Years of routine have built into my subconsciousness a tendency towards reflection this season. I'm not really alone in this, I understand. But having a child definitely raises the stakes, and each year is a bit more...interesting.
I try to steer clear of too much elaboration on religion (author's note: if you think this is a strange statement to make, you should hear how much I talk about it when I'm not typing about it!), but rather than addressing December as a loosely-affiliated series of secular celebrations, I'd rather use my actual words.
Religion is a complex beast. It and all its accoutrements are so easily misinterpreted, depending on where you come from, what you believe in, and how you believe in it. Not only is it impossible to swing a dead cat without smacking someone in their religious indignation, but then you've got PETA on your case for swinging the dead cat around in the first place. I suppose one day I might chance putting my own views down on paper - there's always that next series of books, for example - but for now, please understand that I might be deliberately vague on that sort of thing.
But in the raising of my child, my wife and I have decided to give our daughter as broad and global an understanding of faith as possible. There will come points in life where she will more specifically decide upon her belief system, and we'll be as supportive of those choices - if not moreso - than we have been thus far. It's been a process of teaching and encouraging self-examination, followed by support for her ability to understand for herself exactly what she believes in, coupled with sharing our own beliefs.
So it was a bit disconcerting a few weeks back when I made a reference to Noah and the Ark, and she looked at me with confusion. "Is that from a comic book or from Star Wars?" she asked.
We realized that in my efforts to keep her religious exposure open, we'd actually not taught her any bible stories. But I should have noticed that - there were signs. Like that one time she read off the television the words "Jayses Krest" (Jesus Christ) and asked me what that meant. Okay, yes, she's ten. And I probably should have talked to her about that sooner, but yes.
December 2011 has thus become "the month we explore the bible." Starting with Genesis and going chronologically, we're going through the stories therein. Later this week, we'll be arriving in the new testament, and we'll wrap the month out with talking about other December traditions, from a variety of cultures. If this goes well, we've talked about exploring other cultures and philosophies in a month-by-month basis throughout 2012.
See, she has talked to me about wanting to write stories, too. Comic books, manga, short stories, etc. And regardless of what you may individually feel about the bible, what they all boil down to - all matters of faith aside - is that they're all stories. And not just any stories, but tales which hold a significant place within our cultural collective awareness. It's one thing to acknowledge that she doesn't see Star Wars the same way as I do. I saw it when I was seven years old, and it rewired my brain. It didn't have nearly the same impact on her as it did on me, and that's okay, too. But in order to tell stories, you also have to KNOW stories. A firm understanding of the cultural origins of your audience is essential; the same words, legends and imagery is crucial for an open structure of communication. Even if she doesn't grow up to be a writer, she should be familiar with all these stories, no matter how she feels about them.
Not for the first time, I'm really excited to see what kind of adult she grows into. And not for the first time, I'm terrified of not doing enough.
I'm pretty sure it won't be the last time for either one, either.