Life didn’t prepare me for Catholic preschool.
My parents weren’t the religious type. My mom was a firm believer in raising my brother and me to make our own decisions when it came to God and church. I dipped my toe in the (holy) water several times throughout my life. I can remember being 12 years old and begging my mom to sign me up for sleep-away bible camp. While I was more interested in lake life with my two best friends, I was also vaguely interested in learning more about God and what he meant to others. That first night of camp we answered questions on a scrap of paper for our counselor. Lots of basic questions like favorite foods, songs, etc. but she also asked us if we were Christian. I quickly scribbled my answers, turned it in and discussed the questionnaire with my fair-haired friend, Jenna.
“What did you put for the ‘Christian’ question?” I asked quickly, “I mean, obviously I put ‘no’ because I am obviously Presbyterian since I go with you to church when I sleep over.”
It hit me fast that, no, Christian and Catholic were not the same thing. I learned it faster when all the counselors shook me awake at midnight, traipsed me into the cold summer night, formed a circle around me and begged Jesus to “save” me until I cried. This ruined religion for me for a very long time.
In the years that followed, I did my stint as an atheist. a Buddhist, Unitarian Universalist, agnostic, etc. I did enough time with my grandmother in the Catholic Church to be able to mumble my way through the Lord’s Prayer. I swore during my hairy-legged college days I would never raise my children in a religious household. But, eventually, I came around. Granted, I am never going to be one to post my 4 am cup of coffee next to a worn-out Bible on Instagram, but I’m trying. I try to explore my relationship with God and learn about the ways he has touched others’ lives.
So, here I am, 30 years old with my son starting his first year of Catholic preschool. While I don’t have my mother’s whimsical fancy when it comes to parenting and religion, I also have a really hard time fitting the Catholic mold. Just last week I left school red-faced after realizing that, no, talking about nipples on my Facebook feed is NOT an appropriate conversation at Catholic preschool drop-off. I didn’t learn this until I could hear the figurative clutching of pearls from the other moms around me. I also realized that my kids are also cluelessly pattering through this new Catholic preschool regime when my 4 year old told me his first field trip to Catholic church was weird because they made him splash dirty water in his face when he walked in.
Talking to others about religion makes me itch. But wondering what my innocent little boy is blithering on about is enough for a full-blown medical induced coma. I just broke my three year old from screaming “shit!” into the intercom at McDonald’s. I’m not up for this scrutinizing. I can barely step in wet grass in June without flashing back to my Jesus Camp experience. How does one do it?
Perhaps it’s all in your tribe. Maybe I’m not meant to be with the squeaky #blessed moms. But, just maybe, that one mom that belly laughed at my nipple comment might be who I need. At this point in my life I am not trying to make anyone like me. My religious quest is to be here for my kids as terribly as I know how and to have a relationship with God. I know there’s other moms out there like me. We might not be the perfect Christians, but, damnit, we’re trying.