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Over at the blog Piece of Mind, in a post called Doubt is a Higher Calling, Mark Tokarski has challenged me to define my thinking about childhood indoctrination a little more clearly.  It’s a valid challenge.  It’s worth reading his post before you read the following response:

Mark,

I’m glad we’re having this conversation… and this is good – you’re getting me started on my post about indoctrination. You don’t mind if I steal my own comments off your blog right? ;-)

The reason I have “dealt with this somewhat, but not thoroughly” is that my kids (all girls) are 4, 3, and 1 and when it comes to parenting I try to live by the rule that I don’t comment – not with apparent authority anyway – on things I have not yet experienced.

So, with my oldest being only 4 she is starting to ask questions, starting to pick up things here and there that she hears about “God”. This is where you and I differ – you have older children and you’ve already been through this. So I do appreciate your insights, and for that matter the honesty of your post.

I am in the process of determining proper responses to my daughters. Am I going to bombard them with theology that they have no hope of understanding? No, of course not. Am I going to answer their childlike questions in equally childlike terms that they can understand? Yes I am.

Where I have determined that I have found Truth I will tell my children. Where I have doubts I won’t pretend to be certain. That’s the way I work.

As for your childhood experience… yes, things tend to be overspiritualized in many ways. It’s an error I try to avoid. You have that in common with another one of my other commenters who I went out for a Guinness with last night (I still don’t like it BTW – I try to like it every 2 years or so). His point was similar to yours: things were so overspiritualized for him in a negative way that he couldn’t be in a dark room alone without being afraid.

Now this is all very unfortunate when it is the result of religious fearmongering. Do I believe demons and angels exist? Well, as a Christian, of course I do. But the manner of their influence is considerably more subtle, as a rule, than what is portrayed in a Frank Peretti book or for that matter a Stephen King book/movie.

The extremity of your treatment is common to some Catholic communities; I am far more familiar with extreme fundamentalism though, which is very common here in Southwestern Ontario (Canada). You have these groups nailed and I agree with you that they are involved in malicious indoctrination. I know many such people personally and they don’t even consider me a Christian. Seriously… especially if they read this and find out I had a beer.

If you don’t mind me asking, what was the “bolt of lighting that knocked you off your horse”? I’m assuming this is not the same flash of light that knocked St. Paul off of his.

You’re right on this too: children should know all of it, the good and the bad together. And here’s another point we won’t agree on but from personal experience many of the friends I grew up in church with ditched their Christianity when the other half of the truth was known. My belief is that they, along with a couple of generations in North America would still be Christians today if they had known all of it and been able to work out their faith with the knowledge of both sides.

I’ll make an assumption here so correct me if I’m wrong, but would your thinking be that given all the evidence anyone who honestly wrestled with it would choose Atheism?

You have my vote on doubt. I even wrote a song about it called Broken Hearted. The song is about the benefits and challenges of embracing doubt.

Cheers Mark, here’s to many more of these conversations.

********************************

(if you liked that song, there are more at http://www.michaelkrahn.com .  Shameless self-promotion, I know, but this is MY blog after all.)

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Mornings at Our House

It is 6:30am and I am about to go to work. I wait at the door for a moment and hope Olivia comes running down. Sometimes she peeks around the corner slowly and inquisitively and if she sees me there she comes running full tilt. I get the excited hug at the end of my workday too, but these morning ones are a bit rare and I cherish them a little more. Sometimes she’s up before I am and I try to put here back to bed, but she’s a tough little nut and this usually doesn’t result in her staying there very long. Her sister will sleep until 7:30, maybe 8:00am and sometimes beyond.

They are so different. Madeleine is obsessively detail oriented and Olivia is equally obsessively free-spirited. Madeleine can create entire worlds and has an attention span to die for. She’ll set up her farm and animals for hours at a time some days, while Olivia gets bored a bit quicker. She can’t sit through entire movies and doesn’t care to create worlds – destroying them is much more fun. I took her to the Sunday morning kids singing for the first time last week and she was the wildest one there, dancing without regard for those around her, crowding the leader at the front. Madeleine has been going for a year already and still hesitates to go every week. Her bravery appears in increments while Olivia’s, being the extrovert, is ever-present. She has no fear.

