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Would like your thoughts on this family issue


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I’d like your input on something. 

 

We were watching grandkids today at their house on the other side of town, and I was reading books to one of them. They are fundies, I am not a believer. One granddaughter, who is eight years old, brought over a few short picture books of Bible stories. I read them to her, after which she said, “Mom told me something about you.” I teased around, saying that I’m smart, good looking, etc. and she said, “No, it’s serious. If you don’t believe in God you won’t get into heaven. You need to believe.”

 

I was so caught off guard that I didn’t know what to say except, “Well, don’t worry about that.”

 

I could tell she was getting upset, and it looked like she was holding back tears. A moment later she got down from my lap and went into her bedroom and laid down on her bed. I didn’t follow. After a few minutes she came out and we went on to other activities and nothing more was said.

 

Later at our house, I asked my wife for her reaction to this, and she told me that this wasn’t the first time that one of their young children brought this up. Once the boy, who is nine, asked “Nana” if he could pray that I would become a Christian. She told him that it would not be good to do that right then.

 

I really don’t care if these kids know my world view or not. I don’t discuss it with them. But I do care when one of my grandchildren is so upset that she leaves the room. What I believe or do not believe is not something that should be upsetting young children.

 

Our family relationship has been good and we have always had a tacit agreement that we don’t discuss religion. They do their thing and I do mine. I’m going to let this settle for a couple of days before I contact their mom. I find that time helps to produce more thoughtful statements. But I have to tell her that this has upset one of her children (and me), and ask her why she would even bring up my world view with these kids. My wife suggests that in their family prayers they probably are praying that I’ll find Jesus. I don’t care if they do that. But who put the thoughts into this kid’s head that I’m not going to heaven because I don’t believe, resulting in her becoming upset? Why did they even have to discuss this with children at all?

 

Now a second, and really minor, issue is that my world view is my property. I own it. I choose who to share it with and under what circumstances. I don’t put bumper stickers on my car or wear badges on my hat. And I see no need for it to be brought up unless in the context of a religious discussion in which I choose to participate. It is no different from the relevancy of any other status — gender identity, race, age — to any discussion in which that status has no importance.

 

Anyhow, I know that I can’t control what goes on inside their house. But with the thought that we all have a good relationship, I would be interested in what you might say to the children's mom if you were in my position.

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I don't have any advice, but I do have a story. I was essentially in the shoes of your grand kids with my own grandfather. He also didn't believe and was at best an agnostic who hated the church. My grandmother went to church and raised my father in it, but his dad just stayed home and was mostly quiet about it other than making a few snide comments from time to time. 

I remember writing him a letter when I was a young teen pleading with him to adopt the faith, also worried he was going to hell. Like you, he kept things to himself and was just a good grand dad. 

 

After I grew up and ended up an atheist, I apologized to him for writing him that letter. He just laughed it off. 

 

I don't know if there are any morals for you here other than just hang tight. Not much you can, or probably should do. Life will do with your grand kids what it does. All you can do is be you. 

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20 hours ago, older said:

I’d like your input on something. 

 

We were watching grandkids today at their house on the other side of town, and I was reading books to one of them. They are fundies, I am not a believer. One granddaughter, who is eight years old, brought over a few short picture books of Bible stories. I read them to her, after which she said, “Mom told me something about you.” I teased around, saying that I’m smart, good looking, etc. and she said, “No, it’s serious. If you don’t believe in God you won’t get into heaven. You need to believe.”

 

I was so caught off guard that I didn’t know what to say except, “Well, don’t worry about that.”

 

I could tell she was getting upset, and it looked like she was holding back tears. A moment later she got down from my lap and went into her bedroom and laid down on her bed. I didn’t follow. After a few minutes she came out and we went on to other activities and nothing more was said.

 

Later at our house, I asked my wife for her reaction to this, and she told me that this wasn’t the first time that one of their young children brought this up. Once the boy, who is nine, asked “Nana” if he could pray that I would become a Christian. She told him that it would not be good to do that right then.

