Monday, February 18, 2013

Maybe This Wasn't Such a Good Idea After All

My kids go to a Catholic school. We are not Catholic. I am protestant, and Ren is agnostic or possibly even atheist. So we have some fairly interesting conversations about who believes what. My extremely protestant father nearly fainted the first time he saw his grandchildren doing the sign of the cross for dinner blessing. (That alone made our choice to send the kids to Catholic school worthwhile.) We chose their current school because it's small and offers a predictable structure with superior academics. In other words, it's a perfect fit for Sky. The religious eclecticism that's become part of our life as a result is just an added bonus.

Sky already had a year of Catholic preschool under his belt when we left Tokyo and moved to our small Midwestern town, so I didn't expect there to be too many differences in terms of the religious influence of his education. It turns out I was wrong. See, where Catholic school in Japan just looks like Protestant school with a tad more emphasis on Mary (a.k.a. Maria-sama), in the U.S., there's a greater focus on teaching kids what it means to be Catholic and not just what it means to be Christian. When Sky came home from his first day at his current school a few years ago, he was captivated by the fact that he had seen real life bits of Jesus and his blood. Sensing the emergence of a new, most likely inappropriate obsession, I explained that these things symbolized Jesus and weren't actually Jesus. Then, not knowing whether my comments were in line with what he learned at school, I added, somewhat furtively, "But maybe you shouldn't tell your teacher about this." It turns out it's hard to walk the line between helping him learn the religious lessons that are part of his school life and helping him make sense of the discrepancies he encounters between school during the week and church on Sunday.

Lent is a big deal for kids at Catholic school. The last two years, Sky and I decided that he would prepare for the coming of Easter by helping others and saying additional prayers at night. My protestant family never gave up anything for Lent, so my experience with this is thin. I had a friend in high school who gave up stopping at stop signs once and another who gave up doing homework.  What I learned from observing them is that I didn't want to ride in a car with the first, and I didn't want to sit next to the second in biology class. In other words, I gained no practical knowledge about the practice of going without.

To help Sky learn about the idea of self-sacrifice and preparation behind Lent, and to help him be a little more like his classmates, we decided Sky would give up something this year. Many of his classmates gave up candy and soda. Sky thought that was an awesome idea, particularly since he never eats candy or drinks soda. Then he suggested he give up doing homework, practicing piano, or sitting on the floor heater to keep warm. "That last one would be a real sacrifice, Mom," he said. Somehow, though, none of these things seemed quite in the spirit of Lent.

I needed to help him grasp the meaning behind the practice, but how? Then it hit me. He needed to give up his Kindle, and the only way he'd grasp the gravity of his sacrifice is if I modeled good Lenten practice for him by sacrificing something, too.  And that's how, on the fifth day of Lent, a few days late, but with plenty of time left until Easter, I find myself sitting in my office exhausted from a busy weekend, with piles of work in front of me, and absolutely no Diet Coke in sight. Curse you, Catholic school, curse you!***

A break from Diet Coke might not be all bad...

***Now you know I'd never really curse an entire religious tradition. That'd be bad on a lot of different levels. Besides, if this all works as planned, I have thirty plus days to enjoy not bring awakened by Sky at 5:30 each morning with, "Can I play my Kindle?" And I might also be able to kick my Diet Coke habit. It's too early to tell, but I'm thinking this could be a win-win for me!


FMBMC said...

In college I gave up caffeinated beverages for Lent. This was inspired by my ability to drink Mountain Dew and go straight to bed. The first three days I had a horrendous headache, but after that I began to feel a lot better. No way am I giving up coffee now.

This year I decided prayer and stopping swearing. The first is going pretty well. Don't ask about the second.

Mama Melch said...

Our daughter goes to Catholic preschool and she is extremely confused by the fact that I don't pray or do the sign of the cross at dinner with my in-laws. I foresee some really interesting conversations ahead. Good luck on kicking the diet coke habit. Certainly you can find another source of caffeine without cheating. Maybe tea?