important for kids to feel the freedom to explore and be open-minded. Reflecting on how an interest in another culture lead her to look at a religion common in that culture for a school project and how rewarding it was to find connections between her faith and theirs. How she has noticed that her dad and I have always had friends from different countries and with different religions and how she has too. How having conversations both with people in our faith tradition and out have been valuable—and that she agrees and disagrees with people both inside and outside of our church. Ahhhh.....victory!
Conclusions from my children, the experts:
Naming and defining complex concepts is a start.
By small and simple things, great things come to pass.
Children watch their parents even if they aren’t willing to admit it at times.
Listening is at least as important as talking.
Actions speak much louder than words.
Once again, I am reminded that parenting and life are an incredible journey and one that does not happen overnight. Small everyday actions can make an impact and often the planned events are not the ones that make a lasting impression. It’s also interesting to note that my children are all at different places with their own faith, but no one felt like learning about other faiths had destroyed their own.
This discussion ended up like most experiences in our family: Unpredictable yet beautiful in its own way.
Cindy Haag is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon), mother of four, and wife to one. She has a masters degree in molecular and cellular biology and enjoys creating cool stuff that make her kids smile, ice cream, and admiring fabulous shoes.