Hi. I'm still in the land of the living, though I haven't been around the blogworld much this week. (Someday I'll get caught up with all of you again -- I've been scanning Bloglines for anything earth-shattering, but haven't made it out of there to comment much.)
It's been a challenging week. My brother was here for an overnight visit on Thursday, and it was so good to see him, but very emotional too. Kvetch's apt comment on my family news post reminded me of a very important tactic for dealing with poor C: I don't need to be using him as a crutch to handle my own emotions when he's going through the pain of this divorce. Not that I probably would have done that, but it was a great reminder for me right before C showed up at the house.
Actually, we had a pretty good visit considering the circumstances. C accompanied Mimi and I to her swimming lessons, and he was MUCH more engaged as an uncle and brother than he's been -- well, ever. I think in hindsight that the burden of being unhappy in the marriage was keeping him much more subdued and withdrawn than usual, because he's much more like the "old" C already, the brother I knew growing up who would laugh and smile and actually *relate* to people. I think Mimi wasn't quite sure how to respond to this new and improved uncle, the one who offered to carry her from the pool (he's never really done that before) and the one who bragged about her on the phone later that evening. He's certainly not doing wonderfully -- he's without a home right now, without most possessions, and somewhat short on funds (his wife being the major income earner) -- but he's trying to get through today in the hopes that tomorrow will be better. It's amazing to me how he has faith that this will happen, even in the midst of all his personal turmoil, when I sometimes wonder if I'll have the strength to make it to the very next day...
Speaking of faith, I had an interesting experience yesterday that has led me to seek your collective thoughts, o friends in the computer. Yesterday the family attended the baptism of my friend Chloe's son Connor (Chloe is also the mother of Mimi's best friend Lilly). The baptism was held at a large, beautiful Catholic church in our community. Although J ended up taking our restless Rosie out at the beginning of the Mass, Mimi and I remained for the whole Mass and the baptism itself. It was an immersion baptism, with Connor stripped down and gently submerged three times in a pool of holy water as he was blessed by the priest.
I have to say, both the baptism ceremony itself and the whole of the Mass really blew me away. Although I was raised Catholic, I have considered myself agnostic for nearly 20 years and only attend Mass if it's associated with a wedding or funeral. But despite all my angst prior to the baptism (I stressed about finding an appropriate card for Connor's family -- the card could not be religious lest I sound hypocritical, but could not be dismissive of the significance of the event) I unconsciously fell into old habits during the Mass, reciting prayers by rote and responding to the priest as required. The priest's homily also spoke to me: he talked about how God's followers should lead by example to bring more people into the Church's fold.
By the end of Mass, I was thinking seriously about starting to attend church services again, maybe even bringing the girls along. I really miss the community aspects of church -- recognizing familiar faces in the pews -- as well as the comfortable rote and ritual of the Mass itself. So this evening at dinner, J and I were talking about my response to the Mass, and he indicated that he wouldn't mind if I started taking the girls to church each Sunday (he does not choose to go, however). The one thing we agreed upon is that there would be absolutely no religious education -- we both had terrible experiences in this regard, and I personally would prefer my kids to get their religious information through my filter as much as possible.
I am really torn about what to do. Due to my negative experiences with the Catholic Church, I have always said that I would not expect my kids to adopt any particular religion. I expected to teach my girls tenets of morality and spirituality that are common to most religions, without necessarily commiting to a particular philosophy. Basically, I had planned to eschew organized religion, especially since I can't say with a straight face what I believe. (I think I believe in a supreme being or beings, but I don't know for sure.)
So here's my question (well, OK, QUESTIONS): is it beneficial to expose my girls to a religious environment when I myself am struggling with belief, or is it just hypocritical? How do I begin to teach them about God and/or other supreme beings while letting them keep an open mind about spirituality? (Nicole, I know you had a post a while back about talking to Claire about God; I didn't contribute for obvious reasons but I'm going to go check that out. ) And also, how do I keep an open mind about what I am experiencing -- whether it's just sentimental comfort in the familiarity of Mass, or if I'm actually being "pulled" by the supreme being(s)?
Yeah, I know religion is one of those sensitive blog topics, but I'm really interested in your perspectives. One additional note: I'm not religion-shopping at this moment, more looking for general guidance on how to determine if I'm open to religion in my life and/or the girls' lives. So please no attempts to convert me to a particular philosophy or belief system -- I need to set foot on the track before I can even run the race. ;-)