Lately, my Christian husband has been attempting to make amends for being incredibly insensitive about how he handled baptizing our daughter. Short version, I told him that when he baptized her I did not want to attend, he told me he just wouldn’t baptize her, he then went and made arrangements to do so behind my back and I found out when his family asked me a question about a baptism that was happening the following week, which I knew nothing about. I wasn’t happy about the her being baptized period, and being lied to and finding out while surrounded by his family and being pressured by his family to go through with the baptism was painful, and one year later, I still haven’t forgiven Andy for how he handled this and have been on the verge of leaving.
As I was walking Buddy to his new school, my husband emailed me that our city was having a big homeschooling convention. A few minutes later he emailed me, “nevermind.” I smiled, knowing exactly why he lost enthusiasm for the convention.
I found out I was right when he got home. He explained that when he investigated the convention, he found they were staunchly conservative Protestant. And while it’s a given that as an atheist I wouldn’t be down with the agenda, as a Catholic, he’s not too fond of it either. And he went on for awhile in exasperation with how out of sync their educational goals were to our own (me being familiar with the homeschooling culture in our area was not surprised).
I don’t think I could have made an interfaith marriage work with a conservative Protestant. But a minimally practicing Catholic? Yeah. It works. And I think a big reason is because it doesn’t affect us much on a day to day basis.
Here are the reasons Andy is not fond of religious based homeschooling, or religious based schooling, period. He believes that it should be left to the church to teach religion. Andy wouldn’t even consider sending our children to a Catholic private school. In his mind, schools should teach academics, and religious instruction should happen solely within the church. This is a mindset I really wish more conservative Protestants would adopt!
The other reason is because Andy, like me, loves science. We read Discover and Scientific American magazines. We love Neil DeGrasse Tyson and watch his shows together. Andy doesn’t see any conflict between evolution, cosmology, and his religious beliefs. And he values science literacy and wants our children to have a firm grasp of how science and the world works.
And while he’s not a history buff like I am, he is concerned about the revisionist history that goes on in those circles. He wants our children to have a firm understanding on how the separation of church and state is fundamental to our government. He also understands that it’s important to acknowledge when our country was wrong, such as the issue of slavery. He does not want to whitewash something as horrible as the Civil War by reducing it to a mere matter of “states rights.”
Andy is able to compartmentalize his beliefs from his day to day life. In some ways I think this is easier for Catholics, because their faith focuses on acts (going to Mass, partaking in the sacraments, etc) than many Protestant sects which focus on belief. But whatever the reason, it works for us, because the educational goals we have for our children end up being the same. We want them to be scientifically literate, have a good understanding of history and how our government works, and believe that religious instruction is best left to the church.
Me and Christmas have a complicated history. I think if I didn’t have young children and family who celebrated it I would not observe it. But I have both, so I do, some years more enthusiastically than others.
Traditionally in my family the day after Thanksgiving was reserved for decorating the house for Christmas. My parents would give my sister and I an ornament every year and decorating the tree was a nice trip down nostalgia lane, something the whole family would do together. We’d see the ornaments from previous years and talk about the memories tied in with them. We’d play Christmas carols, bake cookies, etc. It was nice.
I figured my Catholic husband would enjoy decorating a tree. While we were dating we never bothered, but when we got married we got a tree. And I was the only one decorating it. Turns out Andy really doesn’t care about the tree. His lost his father and oldest brother around the holidays and it soured him on them. He just likes the good eating on Christmas Day but other than that doesn’t want to do much with them. After Buddy came around, I was still the only one decorating the tree while wrangling Buddy, and then eventually wrangling Sissy as well. All by myself. And wondering why I was putting in such effort for a holiday I merely tolerate. Especially as the thing that made decorating the tree enjoyable was sharing memories with someone who could speak. And neither of my kids have that kind of vocabulary yet.
But if I mentioned to people I was thinking of not decorating they would insist I had to. I have young children! It would be horrible if they didn’t have a Christmas tree! So I did. Resentfully.
Last year Buddy loved the tree, but in his excitement was not as careful with it as he should have been, and keeping the tree safe from him, our German Shepherd, and our cat was an exercise in frustration. We also lost some ornaments, some of which I was secretly glad were broken, others which had sentimental value to me.
And then of course after all this effort to decorate and keep the tree safe, there’s the extra effort in taking it down. Which is also a tremendous pain in the ass.
So after taking the tree down last year I decided that this year we aren’t doing a tree. Or decorating. And damn what anyone else thinks!
Considering my kids are so young and do get so excited about the tree, something about not decorating seems downright scandalous. But I’ve been working on creating other traditions instead. For instance I got some green felt and cut it out in the shape of a tree and had them decorate that with little pompoms, which they liked. They liked it so much I’m going to have to run out and get more pompoms as soon as I’m sure that the stores won’t be crowded (yeah, I have issues with agoraphobia). And they both enjoyed dancing to Christmas carols.
They’ll be cookies to decorate, shows to watch, and we take them to plenty of activities where they can meet Santa and see Christmas trees that they won’t be lacking in Christmas activities. But for now dealing with a tree is just more stress than I can handle, especially when the bulk of caring for it falls disproportionately on me.
And perhaps, once the kids get older and more mature, we can get the tree out again.
Sometimes when life throws a curveball, it’s pleasant.
Since Buddy was born Andy has taken him to Mass, while I have a bit of time to myself. As Buddy has gotten older and as Sissy has come along, Andy has become more and more dissatisfied with the arrangement. His church does not have a nursery or Sunday school. Raised in a heavily Protestant area I was surprised to learn these are not common in Catholic Churches. It’s all about Mass and children and infants are expected to sit through it.
All told Andy and I have been together in some form or fashion for twelve or thirteen years. We met in college, started dating about a year after that and things quickly progressed once we were dating. So here we are now, 8 years of marriage, two kids, a cat and a dog. And most days the fact that we’re also a mixed faith couple doesn’t come in to play. We’re too busy living life to notice. But other times it does.
If you’ve met someone who has different religious belief than you do and want to pursue a relationship with them, let me share with you what would have made this journey a helluva lot easier. Honesty. Even if it’s difficult, even if it hurts, even if it may mean ending the relationship. Be honest. Because while there are a lot of good things in our relationship, it could all come crashing down because of the dishonesty that was sown at the beginning of it.