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Thoughts? Grandparents crossing the spiritual boundaries.


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I'm going to desperately try not to ramble but I've been writing this post in my head for months and today it's become obvious to me I really need to seek some thoughts outside of my house.

 

My daddy and his wife have nearly opposite religious views from my husband and myself and I need to figure out what to do about it. I despise confrontation and these two are extremely emotional, sensitive type people. This conversation IS going to be a BIG deal no matter how I handle it. If we choose to have this conversation it will likely be a parting of ways between us and them. I could really use some thoughts on wording or approach.

 

Anyway, the situation is that our 5 year old goes with my daddy's wife (a.k.a. Mawmaw) every Friday for about 5 hours. He has fun with her and they've been doing this for about 2 years now. Every now and then he has come back telling me stories from her religious perspective or with a cd of little kid's songs from her church. They know we don't do what they do but they probably don't know exactly HOW much we don't do it, believe it or want our children taught that way. It's a really big deal to them but it's a really big deal to us, also.

 

I really feel I have to confront this but I just wish I could find a sweet, sugar coated, lovey dovey way to do it so nobody freaks out. (wishful thinking, I know) When I say, "We don't want Easton taught this. It's not an accident we don't go to the church you do. This can't go on this way. You can see him but not give him little lessons when he's with you" I'll likely loose them and so will my children.

 

I guess what I'm asking is, do you have any thoughts, experiences, perspectives, etc?

 

What if you were a Christian and the kids' grandparents were giving them little lessons on atheism or Buddhism or Islam when they visited? What if you're an atheist and the kids' grandparents were giving them Christian, Buddhist, Jewish lessons when they visited? They are very good people and they love the boys very much and they don't know how much they are infringing, I think. When I was in where they are this is just what we did. If someone didn't know or believe what I did, they just needed to be told. Everyone, no matter what. It didn't occur to me then that I would have been giving information that was unwanted.

 

Ok, I hoped not to ramble but I'm not sure if I accomplished it. I really would be open to your thoughts. I'd be most open to experiences and perspectives.

 

Thank you!!

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Hm. Well....you have some things to consider and a few choices.

 

Is this issue SO important to you, that your son not be taught these things, that you are going to take a stand no matter what, even if it means a parting of ways between you and your relatives? Before you decide that you should consider: Are they good parents/stepparents and grandparents in other ways? Does your son benefit from their presence and attention in other ways? You said he enjoys spending time with them. Is it worth cutting off the relationship entirely?

 

Are their religious beliefs and teachings something you consider actually harmful and/or hateful, that can damage your son's thinking and ability to relate to people, or are their beliefs just different? That would definitely make a difference to me.

 

You say this only happens occasionally. You say he enjoys being with her. You haven't mentioned any other problems with them that might tilt the scales in the direction of "cut ties!"

 

So with all that said...as a non-religious, mostly secular Jew who now identifies as agnostic leaning toward atheist... I think that if all else were good with the family and I didn't want to cut ties, I would try to remind myself that they think they are doing good, and instead of confronting them (if I thought that would lead to very hurt feelings and a parting of ways rather than someone respecting my wishes), I MIGHT consider just being honest with my SON and telling him:

 

Mommy and Daddy don't believe this. Grandma and Grandpa do. Sometimes they tell you things that they believe, because they feel that is the right thing to do. It's okay for you to learn about what other people believe, because you're going to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different beliefs your whole life. If you have questions about anything they tell you, you can ask me. And when you get older, you will decide for yourself what YOU believe.

 

It's okay to go in that direction with this.

 

Of course, if you feel more strongly about it, and you feel that you have to take a stand...that is okay, too. You're the parent.

 

Good luck, either way!

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Hm. Well....you have some things to consider and a few choices.

 

Is this issue SO important to you, that your son not be taught these things, that you are going to take a stand no matter what, even if it means a parting of ways between you and your relatives? Before you decide that you should consider: Are they good parents/stepparents and grandparents in other ways? Does your son benefit from their presence and attention in other ways? You said he enjoys spending time with them. Is it worth cutting off the relationship entirely?

 

Are their religious beliefs and teachings something you consider actually harmful and/or hateful, that can damage your son's thinking and ability to relate to people, or are their beliefs just different? That would definitely make a difference to me.

 

You say this only happens occasionally. You say he enjoys being with her. You haven't mentioned any other problems with them that might tilt the scales in the direction of "cut ties!"

 

So with all that said...as a non-religious, mostly secular Jew who now identifies as agnostic leaning toward atheist... I think that if all else were good with the family and I didn't want to cut ties, I would try to remind myself that they think they are doing good, and instead of confronting them (if I thought that would lead to very hurt feelings and a parting of ways rather than someone respecting my wishes), I MIGHT consider just being honest with my SON and telling him:

 

Mommy and Daddy don't believe this. Grandma and Grandpa do. Sometimes they tell you things that they believe, because they feel that is the right thing to do. It's okay for you to learn about what other people believe, because you're going to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different beliefs your whole life. If you have questions about anything they tell you, you can ask me. And when you get older, you will decide for yourself what YOU believe.

 

It's okay to go in that direction with this.

 

Of course, if you feel more strongly about it, and you feel that you have to take a stand...that is okay, too. You're the parent.

 

Good luck, either way!

 

:iagree:

Well, except I'm not a "non-religious, mostly secular Jew who now identifies as agnostic leaning toward atheist". :)

 

I have had this discussion, or at least a similar one, with my kids about my parents. We are both Christians but DH and I are much more conservative in our approach. And as I age and my kids age, I think the exposure to different thought patterns and being able to get along with them is important. Of course I'm thinking about a high school junior and you are thinking about a 5 yo. It is a world of difference!

 

I completely understand if it's a "he's 5 and needs to insulated against everything except what we believe." And when my kids were 5, I probably did too.

 

Rock and a hard place. :grouphug::grouphug:

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It all depends on what you believe. I'm a Christian and I believe that God instructs me to raise up my children to believe in Him. I don't believe in the "you decide what you want to believe when you grow up" thing. I believe I should try my very best to lead my children to believe in God.

 

If grandparents were interfering with this, I would put the brakes on it immediately....especially at such a young age. A 5 year old is very impressionable and learning so many things. Now if my child were a teen, grounded in their faith, and the grandparents wanted to TEACH them about their religion, then I may be okay with it. But not trying to convert them or wanting them to conform to their beliefs.

