Mom's Jewish; Dad's a Pisces
I was invited to a dinner recently at a friend’s house and I didn’t really know anyone. I started talking about the child I was expecting at the time (who arrived in August) and the person I was talking to interrupted me and asked:
“So, what religion will your child be if you and your wife aren’t from the same one?”
It took me by surprise, not because I hadn’t ever thought about it, but because my child hadn’t even been born yet. The question of what religion they’ll be (or gender, or what their diet will be like) seemed irrelevant.
My wife is Jewish and I was raised as a Muslim but at some point stopped identifying as one (more on that in a later post). I still celebrate Muslim holidays with my family, but I don’t attend religious services regularly, or say prayers, or fast during Ramadan.
So I got a little flustered when this lady started questioning me about my unborn child’s religion. What will religion will they be?
For a moment, I pictured myself in a store with religions on shelves. The price tag on all of them say “free,” but as with anything, there are hidden costs. For instance, you lose a little bit of life autonomy when you’re forced into a religion at birth. When you’re labelled as a person who believes in something just because your parents do. Some call it inheritance, but I see it as unfair.
Perhaps we could tell our child that they’re a mix of our two religions. That seems to make sense. Until you start to construct this new type of religion hybrid, and realize that ultimately, the biggest difference is in the name of the religion, the traditions and rites of passage are slightly different in execution but similar in spirit.
Or perhaps we could let them decide. That seems to make sense too, until you realize that giving two options of religions is kind of limiting. What if they want to be part of a religion that neither of their parents are part or?What if they don’t want to be associated with a religion at all?
So perhaps we could let them just be them, and ignore religion entirely. That seems to make sense, and sounds good too. But then the traditions and holidays and cultural elements that you, as a parent, enjoy so much are lost on your kid.
It’s all too much.
While my view on this is always changing, this is the framework I’ve settled on for now: a child should have access to their family’s heritage, to the components that make up their history. It’s not the same as picking, and it’s not the same as ignoring religion altogether. The idea of access includes religion and also transcends religion at the same time. For instance, my child will have access to:
- Judaism, through his mom
- Islam, through his grandparents
- Music, through his dad
- Self-help literature, through his dad,
- Rock climbing, through his aunt
- and anything else that he is given access to through the people he interacts with
If someone were to ask me what I identify with, I’d say it’s with being a Pisces. No set of personality traits and spiritual connections seems to sum me up better than the astrological sign of Pisces, which is my star sign. I connect to this sign not because it’s my star sign, but because the stereotype fits who I am.
And even though my child is a Virgo, there are lessons to pass on from the realm of the Pisces, like how it’s okay to have strong emotions, and how it’s okay to use your nervous system as a compass rather than be ashamed of it. So my son has access to the personality traits of a Pisces, through his father.
Mom’s Jewish, Dad’s a Pisces.
Auntie’s temples are mountains with boulders.
Grandpa’s altar is the stove.
Uncle’s hymns come from the Grateful Dead.
And you, dear child, have access to this whole universe of constellations that we form through the the histories to which we have been given access. You can take it all, take none of it, or find other points of access outside of our family.
With these declarations, we widen the meaning of what it means to have a belief system, and who our prophets are.
In a world where our rigid and limited belief systems are the cause of such hatred and exclusion, is there any greater gift to give to a brand new human?