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Generational belief discontinuity and the rights of the grandparents

Started by Elder Iptuous, January 30, 2013, 04:36:26 PM

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Elder Iptuous

ADVICE SOLICITATION:
TL;DR
what rights should a grandparent have in influencing their grandchildren in fundamental beliefs such as religion when they are contradictory to the parents' own beliefs?
/TL;DR

It was a long time coming.
I guess it wasn't really baked in the cake until my wife and I decided to actually have our first child.  From that point, there was no doubt that this conflict would come up eventually.  I'm not sure when it really sunk in that I would have to deal with this, but it has been a source of concern for years now.

I was raised in a non-denominational protestant Christian household.  Church every Sunday, but not over the top bible thumper like some of the people I've met in my life.  They are, however, true believers.  And I was, too.  Until I wasn't.
I don't have some watershed moment where I rejected my given faith, but it eroded somewhere around 13 to 15 years of age.  Influence of friends asking the questions in open hearted talks that don't get raised in church.  Wish I could say that I always knew that the faith was ridiculous, but I can't.  It made sense to me.  It provided assurance.  It felt right.  And so, it was a painful thing to shed.  Actually impossible to shed fully.  I've had to redefine things and twist concepts that are foundational in my mind to make them acceptable, or to sooth the fears and uncertainties of this life, absent the warm blanket of faith in an overseer.

I know that my rejection of my parents' faith causes them great anguish.  Whenever that scab is picked at, it causes a good deal of heartbreak.  Guilt on my part for not accepting what they have given me, and reactive anger that I feel any guilt over it.  Guilt on their part that they somehow failed both me and their god.  Despair on their part that they feel they may lose me for eternity because of my recalcitrance.  Frustration on my part that they believe in such a god that would eternally punish them and me for my insistence on being rational about this.

And now I'm raising my own child.  I'm not passing on this belief that I know has been passed on for centuries.  It's only natural that a parent desires for their children to believe what they believe, since it is their best estimate of the truth, as they have discovered it in the course of their life.  I certainly don't want my children to have beliefs that are comforting fictions that will have to be painfully abandoned as they were for me. (assuming that they adopt an outlook that is hopefully at least as rational as my own)
So, even knowing that it was inevitable, it was a bucket of cold water the first time my oldest boy was riding in the car with us and mentions Jesus.
So far, I had been handling it gingerly, steering the conversation with questions.  Knowing that they weren't being saturated with religion, I felt it better to simply give food for thought that might provide some prophylactic doubt for my boy (who really amazes me. If I believed in reincarnation, I would swear he's been here many more times than me..)
That seemed to working ok, but my younger son has since said things to indicate that there's more influence than I am comfortable with.  And his acceptance is such that I need more than just offering questions to think about.  I reaaaally didn't want to confront my parents about this.
I hate confrontation with people I love.

It came to a head recently when on multiple occasions, my younger son (who is headstrong and headlong) has put himself in a dangerous situation.  The last time being running towards a stray dog in the neighborhood that looked very much like it might be rabid.  Upon telling him that he *must listen to us when we tell him to stop* because he could die, he responds that we need not worry because it doesn't matter if he dies.  He'll live forever, and can't really die.
Woah.
Goddammit.  Now I've got to confront them.
I explain to my boy that that isn't what Grammy meant, and even so, we don't believe what they believe.  He looks at me with a look of patronizing pity just like she would have. And says words just like she would say.  I swear to god, I heard her voice come out of him.  "Well... you just don't know, Daddy."
Fuck. No.

And so I steeled myself for the confrontation.  Thought about it a good deal.  And the shit part is, that I totally understand their position.  And given where they are coming from (which I am not going to be able to change one whit) they are doing absolutely everything they do from a position of love and benevolence, misguided as it may seem to me.  So asking them to not try influencing my kids to believe what they believe, is me asking them to allow their failure to perpetuate.  It's asking them to not only say goodbye to their son for eternity (*rage/pity*), but to allow their grand kids to be lost as well.  I can't expect them to simply agree without great consternation.  They're true believers.

