I am a bookish type person. It is not unusual or unexpected that I will buy someone a book, particularly my nieces and nephews. I buy them books all the time and I don't need a holiday or birthday as an excuse. I am also very aware that there are some books that I just can't give to my nieces and nephews due to their parent's religious beliefs.
Topics that have to be avoided:
Homosexuality of any kind
Books that mention the world being older than 10,000 years old
Diversity (not because they are racist but because they are uncomfortable talking about race)
Illness or Death
Of course, there are a great many books out there for them to read, but it also means there are many that they are being kept from too. This makes me sad because there are some really lovely books that I would love to share with them and can't because these children are so sheltered.
I move from sad to angry though when my sister-in-law offhandedly mentions that I should be careful what I expose her children to. I told her exactly this, "I am aware of what you do and don't believe and although I may not always agree, I am not their parent and would never expose them to something that you would disapprove of." First of all, I have always been careful. Never have a read to them a book about a gay couple or even a non-fiction book about dinosaurs. I avoid these topics because the kids are still young and they would rat me out even if I did. But these kids are so damned sheltered that sometimes it is near impossible to avoid a topic they can't talk about.
I got in trouble from my brother for telling my nephew that I cut my hair and donated to kids who get sick and have no hair. "You told him about cancer?!" my brother hissed later on. First off: No. I told him that sometimes kids get sick and they loss their hair so they make wigs for them. Hats made out of hair. An age-appropriate response to a legitimate question. Or so I thought.
Up until that point I didn't realize the extent of the sheltering that was going on. The kids are all home-schooled, although I am not entirely sure when that happens. Now, I am actually an advocate for home-schooling, but you must also actually teach your kids. None of this unschooling bullshit. To be fair, my nephew seems to be on grade level, although as he gets older I think it will be more obvious whether he actually is or not. But let's add that not only are these kids really know nothing outside of their family. Divorce, diversity, racism, death, abuse, serious illness. All foreign concepts to them. Also, quite a problem considering we may be adopting a kid who has dealt with massive amounts of loss through death and abuse and may well be of another ethnicity.
I like when kids can be kids, but I also understand that kids grow up to become adults. Avoiding these topics instead of slowly introducing them in age-appropriate ways is going to prepare them for the day when they do finally meet a kid whose parents are divorced. Wouldn't it be better now to introduce the idea of adoption to a kid, rather than the day they meet their new cousin?
I think the thing that saddens me the most though is that this doesn't just come from a place of protection, it comes from religiosity too. We aren't just sheltering the kids from the concept of gay couples, we are avoiding it altogether because we don't agree with it and think it is a sin. Under no circumstances should this be made to seem normal or okay. This is how prejudice continues folks. It's why it doesn't go away. If they continue to homeschool their kids it will be very easy to continue to teach creationism, but beyond that there is no way to shelter them entirely. Sooner or later these kids will become friends with people who are different than them, people who are from divorced families, people who have been abused, people who are very very sick, and people who are dying. It is inevitable. My sister-in-law and brother are fighting a losing battle with time.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.