“She told me she’ll pray for me again,” my teen daughter groaned, after I arrived home from a few days away, my kids in the care of my evangelical Christian mother while I escaped for the weekend.
Over the years, I’ve done all the things many nonreligious parents with religious parents of their own do to try to establish boundaries when it comes to their kids; from nicely asking them to refrain from speaking about Jesus to asking not-so-nicely.
I’ve even gotten into long-winded discussions about the existence of God and Jesus and all the things we nonreligious people say to try to get religious people to understand.
Then there’s the good old “I would never push my beliefs on you so can you please keep yours to yourself?”
And what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter how you ask. It doesn’t matter how many times you ask.
They’re still going to do it.
The blessings and prayers are part of who they are, and part of who they believe they should be. It’s their calling. It’s how they get into heaven.
Stopping it would be like… not breathing for them.
It’s tough trying to explain this to kids, who have probably heard their non-religious parents (that’s you) bitch and complain about religion (especially these days with the state of the world), and who are told on a regular basis to not say certain things.
If I tell my kids to not say “shut-up,” and explain why we don’t say that, then they just don’t. So why should a person keep telling me they’ll pray for me, even after they’ve been told not to? It just doesn’t make sense.
So after empathizing with their annoyance, I tell my kids to simply use these two words, which typically stall any sort of further conversation about the topic: THANK YOU.
ON THE OTHER HAND: Curated contrary opinions
Prayers and blessings are a religious person’s positive thoughts. And I’d certainly not give anyone a hard time for saying “I’m thinking of you.” or “Sending you good vibes.”
I’d just say “thank you.”
And so, I just tell my kids to do the same.
It’s not that I’m not tempted to say something myself. (And truth be told, I’ve done it plenty of times).
We know for a fact that trying to convince a religious person that they’re wrong is tough work for grown-ups, let alone kids. And in my own experience, the more you try to convince them they’re wrong, the more they dig in and believe that they’re right. It’s just not worth the energy.
That’s why a simple “thank you” is sometimes the best response.
Whatever your kids say under their breath after they walk away, well, that’s a whole other story.