 

I really don’t care if these kids know my world view or not. I don’t discuss it with them. But I do care when one of my grandchildren is so upset that she leaves the room. What I believe or do not believe is not something that should be upsetting young children.

 

Our family relationship has been good and we have always had a tacit agreement that we don’t discuss religion. They do their thing and I do mine. I’m going to let this settle for a couple of days before I contact their mom. I find that time helps to produce more thoughtful statements. But I have to tell her that this has upset one of her children (and me), and ask her why she would even bring up my world view with these kids. My wife suggests that in their family prayers they probably are praying that I’ll find Jesus. I don’t care if they do that. But who put the thoughts into this kid’s head that I’m not going to heaven because I don’t believe, resulting in her becoming upset? Why did they even have to discuss this with children at all?

 

Now a second, and really minor, issue is that my world view is my property. I own it. I choose who to share it with and under what circumstances. I don’t put bumper stickers on my car or wear badges on my hat. And I see no need for it to be brought up unless in the context of a religious discussion in which I choose to participate. It is no different from the relevancy of any other status — gender identity, race, age — to any discussion in which that status has no importance.

 

Anyhow, I know that I can’t control what goes on inside their house. But with the thought that we all have a good relationship, I would be interested in what you might say to the children's mom if you were in my position.

 

" But, granddaughter, I'm already in heaven. I have you and my whole family right here. Nothing could be better." :)

 

If you say anything to their mom then I guess it might be that "Granddaughter sure was upset that I'm not going to heaven. I hope that doesnt cause a lot of sadness with granddaughter cuz I'm happy with what I believe/don't believe." Or  you could just skip talking to their mom. Granddaughter knows there's a dissenter in the family. Maybe Granddad can teach some logic, reason, etc. Granddad questions things....maybe granddaughter will learn to also.

 

I agree that your world view is private. Christians don't agree.

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Do you feel uncomfortable talking to her about invisible/imaginary friends and places? Kids know about imagination, and she's at the age where she can start thinking about "maybe this might not be real".

 

I have a nephew and niece not many years beyond that, and they are being raised fundy by parents that seem terrified that their kids might not believe. I have not come out at an ex-believer, just so I'm not shut out of their lives. But I so rarely get to see them that I don't know if I will ever be an influence on them. They read some books on evolution, but only in the context of why they are wrong. I don't know that either has considered the possibility that what they've been squished into believing is all fantasy. They are emotionally somewhat unusual, being top 1% intelligence, so I don't know if the terror of parental disapproval would scare them so much that they can't even consider the possibility. The family has a very long tradition of stern parents, and even a look from them can send the kids into a shutdown, which is why the daddy especially is such a hardcore believer. He can't begin to question it for real at this point, nothing in his life has gripped him by the balls where he needed to deal with the complete unreality of the foundation of his convictions.

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I gotta say I have some appreciation for their mother. I mean it may have been a dick move to force the matter on you, I'm not sure what more to say about that. But from the children's perspective it could be good. She isn't shielding them from the fact that not everyone shares their beliefs.

 

Secondly, I don't think it bad that the kid got upset. It's inavoidable. Kids have to face issues like death when they are old enough to understand the concept. There's no way around that. (Except obviously giving sweet fairy tale explanations instead of the cruel truths.) Just believe in the kids, I say. They have the resources to deal with it. Leaving the room showes that she can self-regulate. When it's too much she won't ask more. When she's ready to deal with more she can ask.

 

Also, there's one point on which I can not be arsed to cut you any slack personally. Kids ARE going to ask difficult questions. They don't give a shit about what makes you uneasy or what doesn't. They expect adults to be able to deal with tough shit. You can't expect the mother to shield you from the kids' curiosity, now can you.

