When me and the kids go shopping we pass a little Christian book shop on the way into town and understandably given this time of year they have displays of nativity sets in their window, including the one above (also to be found on Urchin) and Girl Lacer always likes to look at it in the window. Now I should state here and now that we are not a religious family, Mr. Lacer would I think describe himself as agnostic, as for me? Well I think religion can do a lot of evil but it can also do a lot of good, teaching us morals that we should all have regardless of whether we believe in a higher power or not, but I would say that I am most of the time an athiest. As far as the kids are concerned me and Mr. Lacer both believe it is up to the kids to make their own mind up when they’re old enough, however like often follows like doesn’t it? Just as my parents weren’t religious and they believed in the whole ‘let your kids make their own minds up when they’re old enough’ philosophy to, is it really surprising that just like a (for example) Catholic kid brought up in a Catholic family becomes a Catholic adult, a kid brought up in an athiest / agnostic family becomes surprise, surprise, athiest or agnostic.
I think my gut instinct has always been ‘let the school deal with the religious stuff’, which is pretty much against the grain of everything else I believe in connected with education, I would never sit back for example and say ‘it’s the school’s job to teach them to read and write and I’m going to have nothing to do with it at home’ of course not, although of course the school should be the main facilitator in teaching the child to read and write, as parents you have to support that process at home from birth (don’t get me started on parents who don’t read to their kids). So why am I of the attitude that the school should deal with the religious stuff? Almost certainly because I feel under-qualified, not only do I want my children to have a grounding in at least what Christian beliefs mean, I want them to know about other religions to and as I have only the barest of knowledge about Christianity, let alone anything else I wouldn’t be much use and also because I feel like if I started to talk about religious things I would feel such a hypocrite. I remember once I tried to explain the story about Noah and the Ark (the kids have the Fisher Price play-set) and I think I started it with ‘Some people believe that once there was a great flood that covered the world because God, who some people also believe in, was angry with the people’ and so on and so on, as you can imagine my daughter soon lost interest! So back to the nativity set, my daughter wants one, she does (courtesy of the school) have an awareness of what it is, she’ll point out baby Jesus, she’s in the school play (she’s playing a snake), I’m not exactly sure what the school play is about, except that some of her friends are snakes, others are ‘camel humps’ and there is a lullaby to baby Jesus in it, hence why I think she can point out baby Jesus on the nativity set (she’s 4 by the way and in nursery), I managed to explain who the other figures were without saying ‘some people believe’, by saying the lady in blue was the baby’s mummy, the three men in crowns were the Three Wise Men and the others were people coming to visit the baby, I chickened on Joesph, how exactly do you explain that, probably ‘Mary’s husband’ thinking about it.
So anyway, due to Girl Lacer’s repeated interest I did go in the book shop today (feeling a complete fraud) to see how much it was and it was too expensive, which Girl Lacer accepted (I think she thought I needed to sell some more books first), it is cheaper online though, still expensive though.
So the big question is, do I get a set? Do I continue to sit back and let the school deal with it or do I encourage my children’s interests? I am tempted to look at it through another angle, gently pushing the religious aspect to the side a little. If you just look at the nativity story itself and what it means and also more importantly what is Christmas without that story? Christmas without the nativity story is an excuse for mass commercialism, thinly veiled by a man in a thick red coat. Christmas with the nativity story is about giving not just receiving, about celebrating the birth of a new year, about everyone getting together whether they’re a rich king or a lowly shepherd, now those are all things I want my children to remember.