Almost 20 years ago, I sat in a rocking chair at Utah Valley Hospital holding my newborn son in my arms. You really have no idea what you’re getting into when you have a child. You can anticipate sleepless nights and getting vomited on and changing diapers, but you really don’t know what you’re doing. You sort of feel your way along raising a child, particularly the first one.
When my oldest son was born, I wanted him to have the kind of parents I didn’t have: two active, faithful Mormons who would teach him to be a good person, to go on a mission, and to marry in the temple. See, my father wasn’t quite Mormon enough; he went to church, but he was clearly not interested in any of it. I grew up feeling kind of sorry for him.
At about age 12, my son began to seriously resent going to church. This wasn’t part of the program. How could he not like church? Thus began an epic battle that lasted years. Every Sunday morning it was like trying to drag a two-ton boulder to church. It really frustrated me, and sometimes it made me really angry. He told me that church was stressful and draining, and he just couldn’t take it anymore. But I wouldn’t listen. Church was good for you, and he was going to go, damn it.
Finally when he was around 16, I gave up. I figured he was old enough to make his own decisions (his mother disagreed with me), and I stopped pushing him, stopped punishing him when he didn’t go. It wasn’t long after that when I had my epiphany regarding Mormonism. Suddenly, neither of us wanted to go, but I didn’t talk to him about my feelings toward the church.
A year or so later, my wife and I were having a big fight about my participation on “apostate” message boards, and my son asked me what was going on. I said, “It’s just a church thing.” He replied, “Oh, she must have read your blog.” We had a long talk about the church, and he said, “I’m really glad I’m not the only one in the family who thinks it’s a load of crap.” The next thing he said was, “Does this mean we can go to Starbucks?”
He’s now off at college, and he has nothing to do with Mormonism. He’s living his own life without a manipulative organization trying to keep him in line. And you know what? He’s not a junkie or a gangster; he’s just a normal college student (and he’s doing pretty well, I have to say). Sometimes I’m a little jealous because I wish I had figured things out at his age, but I just have to be grateful that he knows the score.
I’m really proud of him.