 

And yes, my faith is important enough that it is worth cutting ties over.

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Thank you all already. :)

 

For clarification, I don't want to cut ties. They are wonderful grandparents. I highly suspect that they would be so uncomfortable with the information they wouldn't be able to get passed it.

 

The reason I believe (I'm open to conversation) I need to address this is that this is NOT something I want my 5 year old to consider. Nance, you are right on track that I need to have those casual conversations with said 5 year old. 5 year old will innocently repeat that when Mawmaw next brings out her specific Sunday school lessons. THEN the conversation would come up anyway. :)

 

I don't see it as avoidable because even if I keep it with my 5 year old, he'll repeat it to her and there we go anyway! I just want to be prepared.

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Hm. Well....you have some things to consider and a few choices.

 

Is this issue SO important to you, that your son not be taught these things, that you are going to take a stand no matter what, even if it means a parting of ways between you and your relatives? Before you decide that you should consider: Are they good parents/stepparents and grandparents in other ways? Does your son benefit from their presence and attention in other ways? You said he enjoys spending time with them. Is it worth cutting off the relationship entirely?

 

Are their religious beliefs and teachings something you consider actually harmful and/or hateful, that can damage your son's thinking and ability to relate to people, or are their beliefs just different? That would definitely make a difference to me.

 

You say this only happens occasionally. You say he enjoys being with her. You haven't mentioned any other problems with them that might tilt the scales in the direction of "cut ties!"

 

So with all that said...as a non-religious, mostly secular Jew who now identifies as agnostic leaning toward atheist... I think that if all else were good with the family and I didn't want to cut ties, I would try to remind myself that they think they are doing good, and instead of confronting them (if I thought that would lead to very hurt feelings and a parting of ways rather than someone respecting my wishes), I MIGHT consider just being honest with my SON and telling him:

 

Mommy and Daddy don't believe this. Grandma and Grandpa do. Sometimes they tell you things that they believe, because they feel that is the right thing to do. It's okay for you to learn about what other people believe, because you're going to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different beliefs your whole life. If you have questions about anything they tell you, you can ask me. And when you get older, you will decide for yourself what YOU believe.

 

It's okay to go in that direction with this.

 

Of course, if you feel more strongly about it, and you feel that you have to take a stand...that is okay, too. You're the parent.

 

Good luck, either way!

:iagree: and despite being a committed christian, I was able to have a good realtionship with my agnostic/atheist/agnostic mother and my children generally enjoyed the time they had with her. I was even able to share deeply held personal religous feelings of my own with her, and she respected them, even if she thought they were out of the realm of her own experience. bottom line was, she knew I loved her, and she loved me.

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I think I would only have a conversation if my child was being taught something dangerous, hateful, or that the grandparents were being manipulative. I'd have no problem with them describing their own beliefs, or even giving explanations about things as if their belief is in fact the truth.

 

I guess I son't tend to think that religious belief, or lack thereof, is something that is essentially private - I think that discussing those things is an essential part of the human condition - it's among the most human activities we can engage in.

 

Of course five year olds are not able to engage in those conversations in an adult way, which is why we need to protect them from really damaging ideas or attempts at conversion. But I guess my bar for what constitutes that is not set terribly low. I think most kids that age implicitly accept their parents world-view over any other unless somehow it really goes against their experience of the world, and that would be a very rare thing to happen. So I am not really worried about that happening. If it did, I'm not sure I'd be willing to quash it though I would continue to teach them the things I thought they needed to know.

 

THat being said, I have actively taught my kids about my worldview which is a pretty specific sort of Christianity. So if they hear something different they will know it is something other than what their parents believe, and I think they would look to us for direction if they were confused.

 

It is possible that my kids would tell the people with a different idea what they had been taught, and if they were polite about it I think those people have to respect that just as their ideas are being respected.

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I'm not sure.

 

My older dd has not been to church on her own since she was 16. She grew up in church, was there literally every Wednesday and Sunday of her life until she was 16. There was no big stink; she just walked away.

 

I know that she has developed some decidedly un-Christian beliefs. We don't talk about them, but I pick up on things, and younger dd has mentioned a couple of things in passing.

 

So now I have a grandson who was a year old the end of May. He has never been to church, never hears anyone sing "Jesus Loves Me," doesn't have the least bit of exposure to Christianity. I have to tell you that when he's with me, I'm going to talk to him about Jesus, because his soul is important. I don't believe my dd would be offended, but I would still have to talk to him about Jesus even if she were.

 

At the same time, I would never, ever say anything about his parents (my dd and sil) that would be disrespectful. If they told me not to take him to church, I wouldn't...I think...but still, the safety of his soul is worth the risk.

 

I would probably, however, have informal, casual conversatons with dgs, rather than doing actual lessons with him. Maybe that could be your conversation with your mil: no formal lessons. I don't think it's realistic to expect her never to talk about her faith to her dgs, KWIM?

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Conservative Christian here, Oma with distinctly "new age" views.... Oma has always been respectful of our teaching DD our beliefs and not interfering. I think she was more careful when DD was younger, but as she gets older DD often mentions "new agey" things Oma says.

 

But I have often had the convo that Nance recommended, how Oma believes differently, Mom and Dad have REASONS for what we believe and for what we are teaching you, so if you have any questions about why we believe the way we do, or how that fits with something someone else believes, lets talk about it.

 

I guess I differentiate between actively trying to change or teach my DD, versus beliefs just coming up in conversation. It is clear to Oma that we have specific beliefs, and that we would not welcome her trying to teach DD a different way of believing. If she did that knowing that we would not approve, I would have to address that as a violation of boundaries.

 

That said, I don't expect her to censor every word she says, as she obviously has her own beliefs, and they are bound to come up in conversation.

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If it weren't for the 5 hrs a week the grandparents are getting to encourage their beliefs upon your young son, I might say let it go. However, in this situation, I would talk to my child about what he is hearing and explain that we believe differently. (I'd be okay with these comments getting back to the grandparents.)

