An emerging choice

“NO!” Our daughter screamed. “I . . . don’t . . . WANT to go to your church!” She tilted her chin downward, crooked her hands into her armpits (like she was trying to put them on her hips, but was way too high—much funnier and cuter), looked up with her most defiant glare, and stamped her foot.

That was our household this past Sunday morning. The person she was yelling at was her father. The church she didn’t want to go to was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It was my Sunday to visit her father’s church, so I wasn’t going to my church, either.

Our daughter has developed a preference, and a very strong one at that. She loves my church and periodically asks to attend it throughout the week. She dislikes her father’s church and throws a fit every time she has to go. She does well enough once she’s actually there, and certainly the members and Primary leaders are super-nice to her. It’s getting her there that’s the problem. Will this preference last? Who’s to say. For now, it is what it is.

She’s over 6.5 years old. I used to worry that I’d be telling a disappointed little girl that she wasn’t allowed to get baptized Mormon at 8, that 12 was the minimum age that I would allow for baptism. Now, unless things change dramatically in the next year and a half, it’s more likely that I’ll be telling disappointed LDS relatives that of course she isn’t getting baptized at age 8, she doesn’t even want to go to the LDS church anymore. In fact, I’m guessing all of those Mormons who argue so passionately that 8 years old is more than old enough for a child to choose a religion will be doing an about-face when confronted with the prospect of an 8 year-old member-of-record who doesn’t want to attend anymore.

It happens sometimes during the week that my daughter will say to me, “I want to go to your church this Sunday, Mommy!” If it’s my week, I reassure her that she will. If it’s her father’s week, I tell her to talk to her father about it. Let him be the bearer of bad news.

On the drive to the ward, I asked my husband how long before he would allow her to choose my church indefinitely, assuming she keeps this up. He looked stricken and asked what I thought. I said the earliest I would have allowed her to choose Mormonism was age 12, so if he wanted to wait that long for her to choose evangelical Christianity, I would accept that. He took it. I could have pushed him and pointed out that he has always said that 8 was old enough to choose a religion, but I didn’t. I know this is hard on him.

For the time being, it looks like we are raising a little proto-evangelical. What can I say. One of us is pretty happy about that.


An emerging choice — 15 Comments

  1. I am LDS and my wife is not. The policy in our house is a child can go with dad to the Mormon church or can stay home. Home almost always wins. I don’t believe in forced attendance. Is it unreasonable of me to think a church should be a draw all by itself? Would your daughter stay home if given the choice? Would you let her (assuming she old enough)?

  2. But it sounds like she is making her choice based on the community or the music or the events for kids. It doesn’t sound like she’s made a theological decision. So while it is likely that she will choose the church she has more fun at long term, there is still a possibility that she will, to the best of her abilities anyway, decide she likes Mormonism better theologically.

    Ms. Jack probably “wins” here, but don’t consider this the final say. Just wait until the rebellious teenage years.

  3. Sanford ~ Church is a draw for her right now. If she gets older and starts asking to stay home from church, I’ll consider it.

    Hibernia86 ~ I’m not claiming that this was a theological decision. I don’t deny that she’s making this choice because she’s having a better experience at my church—and in honesty, she’s probably benefiting from the fact that we have professional clergy who have some training on how to connect with special needs children.

    Then again, I don’t think that the majority of Mormon children getting baptized at age 8 are making theological decisions, yet it’s still considered good enough for most Mormon families. I definitely don’t think it’s the final say yet though. A lot could still change.

  4. Growing is already difficult. It’s even more difficult when your parents dump their religious angst on you. Way to go, mom of the year. You remind me of a certain mother from a well known Stephen King novel.

  5. Terri ~ Why the disgusting personal attack on me and my family? Sounds like you need to find better things to do with your time than attacking other people’s families.

    Welcome to my ban queue.

  6. Is there a length difference between the two services? 3h is a long time for kids. I just take mine for 1h, which I’ll extend to 2h once she is bit older. Sometimes it is Sacrament meeting. Sometimes it is nursery/priesthood.

  7. Mine goes for about 2-2.5 hours between Sunday school and the main service. It is a bit shorter because there is no gendered third meeting.

    However, yesterday my daughter kept saying that she wanted to be at my church “all day!”, so I don’t think the shorter length is a factor for her.

  8. All this “I win” and “you lose” seems really dangerous and manipulative to me no matter what she chooses. However, having raised 5 children I know that giving advice regarding children is really difficult at best. All the best.

  9. Good to see you again, Blake. I hope you’ve been well.

    If I frame things as a matter of “I win” and “you lose,” it’s probably because I’ve always tried to keep a sense of humor about serious situations. Maybe even to an inappropriate extent.

    I don’t think I’m being manipulative though. I’ve done everything in my power to stand back and let her make these choices for herself.

  10. Interdenominational family mom here. My kids’ father and I have agreed that until the age of 16, when each of them are legal to drive, they attend my church and his church on alternating Sundays. After that, they are free to choose which church to attend, join/be baptized in, or to avoid church altogether. I think by the time you are responsible enough to drive yourself from point A to point B, you should be allowed the freedom to pursue your faith (or to abstain from it).

  11. just found your blog. very cool. I’m a Mormon who keeps an open mind and respect what you are doing here. some have mentioned some issue with what you are doing with your child with varying levels of douchery. I disagree that you are dumping your religious battle on your kid, if you two battled religiously at every turn you likely wouldn’t be married. but when you send her to her father, on a practice of alternating religious attendance that you both set up, doesn’t that but the blame on him? it’s probably already a hard spot for him, this could feel devisive when it probably needs a unified parental front.

  12. but when you send her to her father, on a practice of alternating religious attendance that you both set up, doesn’t that but the blame on him? it’s probably already a hard spot for him, this could feel devisive when it probably needs a unified parental front.

    It’s nice to meet you, David. This is a good point. I’m going to take it to heart next time my daughter is upset about going to her father’s church. Thanks!

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