IT is a bit of a worry how, in the general cacophony of daily family life, sometimes really quite big issues can get overlooked.
The other day when, in an effort to extract the truth about a particular atrocity committed to my pale lemon couch, I pulled out the really big guns and asked the eight-year-old to swear that he was “telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”.
I should have gone for an affirmation. To my surprise the G-word brought forth a whole host of questions – “Who’s God?” “What does he do?” “Where does he live?”
To my horror, I realised that, yep, I’d forgotten to cover religion.
Now, this was never my intent. Although my parents were far from God-bothered and never thought it necessary to send us off to Sunday school or regularly go to church, I was brought up with Christian beliefs firmly in place.
My husband was raised as a very traditional South Australian Methodist and has sort-of lapsed, along with the Methodist Church itself.
But with regard to our children, and what they should or shouldn’t be encouraged to believe, well the truth is we’re unsure what to do about religion.
And I doubt we are alone. It will be interesting to see what the 2011 census reveals, but the 2006 census showed that 3.7 million or 19 per cent of Australians had no religious affiliation and I have no doubt the number of purely nominal religious adherents is large indeed.
Sitting down with the two children later and trying to rectify the situation was pretty challenging.
My eight-year-old boy has certainly embraced science, evolution and a confused form of social Darwinism in which God really doesn’t have any place at all.
Meanwhile, my five-year-old daughter quickly formulated an image of God as her own personal hitman, or rather hitwoman, who might smite her brother with a lightning bolt whenever he commits any atrocities against her. Clearly, we have some work ahead of us.
The thing is, whether or not you are committed to a particular religion or ethical system, are atheist or agnostic, or have taken your own path and developed your own personal beliefs, at some stage your children will confront you with a whole lot of questions about God, life after death, heaven, hell, angels, devils and everything in between.
Some parents see it as part of their parental responsibility to directly shape their children’s faith or beliefs, while others like me feel the need to allow our children to work out their own beliefs in their own time.
Of course, as I recently discovered, unless you want your children to get a total mishmash of ideas or have no idea at all, it’s best to get in early and open a discussion about the big questions.