My son and I walked into Rite Aid on the way home from school this week because I needed to make a pit stop in the card department.
“Go pick out your cousin a First Communion card while I head over to the Mother’s Day section, and we can get outta here quicker!” I commanded.
“Mom, what’s a ‘Communion’?” was my 7-year-old’s response.
Gah. This gave me that overwhelming feeling in the pit of my stomach, the one I hate.
I was born and raised Catholic, went through all the sacraments, and even spent many summers away on mission trips. I am still a very spiritual person, but don’t necessarily agree with a lot of the things I was taught growing up—or the way it was shoved down our throats.
So when my son came along, we decided not to baptize him. I just didn’t believe our sweet baby was born in sin. My husband wasn’t religious, and this was the right choice for us.
Since then, we have sent our son to religious summer camps on and off, and I’ve still educated him about things whenever he’s presented me with questions, but religion in general hasn’t been something that’s played a big role in our lives.
I didn’t think much about it until this situation arose, when his cousin, my godson, was experiencing something he wasn’t—something he didn’t know much about. Of course, I answered all of his questions as honestly as possible, but it struck me as extra hard, for some reason. Maybe because he is older, or maybe because he understands in a bigger way than ever before, but either way, it has left me questioning if I’m doing the right thing for him.
But the thing I realized is this: Every single day I try to do the right thing for him.
Will I ever know if my choices were the right ones? Well, yes, probably, if he ends up in therapy as an adult. But as far as things go right here and now, we are doing things in our own way—on our own terms—and navigating through parenthood as best as we know how.
Knowing what my son knows about religion, if he ever came to me and asked to learn more, to go to church every Sunday and experience what some of his cousins are, then I would do that in a heartbeat for him. But it would need to be on his terms, a choice that he wanted to make for himself. Because my biggest fear in all of this would be forcing something on him, the way that I grew up, simply because some people might see it as the “right” thing to do, or because it’s how I was raised.
I want him to learn how to make decisions for himself that are rooted in his feeling a connection to something, not a feeling of obligation. If it’s right for him, then it will be right for me—that will always be the right choice.