There was no food in the house on Good Friday. Despite my best intentions to get to the supermarket on Tuesday I just hadn’t made it. By Thursday I should have left work and gone straight to grocery shopping, instead I went out drinking with my work colleagues. Yes I left my children without sustenance on the one day of the year the shops are closed just so I could enjoy
two three glasses of champagne.
I decide we’ll have fish and chips on the beach for lunch (the takeaway shop was doing a roaring trade). The children don’t want fish and chips. They want chicken wraps.
“No” I say “it’s Good Friday you have to eat fish”.
“It’s a Catholic thing”.
“So, you are saying it a religious rule that we eat fish on Good Friday?”
“Mum, I hate to break it to you but we are not religious”.
“Mum, we don’t go to church”.
“We’re still Catholic”.
“Actually Dad’s Anglican but never got confirmed because he got kicked out of confirmation classes. I’m baptised Anglican but confirmed Catholic, the only Catholics really are you and the Princess”.
“Doesn’t matter for the purpose of the exercise we’re all Catholic”.
“Mum this is ridiculous, why are we following this rule about eating fish when you don’t follow the other rules?”
“I follow some of the other rules, I’m a good person”.
“You don’t go to church – isn’t that a pretty big rule you should be following? Seriously Mum I think God will forgive us not eating fish, I reckon he’s got bigger issues to deal with”.
Life was so much easier when they were small and you could feed them anything you wanted without having to answer a barrage of questions. Seriously, blind obedience, that’s what I want.
The kids got their chicken wraps, even I went a BLT, in fact the only one who ate fish on Good Friday was the disgraced, unconfirmed Anglican.
Just for the record I felt guilty about the BLT and could hear Sister Christina describing the burning fires of hell in every mouthful (and if that isn’t Catholic I don’t know what is).
The issue of religion is a murky one for me. Haven’t been to confession or communion in decades. Yet on all those forms you have to fill out with the “religion” box I still write Catholic. I got married in a church, albeit an Anglican one, and had both my daughters baptised (again one Anglican, one Catholic). I fully expect my funeral will be a Catholic one (although not so hypocritical as to go the full requiem mass).
The girls started their school life in public school, and I remember feeling guilty (see Catholic) that they were getting no exposure to religion, except for the 40 minutes of instruction from visiting clergy that you can opt into in the public system. At six Hippie Child told me she “really like Father’s stories about Jesus and stuff”.
When we moved to the country I enrolled them in the Catholic school system and it was a bit of an experience for them. We had a crash course in saints, the scriptures and the holy trinity. Being younger Princess Child seemed to embrace the religious teachings quite fervently, I still have a faint fear she may one day opt for life in the nunnery but then I remember her penchant for make-up and sparkly dresses and I rest easy. Hippie Child agreed to the confirmation then decided that was enough she didn’t need no more religion. She still does surprisingly well in the subject at school, apparently her zoned out daydreaming demeanour translates to devout and I’ve told her to keep going with that approach because it’s working for her.
If I truly had to define my approach to religion I think the best I could come up with is confused. If I seriously think it through from a purely logical point of view I’d fall into the atheist camp, yet there are moments of life that remain inexplicable tipping me toward the agnostic, and when I have to bury anyone I immediately turn to believer. It’s much nicer to convince yourself that your loved one has gone to a better place where you may one day meet up again than deal with the reality of the situation.
Of course when it comes to the children that’s where my confusion has become a parenting deficit. What child gets to make a decision on whether she will follow through on the sacraments? The child of a dithering parent willing to go with the kid’s decision because she’s not that sure of the right choice herself. While I do my best to support the religious teaching in the school I have had to argue against it on a few key points which are diametrically opposed to my own beliefs. Somehow the girls seem able to wear the contrasting viewpoints.
Shortly after we arrived in town I attended a school celebration, steeped in religious symbolism there was much talk of faith and hope. In one blinding moment of epiphany I realised my sense of optimism had been born in the long-winded masses at St Mary’s in the 1970’s, although I may not always believe faith in God will get me through I carry a deep sense that whatever happens we will survive it, there is always a way out, a faith in our capacity to survive and a continual hope that better times are ahead.
I see the importance of ritual and the deep sense of community around the schools and church. I am sad at the lack of diversity in the teachers my children are exposed to and can only hope their religious lessons are broad enough to include tolerance and respect for all.
At the end of the day, as with all parenting decisions, you just have to hope for the best. I am comfortable that at least I’ve given my children exposure to a religion which they are free to abandon or embrace when they are older. I am also confident I show them an example of living a good life, honest and caring, even if not adhering to the “rules” of the church. Sometimes that’s all you’ve got to offer.