By Sinead O’Connor
My religion of birth and culture would be the last place I would ever tell my children to seek guidance on matters of love, whether sexual, spiritual or otherwise. That would be like leaving my babies with a bad nanny. I would only wake up screaming.
As a parent of three sons and one daughter, I would say that my 21st-century young people are very open and able to speak with me about “matters of romance.” This is not least because they aren’t being told there’s anything “shameful” about sex, in the way that 20th-century Irish Catholics like myself were.
But my children ARE having the CIVIL laws pertaining to sexual activity drilled into them continually by Mom. They are responsible and truthful young people because I haven’t instilled any shame in them. None of us feel awkward when they share with me their concerns or issues around “romantic matters,” because they love themselves way better than us 20th-century schmucks.
In short, I feel it’s the job of PARENTS to help their children navigate the world of romance. I tell my daughter (and I know she listens because she’s a good girl) that, OK, kissing is fine, but ANYTHING else is illegal by civil law and MOM law!
Still, I want to be the first call she will make if she ever gets in trouble. I always want to be No. 1 on speed dial and not have her afraid to be open and honest with me. So now we have a deal: If she thinks I’m going to be upset by something she’s going to tell me, she’s to start with “Promise you won’t kill me?” I told her that would disarm me. Not that I won’t get mad, but if I do I want her to know I’ll calm down in half an hour. And then we’ll sort out whatever it is.
We need to foster a zero tolerance attitude on kids being afraid to be open and honest with us. This would ideally involve parents creating a situation where the young person feels safe to speak with his or her parents without fear of a major blow out.
Religion, on the other hand, teaches our children not respect for the laws of the land, but fear and shame about their natural feelings. Religion teaches them NOT to be open and honest with us.
So why would we pass off to religion our parental responsibility for dealing with something as delicate as romance with our teenagers? We can encourage our children in this 21st century to behave responsibly without resorting to the 20th-century shaming tactics.
As I tell my children, God is love. Religion is not. Religion is not God. MOM IS!!!!!!
Sinead O’Connor is a singer, musician and mother of four. She was ordained as a priest by a Catholic splinter group called the Latin Tridentine Church, taking the clerical name Mother Bernadette Maria.