Furthermore, I can't really hold them in too much contempt because I know I would be even more undermining than them, if put in their position!  If, despite my best efforts, one or both of my boys grew up to be bible thumpers, then when they had kids, I would be the absolute devil in trying to steer my grand kids away from that crap.  Without a lick of guilt or hesitation.  and i don't even believe in eternal consequences!  That seems very significant to me.

So, I had to confront my folks in a very personal and painful conversation, telling them that I rejected them in a sense, and that I want them to back off of the boys.  If they don't, then I won't feel comfortable leaving them alone with them.  Which to them, of course, seems like blackmail.
It was, as expected, heart wrenching.
There were tears.  There was anger.  There were the most painful flavors of love.
It ended with the kind of hug where you aren't saying some final goodbye to each other, but goodbye to a past where this inevitable wound hadn't been cut yet. A wound that we all know won't heal, but hopefully scar over without infecting everything.

I feel like everyone did the only thing that they could be expected to do, and nobody acted with mal intent.
The question that I am left with, is what rights should a grandparent have in influencing their grandchildren in fundamental beliefs like this when they are contradictory to the parents' own beliefs?

Mesozoic Mister Nigel

None. They don't have ANY rights, in that sense. They don't actually even have a right to SEE their grandchildren. You are the parents. You make those rules, and they abide by them or GTFO.

Problem is, it's built into Christianity that it's wrong, EVIL in fact, to let a loved one die forever because you were too weak to bring  them to Jesus, so you can expect them to secretly circumvent your boundaries.
"I'm guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk," Charles Wick said. "It was very complicated."


Nephew Twiddleton

None, unless they are the legal guardians.

I imagine that when I have kids, there will be some issues there with Dad. Fortunately, he lives in Europe, and is quite obviously mad. Mom and Nick wouldn't give a crap, being typical New England liberals. Either way, at the end of the day, they're my kids, not theirs. Same with your situation. Your kids' beliefs or lack there of is your responsibility, not theirs.
Strange and Terrible Organ Laminator of Yesterday's Heavy Scene
Sentence or sentence fragment pending

Soy El Vaquero Peludo de Oro

TIM AM I, PRIMARY OF THE EXTRA-ATMOSPHERIC SIMIANS

Nephew Twiddleton

Quote from: M. Nigel Salt on January 30, 2013, 04:46:47 PM
None. They don't have ANY rights, in that sense. They don't actually even have a right to SEE their grandchildren. You are the parents. You make those rules, and they abide by them or GTFO.

Problem is, it's built into Christianity that it's wrong, EVIL in fact, to let a loved one die forever because you were too weak to bring  them to Jesus, so you can expect them to secretly circumvent your boundaries.

Clearly the youngest is too young to be exposed to Christianity, or any belief system, since it put his life at risk already. It would be just as evil to impose it on him, I would think.
Strange and Terrible Organ Laminator of Yesterday's Heavy Scene
Sentence or sentence fragment pending

Soy El Vaquero Peludo de Oro

TIM AM I, PRIMARY OF THE EXTRA-ATMOSPHERIC SIMIANS

Elder Iptuous

yup.
an evangelical salvation religion is a helluva sinister thing.
which is why i would totally undermine my children teaching my grandkids christianity if they became bible thumpers themselves somehow.
it's this hypocrisy that has me all flustered.

Nephew Twiddleton

Quote from: Elder Iptuous on January 30, 2013, 04:51:42 PM
yup.
an evangelical salvation religion is a helluva sinister thing.
which is why i would totally undermine my children teaching my grandkids christianity if they became bible thumpers themselves somehow.
it's this hypocrisy that has me all flustered.

If my kids became some sort of weird religion thing, I wouldn't bother talking about it with my grandkids until they were old enough to think to ask why my beliefs are different than theirs, and I thought they were old enough to hear the answer. Probably their teenage years. The problem is the undermining thing. The fact that you recognize that you are a little hypocritical here is a good starting point. Maybe you'll run into this dilemma again.
Strange and Terrible Organ Laminator of Yesterday's Heavy Scene
Sentence or sentence fragment pending

Soy El Vaquero Peludo de Oro

TIM AM I, PRIMARY OF THE EXTRA-ATMOSPHERIC SIMIANS

Elder Iptuous

i suppose so.

it just seems a tricky question.  i don't know that i can accept that they have no rights to influence. (i should add that i'm not speaking of legal rights ITT)  That seems too sterile a break. the advocacy of the nuclear family over the extended family taken to an unhealthy level, perhaps.  at least, that's how i feel when i consider my future grandchildren...


