Wednesday, October 17, 2007

This is the post where you start to hate me (more).

Daisy has been watching a new reality show called Kid Nation. (See, some of you are hating me more already). The premise is that they've taken 40 kids ranging from 7 years old to 15 years old (roughly), stuck them in a ghost town, and let them mostly manage things for themselves. They cook and clean and do some basic commerce.

Four of the kids are on a "town council" and they're tasked with making a couple of decisions on behalf of the other kids each episode. Often this includes choosing between two rewards, one of which is usually an instant gratification (e.g. a pizza party) and something more "responsible" (like a microwave oven). The town council usually makes the "responsible" pick and the rest of the kids moan and groan.

The theme of last week's episode was religion. and then the reward choice ended up being a decision between having a 9-hole miniature golf course installed in the town and receiving a set of holy books (a few Bibles, a Torah, a Koran, etc). The town council decided to let the masses vote, and in an outcome that I assume was dictated by savvy casting directors, the kids picked the holy books.

I discussed the show afterwards with Daisy.

"So, which would you have voted for?" I asked.

"Oh, the holy books," she replied quickly.

I was horrified. MY child wanted holy books? Most parents want their kids to share their religion and I'm no different except that my religion is the absolute absence of religion. Daisy saying that she wanted a Bible is like the son of a Fundamentalist preacher telling his father that he's an atheist, and gay, and likes my blog. It's that mortifying.

Daisy saw my eyes bug out of my head.

"But, daddy, I LIKE books! I like reading!"

I shook my head in dismay.

"Oh, baby, these are not the fun books you normally read. I mean, there's some pretty interesting stuff in the Old Testament, but mostly these books are REALLY boring. He begat him who begat her who begat that guy who begat the other guy. They're filled with stuff like that."

Daisy shrugged. "I like books."

That night in bed I turned to Hank.

"Hank! Daisy said she'd choose the holy books! I mean, I know that mini golf is a pretty crappy reward, but what if she really becomes religious one day?" I whined.

"Oh, it's inevitable."

"What? Why?"

"She's a joiner. She loves to join clubs. Joining a religious is part of the natural progression." Hank stated very matter-of-factly.

I moaned my disapproval.

I dread the possibility of life with religious offspring. So, now I'm undertaking Operation No Religion. What I haven't quite figured out is what tactic to take for this effort. Do I:

A) Tell her what I really think about religion (in a sugary sweet and palatable way) ?


B) Assume that all kids do the opposite of what their parents want, and use reverse psychology?

Choice 'A' seems more reasonable, but maybe I should treat this like I just found her with a pack of cigarettes. Maybe I should make her sit down and smoke the whole pack at once. I could buy a Bible and we could have mandatory Bible study each evening, where we read or smoke a page each night, until she rejects it out of sheer boredom.

This may not be the typical parenting issue, but I can assure you that it troubles me.


Some Girl said...

I am de-lurking to tell you that this is EXACTLY the sort of thing I worry about when I think about having children.

The Bible is the devil.


Sue said...

Just consistently teach her that there is no way to determine absolute truth about anything in life - that should take care of things.

Mike said...

Hi Some Girl, thanks for delurking. As for your statement that the Bible is the Devil, that's some sort of trick isn't it? If I agree, then I believe in the Devil, which means I believe in the Bible, which means my head explodes. Nice try.

Sue, I am a big proponent of shying away from absolute truths, but some things can be proven. I'm all for relying upon those truths. As for relying upon the things that can't be proven and must be taken in faith? That would create an unfortunate divide in this household.

newnorth said...

they didn't even make the mini golf look fun!

Anonymous said...

I'm leaving a serious reply here, because, well, this seems to be as genuine and sincere as your posts get.

So, I'd go with somewhere between 1) and bribery. Heck, if she's a joiner, and if the only reason why she's going to convert to Christianity is Christmas and some bizarro rituals, you'd best be making up some family, non-religious holidays fast. They should involve food and books and ... maybe ponies.

The tree midwinter whatever holiday is just one, and it doesn't really count either. I'm sorry but choosing between Christmas and Easter and weekly gatherings at mass blah blah blah versus one measly holiday that involves gifts... Hmmm. I wonder which one Daisy's gonna pick.


