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Grandma tries to convert infant - Dear Prudence column

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Waffle Time

Thought today's Dear Prudence was relevant.


Q: Grandma trying to convert grandchild: Grandma is very, very religious and has taken it upon herself to attempt to convert our new 2-month-old son. Every “conversation” with the infant includes God and every present is Christian-themed, from Christian picture frames to religious children’s books. Obviously the child still doesn’t grasp any of this.

The rub is my spouse and I aren’t religious, and agreed to raise our child in our (lack) of beliefs. We aren’t bothered by exposure, which can be great for learning, but this proselytizing isn’t OK. How do we get Grandma to stop, especially when the Christmas season is bound to kick this into overdrive? I am not optimistic that she will listen if we ask politely, and I would prefer to stop it before little Einstein is old enough to understand.

A: I’ve heard of religious family members trying to convert their relatives’ young children, but I’m almost impressed at how early your grandmother is trying to get God’s foot in the door (Almost. I am not, in fact, impressed with her behavior.). The good—and bad—news is that if your grandmother does not listen to your polite requests, you have the opportunity to establish appropriate consequences. “Grandma, I know your faith is important to you and that you love little Hanktimony here, but we’re not religious and don’t want you to proselytize to him.” If the religious gifts continue, you get to follow up with, “As we mentioned, we don’t want you to proselytize to our son; we’re going to donate this to an appropriate charity.” If she’s completely incapable of interacting with a baby without trying endlessly to espouse her religious beliefs, then you will get to limit the time she spends with her grandchild. That’s unfortunate, but it’s completely avoidable if she can behave appropriately. You’re not asking her to pretend she’s not religious, nor are you preventing her from expressing her faith, you’re simply asking her to refrain from trying to convert a 2-month-old baby with every breath.




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Oh wow. Sounds like those parents might have to set some limits with grandma. I feel like the type of person that does that might ignore protests of the parents (thinking she'll save the baby's soul). Also depending on the grandma's age it might be hard to reason with her.

Overzealous relatives can definitely cross the line of what is appropriate. I've been told that one of my dad's cousins married a Catholic woman, and decided to raise one child Jewish and the other Catholic (which seems super weird to me and I have no idea how holidays would work. "Sorry sweetie, you can't hunt for Easter eggs and eat Easter candy with your sibling. You have to avoid all things that are leavened for a week, and Easter candy isn't kosher for Passover. Also, Santa isn't bringing you presents"). Anyway, apparently the wife's mother secretly got the Jewish child baptized behind the parents' backs. 

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Seriously this is insane, I have a Catholic dad and Protestant mum, we were raised Catholic but ironically mum was the one that took us to mass, Dad didn't care. My grandparents are regulars at mass but have never tried to force religion on any of us. My papa on mums side did make a comment about mum raising us as Catholic, but he cared more about me and my brother's choice of football team, that was the common response in Glasgow and the West of Scotland then, it has thankfully improved and he learned to accept it. 

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