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Choosing Your Child's Religion

I feel like I should be confessing this to a priest and not online, but JD and I do not attend mass every, single Sunday. We are Roman Catholic and JD was baptized when he was three-months-old. His godparents are my older brother, Carlo and my best friend, Katie (who lives in our building).

Fun Fact: JD's Baptism party was at The Brownstone (RHONJ) in the midst of a blizzard! (No, really.)

I’m not saying we don’t attend church, because we have—we do. I am saying it’s a little challenging and has nothing to do with sleeping in and missing mass, because we’re up at 6 A.M. every, single day (iiii-yiiii-iiii). I guess, it’s more that the times I have taken JD to the children’s mass at our parish he’s just gotten bored, cried, ran away from me—acted like a three-year-old.

When he was a baby, I went to church all of the time. He slept in my arms and it was a very peaceful and therapeutic experience for me. I enjoy the community-feel, I find the bible readings very interesting. I genuinely enjoy the homily the priest gives and it always makes me think about life in a way like I’m looking down on myself. I feel better after mass. My head is clear.

I attended mass on Easter and I’ve been back here and there with JD since. Like the other kids there, he wants a snack, then a sippy cup, then his cars, then he wants to dance when it’s time to sing and wants to receive Communion like me. I’ll say, with each time we return, he’s getting better, behaving better and I’m trying to teach him about God and Jesus and what our faith believes and means. JD will make his Communion and then he can decide if he wants to be confirmed. My older brother and I are—my younger brother is not. He didn’t want to. He is a spiritual person, but he has his own beliefs and my parents allowed him to go his own path.

When I was JD’s age, I attended a private Catholic pre-school and stayed there until eighth grade (plaid uniform and all!). So, in addition to going to church with my parents and singing in the children’s choir (yeah, I did), I received a daily religion class and attended mass with my classroom every first Friday of the month. I have a vivid memory of coloring Jesus’ face green in Pre-K 4 and a classmate of mine who shall remain nameless (I remember), told me it was wrong and Jesus’ face wasn’t green. I marched to my own beat back then, too. Green face, yeah!

JD goes to pre-school now, but it’s not Catholic, so there are no teachings about Catholicism or any religion for that matter (the Catholic school in our town doesn't offer full-days for Pre-K, but he'll prob attend full-days + after-care for Kindergarten in Fall 2012). I recently had a discussion with my friend, Regan, where we wondered: Do our kids know who Jesus is? Should they? Should we be taking them to church every Sunday (or trying to) and talking to them about…God!?

I decided yes.

So, I read this book (no laughing), If Jesus Walked Beside Me to JD. When it first arrived in the mail, I gave it to him without saying a word.

“Is that the daddy?” he asked. iii-yiii-iiii! (There's a pic of Jesus and a little boy on the cover.)

This is exactly the direction where I wanted my first talk about God and Jesus to go. Lord help me. Read: How to explain an absent dad to a pre-schooler.

“Why is that little boy holding the daddy’s hand?” he asked. (You can laugh now, because I was laughing. This is my life, people.)

“That’s Jesus, not his daddy,” I said.

“Where's that little boy’s mommy,” he asked.

“She's at work -- or cooking lunch,” I said and went right into… “You know when we go to church and sing and light those little candles?” I said. “We’re there to sing about this guy and guess what!? He looks over us and keeps us safe and helps us. And we need to pray to him every night before we go to bed. OK?”

JD was now looking through the book with curious eyes. “Is he like a super-hero?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Exactly.”

So I started reading. Each page is a scenario…If Jesus walked beside me…this would happen and it would be GrrrrrREAT.

JD listened intently and pointed out the sun and flowers and other familiar objects. And then we came to the page where Jesus is walking beside the little boy...in the snow.

“Why is that man wearing flip flops, Mommy?” JD asked. “Where’s his coat and hat? It’s cold out, there. He could freeze mommy.”

"He could, bud," I agreed. He could.

That’s how our first religion talk went. We read the book every night and we attend mass often. I pray for my son always.

Are you religious? What religion are you? Are you and your partner/ex different religions? Did you fight over/discuss what religion to bring your child up in? Will you allow your teenage child to make his own decision one day when it comes to religion and prayer? Do you bring your child to a place of worship? Do they behave? Please share!

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