My boyfriend is really very open minded about my odd inclinations. A girl at the Hindi meet-up group asked him how he felt about my passion for Indian culture and he told her he thought it was great. He jokes about my last ex-boyfriend, who as part of his break-up speech said that I have "this whole Indian thing going on." This boyfriend loves my "whole Indian thing." He also thinks that Ganesha is awesome. Apparently, Ganesha is featured as a character in a webcomic he likes.
It can be easy to forget that he does not hold the same beliefs. There are just moments here and there when I come slammed up against the fact that he's an atheist. I can respect that. I have an easier time getting along with and being in relationships with atheists in many cases. I find that most of them still have what feels to me to be a spiritual energy to their beliefs. I'm not sure how to phrase that exactly. It just feels like I recognize the energy.
And it's all good and fine that we live together and go through our lives, me believing in one thing and he in something else, me doing my rituals and he reading science textbooks while I do them.
But I start to wonder if the vision I have for our children is actually possible. I've explained that if we were to get married and have children, I would want to give the children a strong spiritual base early in life. To my philosophy in life, that's very important. I think that young children need a structured religious life, but also the freedom of knowing that when they are reasoning adults, they can follow whatever path feels authentic to them. The boyfriend and I discussed, and he was amenable to waiting until the children are 10 or 11 to discuss his atheism with them.
There are certain situations where I feel like I have to be in control. I don't think I'm generally a controlling person, and am completely willing to let go and let someone else do the controlling in cars and in various other situations. With my hypothetical children this is much harder. I worry about them so much and I want to have some control over what messages they are getting.
This is impossible, of course. We give our children the best basis we can and then we let them figure it out in the world. To me, the best basis will involve telling them the mythology I was told as a child, telling them stories of the gods, and involving them in a Hindu community.
One of the things that got me thinking about it was my law class. We are about to start studying family law and I read about prenups in my textbook. It said that prenups are often upheld by courts in financial matters, but not for decisions made about children. If we were to split up (and I will say I absolutely don't believe in divorce, but I'm pretty sure the majority of divorced people said that before they got married), I would not have much control over the childrens' spiritual upbringing.
Case in point:http://www.slate.com/id/2246034/
Here the father converted to Judaism and agreed to raise the kids Jewish, but after he divorced the mother, he brought their daughter to church and had her baptized. Personally, that horrifies me. I know the spiritual education I want for my children and that does not include church and that does not include baptism.
This is not to say that I think this will or would happen with my boyfriend and me, but it's an interesting thing to consider in an inter-faith couple.
It's easy to make plans based on how you think you will feel in the future, but once you actually have the child, does it change how you think? It seems to.
I've seen friends get much more religious after their children were born. I've had a friend who is Jewish and whose husband is an atheist start to have disagreements over a Christmas tree when she got pregnant. He had for many years told her that he was fine with raising the children completely Jewish. But then, faced with actual children it seems, he remembered how much he enjoyed the tradition of a Christmas tree and wanted it for them. She was quite upset, considering that they were married and she felt that he was backing out on what he promised.
It's fine for yourself to do whatever and risk your soul to damnation (if you believe the evangelicals), but when it comes to your kids, you can't be too safe. I will have to do some real research on how inter-faith couples deal with raising children respectfully with each other.
I was thinking also about how strange it is for my grandmother and other extended family. This weekend, back at my parents house for my birthday, I came across my father's baby book. My grandmother had written about his first words, his first Christmas, and saved his one year birthday cards. Putting myself in her shoes, it is impossible to imagine what it will be like for her if she has to face that some of her great grand-children will grow up in a culture that she may never have even heard of, certainly doesn't know anything about.
My parents could not have known thirty-five years ago, when they took that first step down the path of uncovering a new spiritual identity, that what they would get is a Hindu daughter.
Of course, this just shows that you don't ever know how your kids are going to turn out or which events and things they notice early on are going to become major influences.