 

As for the grandparents, I'd address it in stages so that they would not be completely caught unaware. In my experience, sensitive family members prefer a bit of forewarning that a change is coming. For example, mention that you would rather they not "x" while son is over and leave at that for a few weeks. After awhile, try another one. Dealing with the symptoms for awhile before addressing the whole issue might be less upsetting; especially if you feel that going straight to that could lead to a breaking up of the family.

 

Tough situation. Good luck in whatever you decide to do.

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Well, we were in the same situation when my daughter was young. They would give her a steady diet of Veggie Tales, Bible stories, and anti-science blathering when she was with them. I had to be very direct and unambiguous. I told them that her religious instruction would come from ME only, and that I was not comfortable with them taking her to their church or teaching her their faith. To be honest, it didn't work. They did it anyway - I guess they felt it was their duty and their right. It wasn't just the religion issue; her grandfather also overstepped boundaries I made about mandatory booster seat usage and other things. I would threaten to limit contact with her, they would seem to cooperate, and then slowly start doing things their way to see what they could get away with. Fortunately, the situation came to a natural end when her grandparents divorced and the dynamic was broken. Since then her grandfather has been very careful to follow my wishes, but the ONE time he had time alone with my dd (last summer) he told her all about how Jesus was his best friend and would always be her friend too. She was very uncomfortable; I wrote a strong email and he never responded. Then a month later he pretended nothing had ever happened and I didn't know how to bring it up again (which he was counting on). It's like they just can't help themselves.

 

Now, my MIL (not related to the above grandparents) is also Christian but not pushy. She takes the kids to church with her if they want to go, but not to Sunday School. She practices her faith in subtle ways and doesn't mandate that anyone play along, so I've never felt threatened.

 

I guess it depends on how much you think they are intentionally teaching your son their faith, versus them just being themselves around him. I would say, "I respect your right to believe what you do, but since my family doesn't share the same beliefs, I need to ask you to refrain from teaching my son to follow your faith. He will learn plenty about your beliefs through your good example. I'm sure he will ask questions as he grows, and you are welcome to answer them, but the religious teaching needs to come from us."

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Well, we were in the same situation when my daughter was young. They would give her a steady diet of Veggie Tales, Bible stories, and anti-science blathering when she was with them. I had to be very direct and unambiguous. I told them that her religious instruction would come from ME only, and that I was not comfortable with them taking her to their church or teaching her their faith. To be honest, it didn't work. They did it anyway - I guess they felt it was their duty and their right. It wasn't just the religion issue; her grandfather also overstepped boundaries I made about mandatory booster seat usage and other things. I would threaten to limit contact with her, they would seem to cooperate, and then slowly start doing things their way to see what they could get away with. Fortunately, the situation came to a natural end when her grandparents divorced and the dynamic was broken. Since then her grandfather has been very careful to follow my wishes, but the ONE time he had time alone with my dd (last summer) he told her all about how Jesus was his best friend and would always be her friend too. She was very uncomfortable; I wrote a strong email and he never responded. Then a month later he pretended nothing had ever happened and I didn't know how to bring it up again (which he was counting on). It's like they just can't help themselves.

 

Now, my MIL (not related to the above grandparents) is also Christian but not pushy. She takes the kids to church with her if they want to go, but not to Sunday School. She practices her faith in subtle ways and doesn't mandate that anyone play along, so I've never felt threatened.

 

I guess it depends on how much you think they are intentionally teaching your son their faith, versus them just being themselves around him. I would say, "I respect your right to believe what you do, but since my family doesn't share the same beliefs, I need to ask you to refrain from teaching my son to follow your faith. He will learn plenty about your beliefs through your good example. I'm sure he will ask questions as he grows, and you are welcome to answer them, but the religious teaching needs to come from us."

 

This is pretty much similar to our situation. I have no doubt (due to my previous personal experience) that they will see it as their "duty" to expose him to their beliefs. Unfortunately it's not just them being themselves. They will feel the need to "get those boys to church" since we aren't.

 

I just didn't to be specific that it was in that direction because I wanted opinions of Christians as well and how they would feel if their non-Christian relatives were educating their children against their Bible beliefs.

 

At 5 would he see your views as different? If so you can teach differently just like kids of one faith that attend private schools of another. If he wouldn't see the difference you can wait a while. :grouphug: Does Grandma know what you believe? ;)

 

They know we don't go to church anymore (for many years) but if they know how far from them we now are I expect a freak-out. :)

 

Maybe a gentle, "We really want to be the ones to teach Easton his religious beliefs like we do Will and Pate." I don't know how that will fly either.

 

Thank you all for your thoughts and continued suggestions. :)

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They know we don't go to church anymore (for many years) but if they know how far from them we now are I expect a freak-out.

 

Maybe a gentle, "We really want to be the ones to teach Easton his religious beliefs like we do Will and Pate." I don't know how that will fly either.

 

Thank you all for your thoughts and continued suggestions.

 

In all fairness to them, they can't know to watch a boundary if they don't know it's there. If they know you used to go to church and don't know why you don't attend now, they assume that you don't really mind what they are doing. They think you fall into the (huge) segment of America that identifies as Christian and has a generally positive attitude about church, but just doesn't attend. Or attends sporadically. Or only on holidays. That segment would be fine with what they are doing. That you are not fine with it, sounds like, would be news to them. That's not their fault.

 

You need to have a talk with them (Nance had good suggestions.) If they ignore your wishes, that's a whole different kettle of fish.

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Does your religion share any common ground with theirs? Can you focus on that, and ask them to stay with those topics? I guess my confusion is that you don't seem just to believe differently, but seem to be anti their beliefs, if that makes sense. I am a Christian, but my ex is buddhist. We decided long ago that I get to take him to church and teach him about Christianity, but I will not stop my ex from teaching him about Buddhism. I am secure enough in my religious beliefs that I am not worried...my son can learn about it and not stray from what I'm teaching him on a daily basis. But, Buddhism for the most part doesn't go against my beliefs, it just doesn't match them, if that makes sense. I suppose if he was teaching him some kind of satanism I'd have an issue with it. What parts of their Christianity do you not want your son to even consider or know about? Could you teach him those parts at home, as an academic exercise, and teach him why you don't believe that? Kind of pre-empt things?

 

no matter what though, I'd ask her to try to phrase things to him as "I believe xyz" rather than "xyz are the truth". If she can do that, if she can limit it to "I believe such and such" rather than "you should believe such and such" than I think you may have to suck it up and deal with it, as long as what she is saying isn't that what you and your family believe is wrong. I wouldn't allow her to slander your religion, but would be ok with her presenting her views if that will keep the peace.

