I had no simple idea how to introduce the concept of God and religion to my child(ren). I will be the first person to admit that there exists for me a very nebulous relationship between religion and faith. Where does one end and the other begin?
If you add traditions and beliefs to the mix, and top it with spirituality things start becoming very hazy for me. I still think my own definitions are evolving, hence am no authority to lay it down, even for my child(ren).
In our living room is a small corner where we do the Puja. Every evening I light a diya and say my prayers. My husband does the same in the morning. Since she has been a little baby my daughter has seen her parents praying. Therefore, God as a supreme power and one who watches over us was something she accepted easily.
We tell stories of Rama, Ganesha, Hanumana, recite the Gayatri mantra every day, attempt to sing or listen to bhajans. On India trips, visits to the temples have been helpful in strengthening the connection. On the occasion of all big festivals, I have tried to talk about the story behind it and the protagonists whom we pray to. Come to think of it, I think my own introduction to religion and God imbibed from my parents and surroundings, though not so obviously instructive as I do with my children.
Before we do puja we sometimes reiterate, you must take a bath, then light the diya, offer flowers, refrain from tasting the Prasad/fruits offered to God. How to accept prasad and teertha (when offered in temples, my daughter would refuse it in the beginning), to circumambulate the idols- the children have learnt through observation. You must ask God for what you want. We pray to God to guide us and take care of us. The favourite God for the children is Ganesha or ‘din-din-na’ inspired from a Ganesha movie.
I am not sure how much has been absorbed or even how convinced they are in terms of developing their individual faith. Of late there have been a lot of questions. Is God in everything? In me and in you? And also in the table and the dustbin?In front of us and behind us? Book is God and also food is God? God is also man and also woman. He is onzichtbaar (invisible)? Incredulous! Actually God has no form really. But we have photos/pictures just to make it easier for us. God expresses Himself in everything. Please show respect to all stuff and thank God for being in your life.As a parent and grown-up, I realize I am taking a unidirectional approach but my knowledge seems to desert me and I realize regretfully there is so much I do not know.
The children go to a Catholic school. Now they also know about Yesus (Jesus) and Muka Maria (Mother Mary). Therefore the need to explain different religions – Hinduism, Islam, Christainity, Buddhism, Judaism – which is why Noor prays to different God, and Joydan to another. And we must respect other’s faith and beliefs, as equal to ours. Who chose me to be a Hindu, Mama? Can I not choose to be a Christian? For now, no, while you are still here, as you were born into a Hindu family. But later, it’s upto you – what you choose to believe in or if you altogether question God’s existence, want to disregard traditions. I can only be honest here.
Will God give me whatever I want? She asks. Also M&Ms? pipes my little one. Yes, but within reason, I caution. My younger daughter has nominated herself to put tikka after the puja to us all.
But when you are bringing up children in an environment pretty much isolated from all our visible cultural symbolism, one can never be sure. What is that Hindi smell, asks Child 1 coming home from school one day. I had lit aggarbattis!! Or this, Mama in Netherlands language Shiva is Yesus, Parvathi is Muka Maria and they still not have a name for Ganesha! I cringe at the unintentional blasphemy – a child’s attempt at drawing parallels. I live in eternal faith.
Parents, how have you walked this road? Any books, resources, personal experiences would be highly appreciated.
Vibha, aka Chatty Wren, is a full-time mother to two delightful little girls. She blogs at http://wrenwarbles.blogspot.com about her life with her little ones, ups and downs of living in a foreign country and anything else that catches her fancy.