Nephew Twiddleton

Quote from: Elder Iptuous on January 30, 2013, 05:14:19 PM
i suppose so.

it just seems a tricky question.  i don't know that i can accept that they have no rights to influence. (i should add that i'm not speaking of legal rights ITT)  That seems too sterile a break. the advocacy of the nuclear family over the extended family taken to an unhealthy level, perhaps.  at least, that's how i feel when i consider my future grandchildren...

Well, as far as religious belief goes, it should be. The grandkids will make up their own minds, perhaps, when they are old enough. Personally, I think children should be kept away from religion in general, except in the vaguest ways. This works out for both the child and the adult. The child so they don't have a disregard for death (or intense fear of human extinction, as was my case) and people can go to church without hearing shrieking babies and fidgety children. Christianity is not suitable for children. It just isn't. My mom had to pick me up from K-2 because the teacher decided to explain to us the meaning of Easter. Then I made her promise never to die.
Strange and Terrible Organ Laminator of Yesterday's Heavy Scene
Sentence or sentence fragment pending

Soy El Vaquero Peludo de Oro

TIM AM I, PRIMARY OF THE EXTRA-ATMOSPHERIC SIMIANS

Junkenstein

I'd guess whatever feels right to the parent would usually be a higher priority. Especially in stopping the child doing anything dangerous so the conversation had to be had in that regard really.

I pretty much had the opposite experience as a child which may colour my view somewhat. My maternal grandfather pushes critical thinking and the concept of people being evil shitbags quite heavily. I get a lot more truth from him than other relatives.

I wonder, if he's ready for Jesus, is he ready for Eris?
Nine naked Men just walking down the road will cause a heap of trouble for all concerned.

The Good Reverend Roger

You're in the clear, morally.  In fact, I think you handled it about perfectly.
" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
- TGRR, shaming himself forever, 7/8/2017

"Billy, when I say that ethics is our number one priority and safety is also our number one priority, you should take that to mean exactly what I said. Also quality. That's our number one priority as well. Don't look at me that way, you're in the corporate world now and this is how it works."
- TGRR, raising the bar at work.

Elder Iptuous

Thanks, man.
sucks when handling something properly leaves everyone feeling like shit, and nobody really deserves any blame.
i appreciate the support here, guys.


Trivial

I'm going to have to run into this sort of situation eventually.

Feh. 


I'll figure it out as I go.

Sexy Octopus of the Next Noosphere Horde

There are more nipples in the world than people.

Freeky

Ippie,  it sounds like you did very well, handling this thing.

tyrannosaurus vex

This is exactly the situation I'm in with my parents, except my parents aren't quite as innocent as yours. They're true believers, but they are the fundamentalist kind ("Pat Robertson is TOO LIBERAL"), and they have graduated from simply trying to infect my kids with their religion to actively trying to undermine my marriage, which they perceive as being between me and a demon temptress from the depths of Hell who was sent by Satan specifically to pluck me out of God's hand.

They have issued ridiculous accusations at my wife and, when hard evidence is presented that they are liars, they shut down and don't talk to us for months at a time. And then my dad will come back with a "I don't know what's wrong, I don't know where I stand with you, we just want to be a family." So far (this time) I have ignored him. I don't know whether I allow them to go on wondering why their despicable behavior has allowed a rift to grow between us, or to tell them exactly where they stand and why it can never be any other way.

Here as in any similar situation there are larger, deeper issues at play. I can never honestly answer his one most burning question -- why, exactly, I abandoned his religion in the first place -- because if I answered that it would probably send him into a really, really dark place emotionally and I don't want to be responsible for that.

Thanks for posting the OP, though, because it at least lets me understand that life on the other side of The Big Talk is still there.
Evil and Unfeeling Arse-Flenser From The City of the Damned.

Reginald Ret

Well done Iptuous.
You handled that a lot more evenhandedly than i would have.
Lord Byron: "Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves."

Nigel saying the wisest words ever uttered: "It's just a suffix."

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