 

I hope some of that made sense. Of course, I was a comparative religion major, and take my kids to various places of worship, and actively teach them about other faiths...so maybe i just can't see where you are coming from.

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Mommy and Daddy don't believe this. Grandma and Grandpa do. Sometimes they tell you things that they believe, because they feel that is the right thing to do. It's okay for you to learn about what other people believe, because you're going to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different beliefs your whole life. If you have questions about anything they tell you, you can ask me. And when you get older, you will decide for yourself what YOU believe.

 

It's okay to go in that direction with this.

 

Of course, if you feel more strongly about it, and you feel that you have to take a stand...that is okay, too. You're the parent.

 

Good luck, either way!

 

I have gone in this direction. I'm the atheist daughter of a Methodist minister. They really, truly thought that once I had kids, I would come back to the fold. That didn't happen.

I tell the boys what Nance said. I tell them we need to be respectful of ALL religions. It's okay to learn about them and that doesn't mean we need to believe them. Above all, it's important to be kind and true to yourself.

I allowed my parents to buy Veggie Tales books/vids because, overall, the messages are wonderful. They have religious books on emotions, etc. They were never the boys' favorites, but we had them.

I allowed the kids to be baptised because it meant nothing to me and everything to my parents. I was honoring them in that decision.

They are not allowed to take the kids to church/Sunday school.

We've made compromises along the way but they are all ones I can live with.

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Mommy and Daddy don't believe this. Grandma and Grandpa do. Sometimes they tell you things that they believe, because they feel that is the right thing to do. It's okay for you to learn about what other people believe, because you're going to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different beliefs your whole life. If you have questions about anything they tell you, you can ask me. And when you get older, you will decide for yourself what YOU believe.

 

 

Good luck, either way!

:iagree:

I liken it to when my DD goes to her dad's house and stepgrandparents house. I hate the thought of telling my kids that there is a Santa/Easter Bunny/Great Pumpkin/Tooth Fairy, etc... (No flames please) and when she goes to their houses they do push the make believe things. Even stepgrandma who is a minister. DD goes to stepgrandma's church on occasion and they don't teach baptism for the forgiveness of sins and being born in Christ like I believe but she isn't being taught brimstone and h3llfire either.

 

I haven't really discussed Sgrandma's church with DD but I have told her what I believe about Santa and the gang and that they are made up people like in a story book. I think, at age 7, that she understands. DD likes her relationship with her dad/stepmom and stepgps so I am not going to interfere with who she chooses to love.

 

I guess only you can decide if what they are teaching is undermining or detrimental to what you want them to know or if you could possibly discuss what you think they are teaching with your boys and tell them that it's ok for other people to believe other things.

Good luck.

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In our situation, we're Pagans and my mom and stepdad are Christians. My mom used to be sort of blah about the whole thing, but as she's gotten older, she has become very fundamentalist in her religious beliefs, even going so far as to say that she doesn't believe in things like evolution. Not something I want dd exposed to.

 

I've found that the more we discuss it, the easier it is to draw the boundaries. I've made it extremely clear from day one that I don't want dd exposed to Christian theology until she's older because I think certain parts of it can be very damaging to young children trying to figure out what they believe about the world. My mom and stepdad don't like this, obviously, but the sheer number of times I've reminded them of this boundary has made it clear just how important this is to me.

 

I definitely wouldn't wait to have a good, long discussion about it. The longer you wait, the harder it's going to be to talk about it.

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If your child says "grandma says '.....' and you say "oh? what do you think of that?" Or if you explain that that isnt what you believe or whatever?( Not really sure what they are saying but you knwo what I mean :D) How does he respond/seem? I think I would use that as my barometer.

 

 

When my ds was around 5 was when he first either encountered- or just noticed -people believed differently then he did....and honestly (in I hope typical 5 year old fashion) he thought they were utterly ridiculous :lol: I was fearful anyone would say anything around him.

 

I would draw the line at them taking him to any church/synagogue/ place of worship that wasn't in line with what you believe. As long as he seems fine for now I would watch it I guess.

 

ETA: so is part of your concern that 5 yo will say something that might make your dad and his wife upset? Or start a discussion or religion?

Edited by kwg
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We had this problem when my dd hit about 10/11 years old. My EXMIL had taken a radical change from her beliefs that were similar enough to mine that it wasn't a problem to something that was completely different. She'd make little comments to dd that were sort of under her breath, or she'd wait until dd was alone with her and make her comments. DD would tell us about it and EX just flatly told her (his mother) that those were HER beliefs and if she wants to have those beliefs, fine, but she's not to share them with dd in any way. And, if she did continue to push her beliefs onto DD, he'd not allow his mother around her.

 

With this woman, this was the ONLY way to approach it--directly, head-on, bluntly and plainly. She tried it again when DD was a little older, and we gave dd permission to question what Grandma was saying. Not in a rude, or disrespectful way, but she was allowed to ask questions. Once Grandma started being questioned, she backed off. Now she's in Israel learning some sort of secret Hebrew that will unlock the hidden secrets of the Bible so she can go to heaven. Or something like that.

 

In your situation, I like what Nance said.

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If you stop sending your 5 year old to spend time with mawmaw, then would you need to have this confrontation?

 

I think it would be sad to complete cut ties with loving grandparents, just over differences in religion. If you can keep the relationship for holidays and family visits, but stop the 5 hour of mawmaw babysitting, would it solve the problem? Sign up for an activity that is when mawmaw normally bablysits and then never reschedule.

 

I grew up with grandparents who had different (and in some aspects antagonistic attitude) to my parents religion. It didn't affect us kids. The parents are usually much more of an influence than grandparents.

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The situation of atheist parents versus religious grandparents is not exactly analogous to religious parents versus atheist grandparents. If you are the atheist parent and the grandparents are teaching your children about their religion, the biggest possible downside is that you children come away believing things that you find ridiculous. If you are the religious parent and the grandparents are teaching your children atheism, the biggest possible downside is that your children lose the salvation of their eternal souls.