However, I would also like to add that if Daisy decides (when she's older) she wants to be a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, then you're gonna have to be accepting of her decision.

(Just so you know. I am not religious, grew up in a non-religious household and culture.)

Mike said...

Newnorth, you are absolutely right. I wonder if the kids would have voted the same way if the "fun" choice had been something more fun like video games or a buttload of candy.

Anon, you raise good points. I really like Winter Present Tree Day, but it's just one day a year. I think I need to add at least a Spring Egg Hunt Day. As for what will happen if Daisy does choose a religion, well then I will certainly still love and accept her. I have church-going friends that I like and respect, so I could certainly extend the same courtesy to my daughter.

Neel Mehta said...

For some people, mini golf IS their religion.

Mike said...

Neel, those people got screwed.

Will said...

I wouldn't worry too much since joining isn't really sustainable. I admire people who are both faithful and reasonable. It could be a lot worse like scientology.

Mike said...

Will, although I'm the least qualified guy to say that one religion is preferable to another, I'd agree that religions like Scientology where you literally have to pay money to learn about "more levels" seem rather cultish.

mox said...

My husband was raised by a Catholic and an atheist (talk about your mixed messages)... he and all of his siblings have varying degrees of faith, mostly due to their spouses (or lack thereof).

However, when it comes to what someone believes, it's basically an issue of choice. You may be able to raise her in a religion free zone, but ultimately she will make a decision on her own, one way or the other.

That said, I am a believer. And the struggle I have is with balancing my Protestant faith with the Catholic influence my child gets at school (we send Spawn to a Catholic school, mainly because it's our only option -- the academics are A+ and our local public school is an F). I recognize that I can teach my child what I believe until I am blue in the face, but at some point the decision will be made and it's not mine to make. Each person has to decide for themselves what they believe.

Plus kids will do whatever it is that gets their parents all het up. It's just basic human nature.

Mike said...

Mox, I hear you, and that's why I'm considering pretending that I'm religious so that Daisy will rebel by avoiding religion. If she gets to make her own choice, then I get to try and trick her into making mine.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mike: I hate to use the word religious, because in American culture that is generally associated with some kind of Christian notion of "faith": believing some kind of goo-goo gaga, and believing that because i believe it, i'm somehow better than other people and/or entitled to some goodies from g-d. i believe in none of those things. technically, i'm agnostic. still, organized religion (in my particular case, various forms of judaism) has added an incredible amount of meaning, beauty, intellectual stimulation, depth,texture, joy, fun, friends and community to my life. (i'm also a joiner like your daughter, so perhaps that explains it.) i wouldn't paint all religious expression (or people who dabble in such things) with the same brush, or assume that anyone who practices any form of religion is a simple-minded dolt who believes in fairy tales. Hopefully your daughter will create for herself a rich and wonderful life. And if religion helps her do that, it really shouldn't be a bad thing. Religion does not need to equal fundamentalism. --Jill

Mike said...

Hey Jill! I didn't mean to imply that religious people are dolts. I just like the happy reality where my daughter likes the things that I, like computer programming, chocolate, and fart jokes. Diversity is all well and good, but my preferred outcome is that my daughter doesn't end up religious, Republican, or a professional dancer. I want a mini me.

Ms.PhD said...

Oh, I am soooo with you on this.

My parents 'saved' me by exposing me to all religions, which forced me to question the central paradox:

if no one can agree on what god/how to worship/what's holy/what's evil

doesn't that mean they must all be at least partly wrong?


Since as I kid I was particularly all-or-nothing, this was really easy for me to grasp.

So yeah, it's a kind of reverse psychology, sort of like you're describing.

Lotsa religion in a broad, comparative sense.

In other words, be careful to make sure she's bored with them all, or she'll find the one exception!

E.g. As I've gotten older, I'm more into the yoga kind of spirituality. It's much less about religion and more about, you know, exercise and eating well. It's my version of church to go to yoga class.

Mike said...

Ms. PhD, I agree with almost everything you've said. If we can agree that "exercise and eating well" really means "exercise so that you can eat lots of crap" then we're in total agreement.