Monday, 13 December 2010

The Nativity...according to a 2 & 3/4 year old

DISCLAIMER: I am possibly about to inadvertently offend people here - so apologies in advance.  I am not mocking people with firmly held religious beliefs in any way. 

This is uncharted territory, and I may be about to commit the cardinal sin (no pun intended) of blogging by even mentioning religion. This may be mummy blogger suicide on a par with my Fruit Shoot post (No, obviously I'm not comparing Jesus to a Fruit Shoot...)



Here goes.

Last week when we'd ambled home from Nursery, Ruby spent a good part of the afternoon wandering round the house cradling her doll and calling her 'baby Jesus'.  I was quite taken aback by this - we have never discussed religion in our house, and as far as I know none of her grandparents have either.

It's not that we are non-believers - both myself and her dad have our views, but these are private and we don't discuss them openly.  I was raised as a Sunday-school-attending Methodist, and the other half as a practicing Roman Catholic.  He was an alter boy and was educated by nuns.  This enforced religion at a young age has turned us both off traditional worship and it was always our intention that we would allow our daughter to discover religion for herself (or not).

This is why I was quite shocked that, with no forewarning Ruby suddenly starts shouting about baby Jesus and singing snippets of a song with the words 'kneel and pray'.  She actually attends two different nurseries - one is at a local SureStart centre, the other is a private nursery group held in a church hall.  It was the SureStart group who have filled her head with 'baby Jesus'.  I was really surprised by this - when you constantly read in the media about 'political-correctness gone mad' I would have thought the least they could do is inform parents they were going to talk about Christianity.  Even back in the dark ages when I went to school we were given the option to opt out of religious teaching (though I suspect this wasn't the case with the other half - I imagine the nuns would have had something to say about that!).

Many lovely people on Twitter sent me kind and reassuring replies to my angst filled tweets about this. They didn't (as they probably should have) say "get a grip woman, it's 3 weeks before Christmas, the subject of Jesus in a manger was bound to come up".

I know I should have seen this coming, but disorganised as ever I didn't.  I hadn't planned in my head what I was going to tell her about the meaning of Christmas. I tend to take the ostrich approach to parenting.  I still think discussing religion with children should be the choice of the parents.  I want her to learn about all faiths, and grow up tolerant and understanding of others.  I haven't noticed any other celebrations discussed at nursery...

Today, I dropped Ruby off at her other nursery - the one at the church hall.  I was met at the door by her key-worker who told me that the vicar was visiting today to tell the Christmas story. I was given the option, if I didn't want her to listen she could go to another room with a play leader and do another activity instead.  I chose to let her stay and hear the story - at least she could hear it from a vicar, who presumably would know what he was talking about, and might put her right on a few things...like Jesus wasn't a girl.

This approach was much appreciated, and to be honest what I would expect from any pre-school setting.  When I collected her at lunchtime, we wandered home and I asked her what she'd done today.  This is how the conversation went:

Ruby: "The vicar came in today and told us all about baby Jesus"

Me: "That's nice.  Did he tell you about where Jesus was born?"

Ruby: "Yes, in a stable. And some horses came to see her"

Me: "Him"

Ruby: "No, her."

Me: "Did anyone else come to visit?"

Ruby: "No."

Me: "What about the three wise men?"

Ruby: "Yes, three old men came too. And a cow."

Me: "And did they bring any presents?"

Ruby: "No. Father Christmas brings the presents, but he hasn't been yet.  When he does he's going to bring her a Thomas the Tank Train Set."


Looks like I have some more explaining to do on this.  Or maybe not.

6 comments:

  1. I completely see where you are coming from here. Surely it is up to the parents to decide how they want their child brought up?! Yes I might be religious but my husband is definitely not and we would both agree with you that it should be your decision and not forced upon your daughter without your consent.

    However, the last part of your post made me laugh a lot!!! Maybe sit her down with a Fruit Shoot and explain? ;) xx

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  2. Thanks Rhoda. I know people think I'm making a fuss over nothing, but I do think it should be down to the parent's to decide when and how to discuss 'big issues' like religion.

    Glad it made you laugh - I quite like the thought of Jesus being a woman! x

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  3. I'm a bit iffy on this one.
    On the one hand, as someone who was brought up as a Roman Catholic, and attended church weekly, and went to catholic school, I've also grown rather disilussioned with religion, and I totally respect parents who want to raise their children to make up their own mind about religion (I wish that someone did that for me)
    However, I'm also aware that we do live in a Christian country, which is about to come to a complete standstill for the biggest holiday of the year. I think that as long as the religion/religious holiday is talked about in a factual sense (or at least with the intention to be factual, little miss Jesus aside :P ) then there shouldn't be a major problem. I'donly really have an issue if religion was discussed with my child in an obvious attempt to convert my child to that religion.
    Christmas is a huge part of the year for this country, and although I totally understand your ostrich approach, I don't think it's an issue for a child to understand the origins of it all. After all, not only is there no need to forcibly expose a child to religion, there's also no point deliberately hiding it. Religion, particularly Christianity, is an incredibly common subject, so it's only sensible to allow a child to be aware of all aspects of theism (and atheism).
    I also understand what you mean about the same effort not being put into educating children about the major holidays of the other religions, and I agree that the same emphasis should be put on explaining all aspects, however it all comes down to the fact that this country's 'designated' religion is Christianity, so it only seems natural that Christian holidays are more predominant and well understood.
    I also think that it'd be counter-productive to overload a child with religious facts at such a young age. I think that if you're against your daughter being taught about religion, then make this clear to the nursery for future reference, but in this instance I think it was more to educate her about the origins of a national holiday, as opposed to there being any sinister ulterior motives. :)

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  4. Thank you thank you thank you for your comment. I completely agree with you and I too am in a dilemma. On the one hand it's nice for her to understand why christmas is celebrated, but on the other I want her to be aware that not everybody celebrates it (for this reason!). However, she is too young to understand that different people have different beliefs. It would have just been nice to be told they were discussing it and given the option to opt out like the other nursery did, and been prepared for the questions that followed.

    I think the reason I'm struggling so much with this is that I'm not entirely sure what I believe myself! Thank you again for taking the time. x

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  5. I think I'd be inclined to agree with Denise and not worry about it too much. Nativities are such a part of nursery/infant school life you're fighting an uphill battle. I presume there was no malice intended on the nursery's part. I have a feeling the nurseries my lot went to used to mention Diwali - they certainly knew all about other celebrations by the time they left infant school.
    I was brought up a catholic and am fairly ambivalent about the whole thing, though I have had mine christened etc, but the eldest two have already decided they are atheists. You can only influence so far(-: But I suspect your daughter will be mainly influenced by you & the fact she sees Christmas with both a baby girl AND Santa Claus makes me thinks she hasn't been too brainwashed!

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  6. Thanks Julia.

    I'm sure you're right.

    I went to a very diverse school, so everyone learnt about Islam, Hinduism, Jewish faith, Sikh faith etc etc. I am sure she will in time, I just want her to be tolerant of others.

    And also not keep going around talking about Jesus, angels and praying - because I'm paranoid people will think I'm brainwashing her!!

    Thanks for taking the time to read and post - I appreciate it x

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