 

If they're Christians sharing their beliefs with her, that's a sign that they love her. I would draw boundaries on their teaching her about things which you believe may be somehow damaging. (For example, if they come from a tradition that has graphically violent beliefs about hell that you believe could make your daughter fearful, you could ban the teaching of those. Or if you believe that certain aspects of their morality are too strict and guilt-inducing, you could ban those.)

 

But if it's general teaching about Bible stories and their beliefs, I wouldn't worry about it. Just tell your child your opinion about those teachings. Your influence greatly outweighs theirs. Most atheists grow up hearing all of those teachings, and they're still atheists. (I, myself, was until I had a direct religious experience in adulthood.) Heh. You could even think of it as an enrichment class in cultural literacy.

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I agree with a lot of what was said in previous posts. This situation gives you the opportunity to discuss beliefs/religion with your son. Just present it to him in a way that he will understand. Keep the discussions brief and as positive as you can. In his childhood, there will be other instances in which he is exposed to things that differ from what you believe. You are laying a foundation to deal with what may happen as well.

 

As far as confronting them, I would wait until she displays the behavior that you oppose, such as bringing into your home materials that you do not approve or herself speaking of the things in which you object. Send your son out of the room as you want to save your discussion with him for a time when it can be one-on-one. You do not want it to seem to him that you are "being mean" to Mawmaw.

 

Be firm but polite. Do not be rude even though your feelings are strong. Remember that if this discussion has not been done previously and boundaries have not been set then violated, she may not know she is doing something wrong. She hasn't broken any agreement or rule. If she should challenge you, then speak more strongly. Be sure to collect your thoughts and which points that you truly want to address before this happens.

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In the sense of violating generally healthy boundaries and unwritten rules of common decency, it is analogous. I guess you're saying that because a proselytizing grandparent believed their grandchild's soul was at stake, they would have more right to disregard those boundaries.

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The situation of atheist parents versus religious grandparents is not exactly analogous to religious parents versus atheist grandparents. If you are the atheist parent and the grandparents are teaching your children about their religion, the biggest possible downside is that you children come away believing things that you find ridiculous. If you are the religious parent and the grandparents are teaching your children atheism, the biggest possible downside is that your children lose the salvation of their eternal souls.

 

You're kidding, right?

 

What about children coming away with the fear that Mommy and Daddy are going to hell? What about children being burdened with guilt that God will be sad or angry if they do or don't do particular things, or being burdened with fear that they will go to hell? What about children being taught that devils and demons are real things that attack the unwary? What about children being taught that people they love dearly are sinful and wrong? What about gay kids being led to believe that there is something wrong with them?

 

These may not be part and parcel of what you personally believe, but you are completely deluded if you believe that there aren't religious beliefs and doctrines out there that have effects much worse than "ridiculousness." There are religious beliefs that wound people. Many, many adults are struggling to heal the damage of religious teachings they were exposed to as children. Many, many parents - including, but not limited to, atheists - are determined to protect their children from that kind of damage above all else.

 

When my daughter Alex was four, our then-nanny took it upon herself to tell Alex all about her religion. She told Alex that God would be sad and mad if she didn't say prayers. She told her that God was always watching, and that he didn't like it when Alex acted like a typical four-year-old. She told her that the devil lives in a terrible place underground called hell, and that he comes to take bad children away.

 

Believe me, I wasn't embarrassed that someone tried to teach my kid something "ridiculous" - I was incandescently furious that someone tried to sully my child's innocence with an ugly burden of fear and guilt. I am so thankful that Alex was suspicious enough of the nanny, secure enough in her trust in us, and secure enough in our Unitarian-Universalist faith, that that **** didn't take.

 

But you can't come at this issue from the perspective that religious beliefs are, at worst, silly. Some of them may be. Others are terrible, even deadly.

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First of all, please understand I am definitely not talking about cutting ties with these parents over this. I'm saying I believe they would be very likely to do it. No, it's not worth that to me. I love them and they love our boys.

 

Let me try to clarify. :)

 

I'm very open to discussing, evaluating and considering angles of many, many religions. It's an ongoing conversation we have with our teenagers. I love being about to talk to them about what we believe, what others believe, what Pawpaw and Mawmaw believe and how that compares to our beliefs, etc. I guess what I might be saying is I don't completely know how to have that level of discussion on a different trivium level. :) The big boys can have conversations of "what do you think about that?" and "what does that mean to you?" but a 5 year old just takes it as "This is what Mawmaw says is true and you say it isn't. Which is it?" His life is pretty black and white right now. I think the age gap in our boys has made me forget how to talk to a little one. :)

 

I am opposed to them teaching them what they believe. My husband and I both believe that much of what we learned and believed in that church was harmful and do NOT want a 5 year old to consider it at his age. It is important to me. I do not believe hellfire and brimstone, devil's gonna get you, God's out to catch you, live in fear of God. It's really important to me he not learn, during this black and white stage of his life, that if you don't believe what I believe you'll go to hell.

 

Maybe look at it this way; today Mawmaw and Pawpaw unpacked the nativity scene and each separately told him the Christian Christmas story. He came home with these facts because, as a 5 year old, he trust his adults to tell him the truth. I say "Oh yes, that's a cool story. You know Backyardigans and how that's a story but you can't really meet Pablo? Mom and Dad believe that's a story the same way." He's black and white on the facts. Mawmaw says this is true. Mom says it's a story. I'm sorry but I am NOT competing with someone else on spiritual truths being taught to my 5 year old.

 

I'm not trying to isolate him. I don't isolate my kids. We talk about it ALL. :) I love talking about every subject we can think of. I love discussing sides of thoughts. Even discussing from the side I'd say I don't agree with. I enjoy discussing religions with my guys.

 

Here's the other thing; I'm not an atheist. I believe in God; totally and completely. I just don't believe the severe fundamental beliefs they have. I don't believe in the Bible and the "God of the Bible". I believe in God and he is all goodness. I believe in science. I believe there's no opposition between science and God. Evolution is real, but that doesn't make God impossible or unnecessary.

 

Maybe you all are right. He occasionally comes home with a Sunday School songs cd or tells me that Mawmaw told him the story of Noah or, like today, she told him the "real" reason for Christmas. I don't think she's constantly trying to Sunday School him. Maybe it's not what I fear it is. I just see what weeds I feel are sprouting now and am wondering when is a weed a danger and not just a nuisance.

