“Oh my god,” she said, and to her it meant absolutely nothing. It was a placeholder, another way of saying “What?” in that sarcastic tone I know she means when she pretends to be innocent. But she knows what she’s doing and saying. She knows that I’m not pleased when I put my hands on my hips and say, “It has nothing to do with god.” Then she looks at me like I’ve grown a second head, rolls her eyes, and says, “You know what I meant.” And while I do, I don’t at the same time.
I wasn’t allowed to say “God” when I was growing up, because it was taking the Lord’s name in vain. There’s some scripture about it, about not taking the Lord’s name in vain, that there will be serious consequences, or something like that. And I took it seriously, but sometimes I got into saying “Geez,” and “Gosh,” and even “Golly.” But we all know what each one of those affectations really means, right? They’re just another way for saying God, and just another way to take the Lord’s name in vain.
But it never stopped me from saying it. It just stopped me from saying it in the presence of my mother. To this day I don’t think my mother has ever heard me swear, and to my mother the G-word was even worse to say than the F-word, at least that’s the way it seemed at the time. Then I grew up, and it was all around me, so it lost its cache. Everyone said “Oh my god,” and “Geez,” and “Gosh,” so I stopped saying all of them. Instead I began using the F-word, but never around my children. I’d like to try and keep them innocent for just a little while longer (he says, while writing about it on his blog).
Now it’s all come full circle, because my oldest is saying it… all the time. Every time I turn around she’s saying it again. It’s become her mantra, as if it’s the last phrase on earth and she’s using it up because she’s worried that it too will disappear forever any second. I’ve tried to explain to her like my mother explained to me, that we shouldn’t take the Lord’s name in vain, but she asked me, “Who’s the Lord?” That’s when it hit me that I’m not my mother. I don’t have some kind of solid faith that keeps me grounded, or chained, whichever verb you prefer. What I have is a personal connection with some form of a god that hasn’t been introduced to my children.
So I don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to the phrase, because we don’t have any religious rules to follow in this house. It makes me realize, this grand battle, that we do need to start explaining to our children what our faith entails, and that it’s real even though we don’t go to church, that faith isn’t organized religion for us but that it can be for them. It’s time to start discussing those difficult subjects, because Alexa’s obviously ready, if just in the question she asked me as a response to my chastisement.
“Oh my god,” she told me when she got home from school today and dropped her bookbag down on the floor like it had been cutting into her shoulders. And I began to scold her, but I stopped myself instead, for a change. Because it’s not taking the Lord’s name in vain if she doesn’t even know who He is to her, and for her. There’s no frame of reference, so no wonder she is so miffed when I just say it’s wrong. It’s time for us both to work through the idea of religion together, under the shining lights of the Menorah.