The first seven years of our marriage religion was a nonissue. We were newlyweds, then new parents and we came from families where religion wasn’t important. We were busy, and we never gave it a second thought.
I don’t remember a specific time when they were very young that I talked to my children about god, and I certainly don’t ever remember talking to them about hell. At that time we were going to the church of Disney—the videos were on endless loop at our house. The conversation must have happened some time, but I honestly can’t think of when. I do recall M being particularly freaked out by the witch in Snow White, but Satan?
M was in Kindergarten when I got a call in the middle of the day from her teacher. She told me M was crying, and had been for a while. She was inconsolable, and the teacher felt I should try to come to the school to calm her down. M was never an overly emotional child. In fact, she was and still is rather the opposite; she’s a pleaser and never rocks the boat or demands excessive attention. The teacher admitted she was worried about M, for she had never seen her behave like this. “Ok,” I said, “What prompted her becoming this upset?” The teacher stated she felt it was best if I came in, rather than discussing it on the phone.
I hung up and went. (Would I do that today? Hell no, I would demand an explanation at once, but a lot has changed in 13 years. Remember, I was a pretty new mom back then.) We only lived two blocks from the school and M was still crying when I got there. She hugged me hard around the neck and immediately asked me, “Mommy, you know everything, right?” She then launched into a story about how Marcie, another little girl in her classroom, had told M she was going to be sent to hell by Satan because she didn’t go to church on Sunday. M said she argued with Marcie and told her there was no such thing as hell, and that her mommy told her so and her mommy knows everything. Marcie told M that no, I didn’t know about this. Satan was real and was going to get her.
This started the crying. I remember looking at the teacher with steam coming out of my ears. “You let this conversation happen?” I growled. She said she didn’t feel she could say anything to the girls one way or another, so she called me in so I could deal with it.
I was ridiculously pissed, but I picked up M, squeezed her hard and told her, “Yes, about this I do know more than Marcie or her church. There is no hell and there is no Satan. It’s just a story to scare little girls.”
How wonderful were those days when that was enough. M crawled down, wiped her tears and went on her merry way.
Looking back, I do find it interesting that she was the one who pushed our family to begin to attend the UU church years later.