 

Keep in mind, I've spent a lot of time in this church. I was married to a pastor in this church. I know. I know what they think. Even if they don't know what I now feel, I know what they think about us "not having those boys in church". I know what fear they have about the damage we are doing simply not having them in their church. They would absolutely put those controversial tracts in trick or treat bags. :)

 

Ok, I'm way over the rambling level. Again, I appreciate your perspectives and thoughts even when they seem to be opposite of mine. It gives me things to mentally chew on while I decide what I/we will or will not do. I also appreciate you letting me make you my sounding board. Sometimes I need to just put it out, look at it, press it up against other things and then take it back to see how it's adjusted. :)

 

Thank you :)

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Thank you all already. :)

 

For clarification, I don't want to cut ties. They are wonderful grandparents. I highly suspect that they would be so uncomfortable with the information they wouldn't be able to get passed it.

 

The reason I believe (I'm open to conversation) I need to address this is that this is NOT something I want my 5 year old to consider. Nance, you are right on track that I need to have those casual conversations with said 5 year old. 5 year old will innocently repeat that when Mawmaw next brings out her specific Sunday school lessons. THEN the conversation would come up anyway. :)

 

I don't see it as avoidable because even if I keep it with my 5 year old, he'll repeat it to her and there we go anyway! I just want to be prepared.

 

Well maybe it won't sound so bad coming from him because 5yo are cute and misspeak and misunderstand and maybe she could brush it off and continue on her merry way. That is if *you're* O.K. with her continuing.

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Well maybe it won't sound so bad coming from him because 5yo are cute and misspeak and misunderstand and maybe she could brush it off and continue on her merry way. That is if *you're* O.K. with her continuing.

 

You know what, unfortunately I don't think I am ok with it. :( Not while Easton is still going to take everything she says as fact. I'd be more ok with it a bit later in life when he does more weights and measurements with what he hears. The more I think, weigh, and listen to everyone's thoughts the more even a little bit is just not ok. It would be ok as a presentation of an idea but not as teaching in opposition to me. Make sense? :)

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Many, many adults are struggling to heal the damage of religious teachings they were exposed to as children. Many, many parents - including, but not limited to, atheists - are determined to protect their children from that kind of damage above all else.

 

 

:iagree:

Because our children are young, we take what might seem to be extreme care about protecting our children from certain religious teachings like what Rivka described. We do not welcome anyone trying to indoctrinate our children. One could argue we are indoctrinating by not letting our kids be "witnessed" to by well-meaning fundamentalist evangelists. I could argue back that I've seen the damage of such teachings. I'm seeking to protect my child from dangerous, though sincere, indoctrination -- without at all imposing on anyone's freedom to believe or not believe.

 

We have friends/family that are all over the place. Some are Methodists, some are Catholic, some are agnostic, some atheist, some just aren't interested in spiritual things. None of them would think of trying to religiously indoctrinate my children .

Edited by CaladwenEleniel
re-worded
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You know what, unfortunately I don't think I am ok with it. :( Not while Easton is still going to take everything she says as fact. I'd be more ok with it a bit later in life when he does more weights and measurements with what he hears. The more I think, weigh, and listen to everyone's thoughts the more even a little bit is just not ok. It would be ok as a presentation of an idea but not as teaching in opposition to me. Make sense? :)

 

Oh dear, you might have to say something then. :grouphug: I hate confrontations too.

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I was very careful with my ds and his grandmother. (XH's mother) I consider her poison for many reasons. She hates my religion, my family, my life....and well I guess me.

 

She is also a racist and an elitist. I don't think she has anything to offer my son.

 

But that doesn't sound like what you are saying about your dad and step mom. Grandparents are important. Especially the ones that love their grandkids.

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I was very careful with my ds and his grandmother. (XH's mother) I consider her poison for many reasons. She hates my religion, my family, my life....and well I guess me.

 

She is also a racist and an elitist. I don't think she has anything to offer my son.

 

But that doesn't sound like what you are saying about your dad and step mom. Grandparents are important. Especially the ones that love their grandkids.

 

Thank you. I especially agree with the bolded. :)

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Oh boy, oh boy, do I! So very, very much! Non-confrontational - that's me! :)

 

You say that if you confront you fear they will end your relationship. So if that is the outcome......why not first try changing things up so that your ds has a smaller chunk of time with her? Would that help?

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I can't help but think that if they love their grandkids, they won't be in a hurry to cut off contact with them. They might get angry when you tell them you don't want them preaching to your son, but are you sure they would be willing to go to such an extreme when they are loving grandparents and enjoy spending time with your son?

 

I think there must be some sort of middle ground here, and that you may want to think long and hard about finding the most gracious way possible to state your case so you can avoid a terribly emotional confrontation, and if things start to turn ugly, you need a quick exit plan to remove yourself from the situation before anything extreme ("We never want to see you again") happens. Perhaps you could say that you want to teach your son your beliefs right now, but that when he's older -- maybe when he's a teenager or something -- they are welcome to share their views with him. That way, you're not saying, "never;" you're saying, "not right now."

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You say that if you confront you fear they will end your relationship. So if that is the outcome......

 

Then that is also their choice. You can't go around orchestrating everyone's response, nor should you have the responsibility to do so. :grouphug: Of course, I'd try not to be harsh, but if you gently ask for some accomodation and they cut off all ties, well, then there's some deeper issues there, don't you think?

 

FWIW, my MIL isn't Christian. She knows the kids attend an Episcopalian church. She always sends over Christian religious materials. :) Gotta love the woman for trying! Different religions, majorly different religions, can live in peace within a family.

 

More :grouphug:.

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We have been in this situation. My dh has spoken with his mother on several occasions over crossing religious boundaries. We have always asked that if they (but really my MIL) feel the need to share beliefs that it be preface with, "this is what I believe, but there are many different beliefs.". She is not able to do that, so we felt it best not to discuss.

 

There was a confrontation, but it wasn't this ugly thing, more a statement if our boundaries. It can be uncomfortable, but if you feel like it is important it is so worth it. We focused on how we knew how much they loved our children, but we firmly and lovingly told them we were not raising our children that way. It is important for our children to have a relationship with their grandparents and that us exactly why we said something. In contrast, dh's older brother never said anything and a lot of resentment, hurt feelings and very little relationship with the grandparents occurred and nobody wanted that.