I see benefits and dangers for each of them. Olivia will be ambitious, accomplishing much probably by erring much, but succeeding much because she’s not afraid to fail. Madeleine will succeed too, if we nurture her ability to think long and hard and solve problems. Hopefully we can convey our satisfaction with each of them as they grow. With her beautiful orange hair and extrovert personality, Olivia will always be the attention getter and we’ll have to counter-balance that by giving Madeleine and bit more attention at home.

And girl #3, Sophia? I’m not sure yet, she’s only 6 months old. She’s a decent sleeper and a “good baby” by anyone’s standards. Having now observed 3 children up close and hanging out with a lot of other people who have kids, I believe less and less that some kids are just born to misbehave – well, girls anyway. I probably won’t ever have the experience of raising a boy but speaking from vicarious experience I’d say it’s a completely different task.

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My parents are so cool

           My Dad works at Ford and my Mom and I both work at North Star in Talbotville.  For two weeks while my Dad is on dayshift, he drops me off at work on his way.   Then for two weeks I get a ride with my Mom.  Most of the time this ride sharing business isn’t really necessary, but I do it because I like them so much!   (That’s right, on top of loving them, I LIKE them too!)  And also because it means that Mrs. Zimbo isn’t stuck at home with Madeleine and Olivia all day without the van.

 

Around Christmas a couple of years ago we were sitting around at Mom and Dad’s and out of the blue my Dad says “Son, do you think I should get a Playstation or an X-Box or something?”   He kind of woke me up from a couch nap with this question so I didn’t really respond the first time.  When he asked the second time, I was awake, and you can guess what my response was: “Let’s roll!”   So off we went to Zellers, and we came back with an X-Box, 4 games, and a 36″ flatscreen TV.

 

My Dad is in his early 50’s and was a pastor for 13 years until about 7 years ago (prior to that he worked at Ford for 17 years.)   We never had much money as a family; my Mom stayed home to raise us while Dad was working, and then when they became Pastor(s), the pay was pretty lousy.  So now they are finally having a little money to enjoy.

 

Regardless of which one I ride with, on Friday’s they always show up with a Tim’s Regular and a blueberry bran muffin (“buttered and THEN heated, please!”) for me.   My Mom showed up one Wednesday with that same order.  I had already eaten breakfast and I had my usual Green Tea (Tetley Lemon and Ginseng Green Tea with a teaspoon of Honey) in my hand.   My Mom said “Sorry, I forgot to tell you: I think we should start having Tim Hortons on Wednesdays AND Fridays.”

 

“Ok Mom, I won’t argue with you.” I said.

 

My parents, as I’ve mentioned before, have been so great to me all my life.  They rarely raised their voices at me, never hit me, never belittled me, and when I got a little older they let me make up my own mind about things and gave all the guidance I ever asked for.   Now as I travel through my 30’s, I am just in love with them more than ever.  I hope my kids feel that way about me when they are 30.


Michael Krahn
www.michaelkrahn.com

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Parenting

It really is almost too much some days, although never so much that I consider any extreme measures.  Parenting is far more challenging than anyone can prepare you for.  Where does all the energy come from?  You swear they’re sneaking spoons full of sugar when you’re not looking.  And the abstinence – I mean do they get some sort of personal gratification out of saying "NO" to something you are most certainly going to make them do – that is, if you don’t collapse out of frustration first?
 
As I write this, Madeleine is vying for my attention – and of course I oblige.  She says she loves me.  She fixes my ears because "They’re too long" she says.  When I try to return the favour and fix hers she says "NO, they’re fine!"  On many days it really would be easier to put them down in front of the TV and let them get their fill (if that is possible) of Bob & Larry, Bob the Builder, Calliou, Dora, Bear….. Charolette, Pooh, Tigger…  What keeps us from doing that?
 
Its hard to be a good parent, to do the things you know are right for your kids day after day.  So what keeps us doing those things?  I see the future and I see my kids with more confidence and potential than I ever had. Maybe every parent sees this. I don’t want to give them ‘stuff’ I never had; I know that that is unimportant.  What I want to continue to give them is their Mommy.  I want to continue to sacrifice so that they can have a loving parent at home until they are school aged, and from that I think they will benefit in the same ways that we benefited from having our Mothers at home.  But that future is hard to see on days like today.  Madeleine is 2 and practicing defiance and Olivia is 1 and sick and fevered.
 
We’re teaching them more when we’re not using words.  For every challenge issued in defiance, our responses are their lessons.  The amount we allow them to get away with is what they’ll later expect from the real world – and they’ll be disappointed. 

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