Last Sunday, I mentioned that my father sometimes locked me in the trunk of the car if I misbehaved in church. It’s true he did that, but it only happened a few times. Probably no more than six or seven.
This drastic parenting style bothered a woman who wrote to tell me that it’s no wonder I turned out to be such a jerk about church after being treated so horribly as a child. She would never treat her own children in such a way.
I had to laugh. If there’s one thing that the history of religion teaches, it’s that drastic measures are almost always called for.
Maybe that’s why this woman feels OK calling out the Old Man for resorting to the trunk of a Rambler Ambassador to control a misbehaving youngster, while she simultaneously worships a God who had to drown all of his kids. I’m guessing one of us hasn’t been paying attention in Sunday school.
If you’re churchgoing and lucky, you have compliant children, or at least easily intimidated ones. You can line them up on a pew and pretend that you have them on the right track for salvation. At least for a while.
My parents weren’t so lucky. I was emotionally feral right out of the gate and probably would still be that way but for their patience and love — and eventually the correct meds.
All of this leads to the question of how to raise kids in such a way that they won’t disappoint you when they choose for themselves about church. It happens sooner than you think and not always the way you hope.
It happened to me around age 3, when agility and ADHD joined forces. That was when I discovered I could crawl all the way to the back of the chapel under the pews.
I could make it if I didn’t encounter the feet of one of the Old Man’s many friends or those of some gospel Nazi. Church is full of people who say they believe in patience and forgiveness, but will rat you out in a second.
Eventually, the Old Man and I reached a sort of religious detente. As long as I was quiet and nobody got hurt, I could believe and do whatever I wanted.
Lots of church folk believe the Mold Testament (a term I coined shortly after being baptized) where it says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Moose crap. The world is filled with people trained up one way but decided on another when they got old enough to make it stick. If it weren’t, we’d all still be sacrificing goats and worshipping the sun.
Ironically, the LDS Church counts on people departing from the way they were trained. That’s why they send out missionaries. Hey, somebody has to depart from something.
It’s true that parents can have a lot of influence on a how a child turns out, but a lot more depends on the kid. Some personalities lend themselves better to certain environments than others.
So every church kid is different, and a smart parent will learn that what works on one won’t work on another.
I got lucky. I had parents tolerant enough to let me hate church while at the same time giving me enough room to find myself in it.
I’m well aware that what I found bothers some people, but that’s OK. I just bother them right back.