 

I think a lot of it depends on your family. Dh has had to say something every couple of years to reestablish the boundary. He finally said something to his father about it last year, as in you need to say something to mom, she's not hearing me and this is important. Dh is the kind of guy who doesn't like having the same conversation, he was getting tired of it. LOL

 

I am replying on the iPhone, so I have no idea what autocorrect has done with my words and it is difficult to read in its entirety, so I hope it makes sense! We are headed to the happiest place on earth for some vacation time with said grandparents, so it is possible to have the uncomfortable conversation (several times!) and still have loving relationship! They want to be in our children's lives and we want them to be, so we kept working at it until it worked. :)

 

I was a lot my profound when I was thinking about my reply, then I was in the actual reply, clearly this mode doesn't wok for me! I hope this isn't a complete blathering mess!

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You're kidding, right?

 

What about children coming away with the fear that Mommy and Daddy are going to hell? What about children being burdened with guilt that God will be sad or angry if they do or don't do particular things, or being burdened with fear that they will go to hell? What about children being taught that devils and demons are real things that attack the unwary? What about children being taught that people they love dearly are sinful and wrong? What about gay kids being led to believe that there is something wrong with them?

 

Perhaps you should have read the rest of my post, including the part about setting boundaries concerning issues within the beliefs that she may consider damaging, such as those you cite above.

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Perhaps you should have read the rest of my post, including the part about setting boundaries concerning issues within the beliefs that she may consider damaging, such as those you cite above.

 

I did read your whole post, and I found it to be dismissive - for example, in the suggestion that explaining the doctrine of hell is okay as long as the descriptions aren't "graphically violent."

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I'm going to desperately try not to ramble but I've been writing this post in my head for months and today it's become obvious to me I really need to seek some thoughts outside of my house.

 

My daddy and his wife have nearly opposite religious views from my husband and myself and I need to figure out what to do about it. I despise confrontation and these two are extremely emotional, sensitive type people. This conversation IS going to be a BIG deal no matter how I handle it. If we choose to have this conversation it will likely be a parting of ways between us and them. I could really use some thoughts on wording or approach.

 

Anyway, the situation is that our 5 year old goes with my daddy's wife (a.k.a. Mawmaw) every Friday for about 5 hours. He has fun with her and they've been doing this for about 2 years now. Every now and then he has come back telling me stories from her religious perspective or with a cd of little kid's songs from her church. They know we don't do what they do but they probably don't know exactly HOW much we don't do it, believe it or want our children taught that way. It's a really big deal to them but it's a really big deal to us, also.

 

I really feel I have to confront this but I just wish I could find a sweet, sugar coated, lovey dovey way to do it so nobody freaks out. (wishful thinking, I know) When I say, "We don't want Easton taught this. It's not an accident we don't go to the church you do. This can't go on this way. You can see him but not give him little lessons when he's with you" I'll likely loose them and so will my children.

 

I guess what I'm asking is, do you have any thoughts, experiences, perspectives, etc?

 

What if you were a Christian and the kids' grandparents were giving them little lessons on atheism or Buddhism or Islam when they visited? What if you're an atheist and the kids' grandparents were giving them Christian, Buddhist, Jewish lessons when they visited? They are very good people and they love the boys very much and they don't know how much they are infringing, I think. When I was in where they are this is just what we did. If someone didn't know or believe what I did, they just needed to be told. Everyone, no matter what. It didn't occur to me then that I would have been giving information that was unwanted.

 

Ok, I hoped not to ramble but I'm not sure if I accomplished it. I really would be open to your thoughts. I'd be most open to experiences and perspectives.

 

Thank you!!

 

We'd probably handle this the way we do other parenting stuff the grandparents do differently. When the kids have a tantrum because we won't serve ice cream for a bedtime snack, "Well, thats the way things are done at Grandpa & Grandma, but we do thing differently."

 

I know its not ice cream, but it is about choices. If it were about taking them to church and getting them baptized, tattooed, or blessed then I'd take it up with them more vigorously.

 

Eventually your child will have to make their own spiritual choices and it's OK to have some of those options out for evaluation even in their tender years. They have the unique perspective of watching you and your DH and the gparents.

 

What if they (your children) make a spiritual choice that's contrary to your own someday. How would you hope they'd communicate it with you. That might help in sorting through your feelings. I hope that my children and I will have a good relationship always no matter what decisions they make. That's my bottom line.

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I skimmed through and tried to get the best sense I could of what you are wanting from them...if I missed something, I apologize. :)

Here's what I'm wondering: Is it ok with you for him to be exposed to this other religion at all? You mention the nativity that she got out...I just don't know what else she would have done. I guess I'm not clear on what you want here - for them to not put out a nativity because it doesn't coincide with your beliefs? (I'm summing it all up in the nativity set, but regarding the other stuff, too) Because... and I say this with all due respect and not to be snarky or mean... it isn't your house. Yes, it is your place to decide what is said to your son to an extent, but we can't all control everything.

I don't think they should be trying to indoctrinate him, but to me it doesn't sound like they are. If Mawmaw's house is always like ___, including when he is there or isn't there, then it shouldn't have to change just because it bothers you. Does that make sense?? I don't know if I'm getting what I'm trying to say across clearly, without sounding too harsh... :confused:

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I think there are two different issues here.

 

The grandparents believe different than you and they don't hide that from your son. Nor should they have to do that.

 

Or

 

The grandparents believe different than you and are actively trying to make your son change from your beliefs to theirs.

 

If it is the first, I have in laws like that. Not that big a deal. They don't bad mouth my faith. They know my kids can't visit on Sunday and they know my kids won't be going to their church type stuff.

 

The second issue would cause anywhere from a greatly reduced time together (see you at holidays) to cutting of ties entirely.

 

It's not clear to me from your post, which is the case. If the grandparents don't know what you believe, then they really have no way of knowing a CD is crossing the line or a discussion is going too far.

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If the grandparents don't know what you believe, then they really have no way of knowing a CD is crossing the line or a discussion is going too far.

 

I agree, it is time you let them know your beliefs.

 

I am assuming you are not Christian and they are...just savvy that way, I guess. From the Christian perspective, we are called to love one another...the greatest love we can share is to share the love of Jesus Christ/our Father and show them He created them and has a plan for them. It would be very difficult for a Christian to not have this as part of their modus operandi especially with their grandchildren.

