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...)
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"
Ruby: "No, her."
Me: "Did anyone else come to visit?"
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.