Monday, April 2, 2018

Our Interfaith Family: How we respect both sides

Hey Y'all! Happy Passover AND Happy Easter!

This past weekend it was one of those rare times where both faiths were celebrating major holidays in the same weekend. It can be a  logistical nightmare, and it can be confusing for the kiddos. So I thought I would tell all of you how we manage it in our house, just in case you have a similar situation.

It can be difficult in any relationship when your backgrounds or cultures are different--much less when you throw in different religious backgrounds as well. My husband and I walk a very cautious line around the holiday seasons of trying to honor both families, backgrounds, and cultures. It has been a learning process over our last 6 years together.

My husband's family is originally from New York, and they are Jewish. My family has been in the South since the late 1700's and we are Baptist. For the most part, I feel that we do a good job of trying to incorporate both families and their religious beliefs to the best of our abilities. BUT I will admit that our daughter, does seem to have some confusion when it comes to the two different religions. At four years old--she doesn't see the separation. She just thinks that it is all a part of one religion. I am not so sure that this is a bad thing, either. I assume at one point that she will pick it apart and realize that there are two very different, yet equally wonderful set of traditions that she is lucky enough to be a part of.

When my husband and I were planning our wedding--this was the first time that I remember feeling that the differences between or two families were a bit overwhelming. When we first starting dating, the differences seemed really small, and nothing to worry about for the future. However, when I realized that having a minister preside over our wedding ceremony would be offensive to my husband's family--it was a bit hard to wrap my head around. While I understood it--it didn't match with the picture of my wedding that I had in my head from when I was a little girl.

My husband, and I ultimately decided to keep religion out of our wedding almost entirely. There were a few small exceptions--the breaking of a glass during the ceremony and the use of Jesu Joy as I walked down the aisle. Other than that we left it completely neutral. We felt that the use of any more religious matters would be seen as too "jewish" or too "christian" by the opposite families respectively. This was the only way that we knew to accommodate everybody--we essentially accommodated nobody. I still stand by that decision and feel that it was the best way for us.

Now that we have a child together--that line once again often gets blurry. It can be hard to avoid the clashing of different holidays, and often one side is forced to compromise. It's a work in progress, and probably always will be. Ultimately, I feel that it comes down to a relationship of cooperation. Both my husband and I are more than willing to incorporate parts of each religious teaching in the raising of our daughter. It's a credit to our communication from the very beginning of our parenting relationship.

In many ways I feel that our daughter is lucky for getting to experience and learn a little about each religion. Ultimately, I feel that her religious knowledge will surpass many of her friends because she will  be exposed consistently to both.

Here is the hard part, though. In order to truly respect each side--we have chosen to raise our daughter in the same way that we chose to run our wedding--sans religion. I know that this would be impossible for some couples. BUT for us--it really seemed to be the only option. In order to respect both of our backgrounds--we do not subscribe or define ourselves by EITHER religion. We celebrate the holidays of both religions. Passover and Easter, Hanukkah and Christmas. We celebrate them both, and we don't explain that there is a difference. We feel that the failure to give a distinction, prevents our perspective biases from coming through on our daughter.

It is a natural inclination for a parent to want to introduce religious teachings to their children, and it is something that happens in our home from time to time. My daughter recites the Jewish prayers at Hanukkah and she goes to church on Easter every year. But it stops there. We do not go in depth. There is no real religious education beyond surface level.

When we were engaged we talked candidly about religion and how we were going to raise our children. This is a MUST for any interfaith family. We knew we had to have an understanding from the very beginning, and that is what we have. The decision was made it let our children choose. So we present both sides at a surface level. Both parents participate in the other parent's religious holidays. The number one rule is that you do not delve into religious philosophy.

For example, my daughter has heard the name Jesus. She has been to church on Easter, but I don't talk about him at home. I have never told her the story of Jesus's birth, or of his life, or of his death. Whatever she learns in the one time that she goes to church each year--she learns. BUT I am not going to teach those things in the home. If one day she comes to me and tells me that she wants to go to church more and she wants to learn more--then we will approach that as a family. However, in order to respect both side--neither side promotes their perspective religion.

The same goes for my husband. I would have no problem if my daughter went to synagogue with my husband or his family. I don't have a problem with her participating in ceremonies or saying Jewish prayers. BUT we are not going to delve further until/unless she comes to us one day and wants to learn more. When holiday's overlap like they did this weekend--we do both to the best of our abilities.

In the end, it all comes down to a level of mutual respect. We respect each other's backgrounds and family's beliefs. We would each be fine if our child chose either religion, or none at all. To us it would make no difference.

How do you handle different backgrounds or religions in your family?

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