 

I am trying to think of a solid analogy...give me a second...okay it's like trying to separate snowflakes and cold...you love snowflakes, you think they are wonderful, but you would rather have them in summer. Well, you may get the artificial kind in summer but the authentic beautiful kind only come when the temps are below 32 degrees. Asking your child's grandparents to be snowflakes in summer is just not fair.

 

I think it just demands more explanation on your part with your child...you need to explain to him that snowflakes are beautiful but they are different than your belief system. Do you have the same belief system as your parents or your husband as his? Explain that everyone must choose for themself which belief system is best. I think to remove two loving people from his life b/c you fear he will choose theirs is the wrong decision. I want as many people as possible to truly love my children..you can never have enough of those. I think it is amazing that they want to spend 5 hours with your son a week, many grandparents do not or can not make that time for their grandchildren.

 

Those are my thoughts...

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Our situation was very similar---my dad and stepmother are extremely fundamentalist--a mix of charismatic and extremely reformed. They have been involved in things like Child Evangelism, singing/leading revivals, etc. When I was a teen, we couldn't play anything but Christian music because Dad dedicated the speakers on the stereo and in the car to God. We had devotionals for an hour a day, ending with praying aloud in ascending order of age so that he could pray for all the things we did wrong that day. One stepnephew was homeschooled because he kept getting in fights at kindergarten for telling other Christian kids they were going to Hell for being the wrong kind of Christian. The family responded with praise for his behavior and proud predictions that he would be a great preacher one day. Another stepnephew graduated from Liberty and my parents were very involved in the Jim and Tammy Bakker mess. My stepniece's recent funeral was 10% about her, 90% conversion sermon and altar call. My parents told my sister she was dead to them because she dated someone while waiting the year for her divorce to become final (and, IIRC, this was before she moved in with her now husband of 20 years). They refused to come to her second wedding, though it was in my dad's very small hometown. Everything they do in this regard is actually out of love from their point of view, but it's hard to deal with at times. I get where you are coming from.

 

We are polytheistic Hellenic Neopagan UUs with influences from Shinto, Buddhism and Reform Judaism. You can imagine how well those two would interact--more baking soda and vinegar than oil and water;). They know about the UU part, but not the Neopagan or Jewish parts (we almost converted to Reform Judaism at one point and my husband has sung with the choir there for close to 15 years). We don't mention that, as the UU part is hard enough for them. My parents refused to come to my daughter's naming ceremony at the UU church (and won't set foot in any church-related activity at our church), even though we had it at the most "Christian-friendly" service we could (and they make a point to go to almost anything religiously-oriented that the other grandkids are involved in).

 

When my daughter was young, we did handle this primarily by limiting the amount of time she spent alone with them in addition to having the conversation Nance mentioned (many times, not just once). They did not have her overnight (by their request due to their health issues) or on Sunday mornings. We had lots of conversations after family gatherings (about things like Resurrection Eggs, etc as my dad takes every family gathering as a chance to preach). I would specifically tell her that she shouldn't talk to her grandparents about certain things (like going to a Neopagan circle or some such) because they wouldn't understand and it would make them confused, so it was kinder not to do so. One analogy I used for our differences and why we didn't go to the same church was people liking different flavors of ice cream. I did live in some fear that she would open her mouth about the wrong topic and create a schism, but it didn't happen. She is now 11 and still firmly UU.;) We also did have a basic "comparative religion" program when she was 5, in context of the DK "A Life Like Mine" and "A Faith Like Mine" as part of an overall intro to world cultures. It helped to be able to have those conversations about people believing lots of different ways.

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I have not read the other responses but this is what I think would be best.

 

I don't think this needs to be a parting of ways, especially not yet. Your boys love to spend time with them and they are good people. The just need to learn to respect your boundaries.

 

I would say something like, "Look, we adore you both and our boys love to spend time with you. I respect your religion but I do not share your faith or your views. I need you to respect my wishes that you not be talking to our boys about your faith, and I especially need you to respect my wishes not to be giving them religious lessons when they are with you." If they continue to do so, I would next tell them that because your wishes have not been respected, you can't have them spend time with your children outside of your presence. Then when you're all together you can stop any discussion you don't want, keeping their faith and views away from your children.

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I think there are two different issues here.

 

The grandparents believe different than you and they don't hide that from your son. Nor should they have to do that.

 

Or

 

The grandparents believe different than you and are actively trying to make your son change from your beliefs to theirs.

 

If it is the first, I have in laws like that. Not that big a deal. They don't bad mouth my faith. They know my kids can't visit on Sunday and they know my kids won't be going to their church type stuff.

 

The second issue would cause anywhere from a greatly reduced time together (see you at holidays) to cutting of ties entirely.

 

It's not clear to me from your post, which is the case. If the grandparents don't know what you believe, then they really have no way of knowing a CD is crossing the line or a discussion is going too far.

:iagree::iagree: This is what I was trying to say, but she said it so much better! :)

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We have this situation with my in-laws and much of DH's family, to varying degrees. I am not comfortable with the bulk of what some of them believe in and/or practice (it is all the same religion, only different "flavors", so to speak), and a few ideas that my daughters have picked up over the years have really rubbed me the wrong way (and I went out of my way to mitigate things by talking to my daughters about these ideas and why I disagreed with what they were told), but on the long run, I have swallowed most of it for the sake of relationship. Realistically, I know that I am not going to change them, but it is also very difficult to expect from them to "quit" being themselves when our daughters are around for the sake of my ideological comfort; furthermore, most of them are truly good people who even try - to the best of their abilities to tone themselves down - not to go overboard, so overall, OUR situation is such that it is not a hill to die on.

 

In our case the dreaded scenario DID happen with one of our daughters, in that she got into it to the point I was not - still am not - fully comfortable with. However, she is still a child, and a child rather prone to all sorts of whims, so for what we know, she could be "back" with us quite soon. Also, I am not sure if DH's family are the sole culprits, I feel that there have been more factors to contribute to it.

 

However, we did not have a situation where the family could make such a profound impact by five hours weekly. That is a LOT of time, I am not sure I would feel as okay with it as I do when the time they spend together averages at five hours monthly, for example.

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