Godless Mom is lucky enough to have unbelievers as in-laws, and the only significant other I ever had who had religious parents was keeping them safely tucked away in a crumbling town in Iraq. I have never had to deal with preachy in-laws, but I can tell you that if I had to, Godless Mom wouldn’t make it easy on them.
GM Disclaimer: Use of these methods could result in any or all of the following: Being disowned, shunning, loss of your significant other, and bad feelings.
Here’s how I would deal with it, if I couldn’t get my in-laws to stop trying to indoctrinate my child:
1. Train your child to scream, “Help! She’s not my mommy!” anytime God, Jesus or the Bible is brought up. Grandmammy’s gonna think twice before she good-newses all over your kid again. This is, of course, most effective in public.
SINNERS! I CAST THEE OUT!
2. Reverse it to the extreme. For example, the next time they come for dinner, answer the door in nothing but a burlap sack. After giving their clothing the once over, screech, “Sinners! You will burn for your mixed fabrics! Take your black magic off my premises! Devils!” and slam the door. This can also be done effectively in a seafood restaurant when they inevitably order shellfish. Storm out of the restaurant yelling, “Only the demon-possessed would risk eternal damnation for the succulent, buttery flesh of a lobster! In Jesus’ name, I pray you drop that claw!”
3. Treat them as though they are completely insane. Out for lunch, for instance. Once the in-laws order, lean in to the waiter, and just loud enough so they can hear, say, “Don’t give them that, they’re not well.” Pause to signal crazy, with finger wave around your ear, and continue, “Please, can you just get them each a bowl of mashed potatoes. They’re easily set off. They believe they can talk to God and men can live to 950 years old and snakes can talk and all that. You understand.” Throw the in-laws a sweet grin and hand over your menu to the now-confused waiter.
4. Any time your in-laws ask for help, tell them to pray instead. If they call to ask you to send your hubby over to clear out the gutters, say “Well, we’ve taken what you’ve been saying to our son to heart, and we think it would be more consistent for you to pray for help instead.” When, inevitably, they take issue with this, simply shrug and say, “God does work in mysterious ways, doesn’t he?”
5. Laugh. Just laugh. Any time your in-laws say something related in any way to their religion, have it planned out so that you, your significant other and your kids all howl with laughter. Completely ham it up, bring on the tears, clutch your belly, go on for 5 minutes. Then just look at the in-laws and say, “you guys are precious.” and go about your business. Do this every time they say a thing about it.
Sell it as hard as this guy.
6. Fake conversion to a different religion. Choose something they will find super offensive like Satanism or Voodoo or Santeria. Get prop decorations for your house and totally overdo it. Dress like a voodoo priestess in public with them. Preach it every chance you get. In fact, call them at all hours of the night to preach your voodoo. If they come for dinner, make sure your vials of cat hair and dust bunnies and dead vines and green liquids are all out on your kitchen counter. Then, right as your father-in-law is about to take the first bite, grab his plate and say, “Oh, no! That’s not for you!” and switch it with your mother-in-law’s plate, mumbling voodooey sounding mantras under your breath. When they ask about it, say, again, that you’ve taken what they’ve been saying to your kids to heart, and realized that they were right about faith being important.
These all ought to work in one way or another, and I beg that if you try any of them, you take video and send me the link. However, if you are truly, truly worried about the amount of religious bullshit your in-laws (or even your own parents) are pushing on your kids, there is only one way to deal with it effectively. It’s a 4 step process and it can hurt, but your primary concern should be your children, so it’s worth it.
The steps are:
Step 1 – Make damned sure you’re on the same page as your significant other. Agree on a which lines cannot be crossed and what the consequences of crossing those lines are. Step 2 – Clearly, with no minced words, explain those boundaries to the offending grandparents. Step 3 – Clearly, with no minced words, explain the consequences of breaking those boundaries. Step 4 – Follow through with the consequences when the lines are crossed.
Keep in mind that your consequences have to be something that will motivate your in-laws. Limit their visits with your kids to supervised visits or eliminate their time with your kids all together.
You should also try to keep in perspective what is truly a problem and what isn’t. Your child is going to hear about God, Jesus, the Bible. You will never be able to shelter them from hearing or learning about it fully. It is better, in many cases, to allow the offending party to continue to teach your child about these things, and just make sure you are talking to your child about it as often, if not more, from a skeptical perspective. I feel very strongly that it is better to have them learn that stuff with your knowledge so you can counter it, than it is to not know and not be able to counter it. It gives you an excellent opportunity to pose the question to your child, “Does that make sense to you?” and start their little brains out on a lifetime of asking themselves that question.
Have you experienced overly pushy religious in-laws? What did you do about it?