Our contract is in with our adoption agency. TheScott and I are officially on the waiting list for receiving custody of children
Excuse me while I go breathe into a paper bag a few times.
Okay, back now. As I’ve mentioned before, TheScott and I are adopting through the foster system. We’re looking for two children between the ages of two and eight. At first we’ll be considered foster parents, but our goal is adoption, and hopefully within six months to a year of gaining custody, we’ll legally become the parents of whomever shows up at our house sometime soon.
Heading back to the paper bag…
Whew, boy. Okay. So TheScott and I have started talking about parenting, and I’m looking for advice. Particularly advice about raising kids in a mixed religious household. I’d grown up with the old wisdom that it’s confusing for children and shouldn’t be done, but I’ve spoken to many people who were raised in mixed religious households and all of them have said that it wasn’t confusing at all. If the first impression you have of interfaith work is two people who love each other supporting each other in their different faiths and getting along splendidly, you grow up thinking that’s the way religions should get along. Well, okay, that is how religions should get along, so if that’s the main result of raising children in a mixed religious household, I’m okay with that. Neither TheScott nor I find any reason to be condemnatory of the other one’s faith choices, so I think this is going to be just fine.
But I do want to find ways to integrate both of our faiths into our household.* For example, one of my friend’s children has taken to praying before meals. It’s absolutely precious; about five to ten minutes into a meal, she grabs hands of the people on either side of her and demands we say grace. We all hold hands, her mother recites a prayer (that I only know the first half of, but I join in on that part at least), and then we all go back to eating. But it made me think that I grew up praying before meals, and I still remember that fondly – all of us holding hands as Dad started the same short prayer every night and we all joined in. That remembrance of gratitude as well as simply having a ritualized reason to hold hands, no matter what our current state of mind towards each other might be, was special to me. I’d like to have that for our children.
I brought it up with TheScott the other night after one of Miss Precious’s insistent graces. We talked about taking turns leading prayer, and maybe that’s what we’ll do. I usually give my thanks while cooking instead of before eating, so we could also do it that way – one prayer with the preparation and one with the serving. Does anybody else do this, or has praying together before meals gone the way of Christmas, Easter, and the dodo? What other ways do you incorporate your religious diversity into your household? I’d love advice and stories!
I’ve also been thinking about Catholic Christening and a Heathen Naming Ceremony. TheScott and I have talked about having both once our children are fully adopted (provided they aren’t for some reason radically opposed or already baptized, which according to Scott’s faith means they can’t be baptized again). I’m excited but nervous about a Christening. I will not tell lies in front of an altar (I try hard not to tell lies in general, but I feel extra morally squiggy in a religious institution in front of a deity). I’d like to participate, but I know most baptism services require the parents to renounce sin, state their exclusive faith in the Christian Trinity and promise to raise the child in the faith. I won’t be able to make these ceremonial promises in good conscience, and I don’t know how that will affect things. I suppose I should cease worrying about that until it happens. Regardless, I am looking forward to the ceremony. They’re beautiful, and I know how much it will mean to the family.
The Naming Ceremony is the Heathen “welcome to the family” ritual that is traditionally done nine days after a child is born, but (my understanding is) it can also be done to welcome an adopted child into the hereditary line. The ritual gives a child access to the family ancestry and spiritually binds their orlog (personal wyrd) to the rest of the family’s. This is very important to me because ancestor veneration is an important part of Heathenry as are circles of frith, and this is the ceremony that spiritually links a family together.** Not that a family can’t be linked without one of these (just like a couple can be married as long as they sign paperwork in a courthouse; a ceremony isn’t needed), but I think the children would like it as a ritual way of saying, “hey, we’re real.” I know I would. But then I worry about who to invite. Obviously our friends, and my parents and sister know I’m Heathen, so we’ll invite them. The rest of my family doesn’t, so I guess I can’t include them, which makes me sad, but reality is what it is. I’m not sure if TheScott’s parents know or not. I’d like to include them, but I don’t want to create hard feelings. Scott and I will figure that out together.
This leads to more issues I’d appreciate advice on. How do mixed religious couples deal with family members who don’t know or don’t approve of one person’s religion? Any advice for talking to people or dealing with institutional issues such as churches that frown on mixed religious homes?
I’d love to hear any and all stories and advice about dealing with the trials and joys of a mixed religious household, so please share!
* Our children may be old enough to have their own ideas about faith, and I do want to make clear that I’m not talking about forcing faith on children. I don’t think you can force faith on anyone, no matter what their age. Encourage, yes; force, no. But while it’s possible for a six-year-old to have opinions on the subject, according to our caseworkers, strong religious training is the minority in this demographic, and children of that age aren’t particularly set in their ways anyway because they’re not yet old enough to philosophically understand religion. So while I don’t intend to shove anything down anyone’s throat, and I’m happy to make accommodations for the way they see things (provided they’re not actively dangerous) TheScott and I are making plans with the idea that our children will most likely be willing to work with us regarding their religious upbringing just like eventually (hopefully) they will with everything else. But, like everything else, we’ll see what happens when they arrive, and we’ll improvise accordingly. Our foster/adoptive parent training reiterated over and over that being patient and providing security are the two key factors in creating a family, and TheScott and I agree. My entire experience says that humans, particularly children, are social creatures who like trying new things as long as they feel safe. “Get over here and do this right now!” is scary and demeaning. “Hey, I’m doing this today. You can join me if you want to,” works with human nature and will, sooner or later, usually end up with them not only joining in, but doing so happily. I’m totally fine with the second approach as it fits my personality better anyway.
**I don’t believe a Naming Ceremony cuts children off from their biological ancestry, however, and should our children be interested, I’m happy to create a second altar so that they can venerate at their own personal ancestral altar in addition to the family altar. Same goes for pantheons. If they are interested in Paganism, I feel it’s important to let them worship their new ancestral gods (i.e. Heathen gods) and to explore their own ancestral deities, whatever those may be, if they are so inclined. But that’s a separate post, and probably won’t come up for a long time!
+ Featured Image: Charity, mother of all virtues, attributed to Joseph Richier