While discussing Santa, Christmas lists, and all things jolly with my three-year-old, it occurred to me that it is probably my duty, in an attempt to raise an appreciative, unselfish little human, to explain what Christmas is really about and why we celebrate this day. As of now my darling son knows that Mr. Claus will bring him a good deal of presents for listening to Mommy and Daddy, brushing his teeth, and sharing toys with his baby brother. He also understands that he shouldn’t expect to receive everything on his list because that would be, well, greedy, a new word we’ve added to his vocabulary repertoire this holiday season. So, maybe I should take the time to explain what the day really represents: Jesus of course. I admit I’m stalling, only a few weeks out from the big guy’s birthday and he has no clue who Jesus is. Why is this so difficult for me to do? I’ve been having an ongoing debate with myself since I popped out this child in July of 2017. Should I raise my children with a religion, or go the secular route?
Although I was brought up as Catholic, I can’t say I have ever really had a strong connection to the religion. I went through the motions, baptism, CCD classes, confirmation, etc. but I’m not exactly sure what role religion has played in my life. To be frank, as a little girl sitting in church, I don’t think I ever really paid attention, or for that matter, comprehended a word coming out of the priest’s mouth. Fast forward to present day, after living through some prayer-worthy circumstances, I’m still unsure where my beliefs stand. I wonder if all of the hours I logged in CCD class and all of the Sunday mornings I spent kneeling on pews helped shape the kind of honest human I claim to be. I’ll admit, my parents’ attempt to provide my sister and I with a religious foundation may have helped keep me grounded at times. As I whispered my nightly prayers, the beautiful Lenox cross that hung over my childhood bed may have reminded me that I was a part of something sacred and safe. It definitely prevented me from joining a cult. At least this was the belief of my mother—paranoid from growing up in the Charles Manson era—who now uses this argument to convince me to baptize my babies already.
Right before Covid I made a decision, yet clearly haven’t made the commitment. My 91 year old grandma cried when I told her we would finally christen her great-grandchildren. Actually sobbed in relief that they were no longer at risk of going to hell. I thought maybe it’s worth it to just get it done if it means this much to sweet old Nana. But do I really want to just “get it done.” If I baptize my kids, I would hope for it to hold meaning, give me the push to get my butt back to church, and make sure I’m first in line to sign up the kiddos for youth group. However, if I choose not to baptize them, I will continue to teach them to be honest, giving, gracious, and grateful individuals.
For now, in the spirit of Christmas, my son will learn the holiday is about so much more than presents. And whether I decide to introduce Jesus or not this year (the kid is only 3, which I believe buys me some time), I will commit to figuring out a plan. I may explore other, more “laid back” religions. I may choose not to introduce religion at all. I may educate them so they can choose for themselves as they get older. No matter what, my kids will be given some kind of a foundation to live decent and fulfilling lives. I will also try my very best to reassure my mother they’ll stay away from cults.
Caitlin Coletta, currently a stay at home mom, spent her pre-mom years as a teacher for students with disabilities. She has proudly been a Hoboken resident for nearly 10 years and is now outnumbered by her husband, two sons James and Everett, and Boston Terrier, Rocky. Caitlin enjoys playing piano, dancing ballet, and painting watercolors. She especially loves to frequent her favorite local restaurants and shops and feels lucky to live in a town with such a large sense of community.