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I don't know why the child became upset.  Perhaps it is because she thought that her grandfather (the OP) would suffer if he did not join the religion.  On the other hand, perhaps it is because she has an inkling that the religious indoctrination to which she has been exposed is not true.

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I think the child was upset with the notion that I was not going to get into heaven unless I believed.

 

I'm not going to try to plant doubts in her head at her age. As I wrote above, we have a good family relationship, but the child's father, our son-in-law, is more fundy than our daughter and I would not put it past him to cut or somehow restrict our relationship if he thought I was interfering with their child rearing.

 

One option is to ignore this unless it happens again. But I just can't comprehend why this girl's mother would put her daughter in such a position.

 

As of today, I think what I'll do is just send an email, which gives everyone time to think, and tell my daughter that the kid was upset. I don't think my daughter wants that. I think I'll just tell her what happened and let her find a solution. I think I will say that I was also upset that my world view would be discussed with children.

 

We watched the kids again today and there were no comments or issues.

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4 hours ago, older said:

Thanks, Vigile. 

 

What bothers me about this is that it's an 8-year-old kid that's upset. I don't think it's appropriate for a parent to put a kid in this position.

 

Speaking from experience, they'll get over it. I know it's not easy waiting it out though. 

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Something similar happened with my oldest grandson who is now 18.   Looking back,  in the long run, I think the incident probably affected me worse than it did  him.   When GS was around 4,  he was sitting at the kitchen table eating lunch and suddenly burst into tears.  I finally got it out of him that he was sad because I, his most favorite grandparent, would be going to hell.  I was completely caught off guard.  I was so upset that anyone could tell GS something like that.   Actually, I was livid.  But like your family, my SIL is more fundy than my daughter, so I felt like I had to be very careful on how I addressed the situation.   It was no secret that I did not attend church, but at that point, I had not said anything to GS about not believing in any gods.    They had started going to a super wacky church, so I (correctly) assumed that was the source of the problem, reinforced by their nightly prayers for their family, especially the unbelievers--me.  I asked him if he thought God  knew what was in a person's heart.  He said yes.  I asked him if he thought I was a bad person.  No.  So I told him he had no reason to worry because surely if he knew my heart was good, so would God.   He cheered up, the matter has never come back up and we're still very close.    In fact, when I picked him up from his christian pre-school shortly after the incident, the teacher told me that GS really had some deep thoughts for a kid his age.   "Too deep", she said, "And he asks too many questions."   Turns out that when being taught that God made everything, he asked "Who made God?"   "Good for him," I said.    I was proud!   :D

 

Kids know who genuinely love them, so I'd bet your granddaughter will get over this and everything will turn out fine.  You'll be her living example of how people can be good without god. 

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Vigile and Buffetfan:

 

Thanks for your comments; they are a big help. I've been all worked up over this all day and you've given me some perspective. I was going to write Daughter an email about this, but now I think I'll just let it go. And, Buffetfan, you've given me a great response if it happens again.

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On 10/28/2017 at 6:42 PM, older said:

Vigile and Buffetfan:

 

Thanks for your comments; they are a big help. I've been all worked up over this all day and you've given me some perspective. I was going to write Daughter an email about this, but now I think I'll just let it go. And, Buffetfan, you've given me a great response if it happens again.

 

I'm joining this party after the fact, but I'm so glad to read that you left it alone for now. I can imagine that your daughter (and/or husband) told their kids about your worldview, because they see it as more than that. They believe a religion that tells them you are going to hell, and they feel it is their duty to pray for you. And likely want to warn their kids in case you ever say anything that could conflict with what they're being taught (and I think it's great that you aren't). I truly believe they have the best intentions for you and their kids in doing this. They love you, are concerned for you, and think that what they're doing is right. I just didn't want you to feel like they were gossiping about you or saying you were bad. I'm sure their intentions are honorable.

 

Ithink you are making good choices not to rock the boat, and just being grateful to have time with the grandkids. Good job!

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