Everyone holds their own beliefs to a certain extent, and it's important we respect those beliefs.
This is especially true for our loved ones and how they choose to observe their faith, or lack thereof.
One woman wrote into the "Am I the A**hole?" (AITA) subReddit, explaining what can happen when her family members don't respect her boundaries.
But after reacting, the Original Poster (OP), "Chelzdu_", wondered if she overreacted to the overstep.
The OP asked the sub:
"AITA for telling my mom she may no longer see my children anymore after she baptized [my] daughter without telling me?"
The OP explained her family is firmly rooted in the Christian faith but so far had respected their decision to raise their children without religion.
"Little backstory- I grew up in a very religious home. We went to church (non-denominational) 2-3 times per week. I always questioned what I was being taught and when I was in 6th grade & going to a Christian school, I realized I was agnostic. I live in the Bible belt, so it's difficult having my beliefs (or lack there of)."
That is, everyone except her mother.
"Despite my family all being religious, they have all respected my beliefs. Not just mine, but my daughters' (ages 8 and 9) dad, who is an atheist, as well. Everyone except my mother."
"A couple years ago we told her she could no longer take the girls to church. We felt they were being indoctrinated & both were starting to deny science. She argued with us but realized how serious we were. She knew if she took them to church after a sleepover, she would be risking being able to see them & be in their life."
"Little did I know, she had been having 'Bible study' with the girls on nights they would spend the night with her. Maybe every 3 weeks or so, the girls would have a sleepover with her."
The OP's mother's latest breach in trust was massive.
"The girls had a sleepover with her this past Saturday. She brought them home to me Sunday afternoon. My fiance and I were asking them if they had fun, what did they do, etc."
"My 8 year old then said 'I got baptised!'"
"EXCUSE ME, WHAT? I remained calm because I didn't want her to think she was in trouble or did something wrong. I asked her whose idea that was. She said mine."
"Ok.. so I ask a few more questions and realize she had the idea because she was told if she were to die, she'd go to hell. She was terrified!"
"So, my mom baptised my baby. My daughter said my mom asked the questions and everything before the 'baptism'... like 'do you accept Jesus into your heart?'"
The OP was shocked over the news of the baptism and confronted her mom.
"I was truly blown away by what she had done. It was such a breach of mine & their dad's trust and she had crossed a HUGE line."
"I sent a group text to my mom & the girls' dad with the following:"
"'I don't know why I'm shocked, (redacted), but I'm actually blown away by your enormous breach in trust. You crossed a huge line. You know how Ken and I feel about religion. And for poor Emmy to have the belief she will die and go to hell if she doesn't get baptised??'"
"'Putting that thought in her head is child abuse, no other way to look at that. My heart is broken for the girls bc I know how difficult and confusing it's going to be for them to not see you anymore, but I absolutely cannot trust you with them anymore.'"
"My ex followed up with this: "(My name) is speaking for both of us on this. I am heartbroken that you have forced us into having to do this'"
But now the OP is worried she took the situation too far.
"So, am I overreacting? Is this going to be more harmful to my children who have a relationship with her? Am I the a**hole?"
Fellow Redditors wrote in on the OP's and her husband's situation, rating their reaction on the following scale:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You're the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some Redditors sided with the OP and her husband, confirming they were not wrong for being upset.
"Considering that your mother has no qualms about making small children do her bidding out of fear of going to hell, it's no wonder you'd need outside validation. You feel guilty because a lifetime of programming from your mother can't be undone with a flip of a switch."
"Good job standing up to her!" - mama_llama44
"'Parents always know what strings control your heart and soul. After all, they are the ones who tied them there.'"
"You feel guilty because you understand that good people love and respect their family members. But you're pretty d**ned sure you're not the AH because you're smart enough to have conned to that being a one way street from one of the people you ought to have been able to trust the most in your life."
"She was disrespectful and deceiptful to you and your spouse, and she was manipulative and cruel to your children. You're good."
"(first line is a Mercedes Lackey line for anyone wondering)" - gdaaayyy
"NTA - that is a huge betrayal of your trust and I'm sorry this happened. She's now badly sabotaged her relationship with you and your kids whom she probably loves."
"Maybe frame it for your kids that trust is a hard thing to repair and that their grandmother made a decision that made it hard for you to trust her. I think kids their age have a good concept of hiding things/lying being a breach of trust if you lay it out for them in that way."
"I don't know whether your plan is for no contact ever again, but I think at this point you can lay out that you have lost trust and that will be hard to rebuild and will take a long time."
"What a terrible decision. In her desire to 'save' your children, she's broken a commandment and sent the message that it's fine to lie to get what you want. In theory that should be the last lesson her faith should impart." - InvertedJennyanydots
"She breached your trust and knew exactly what would happen if she did it again. She's only getting the exact consequence that she was warned of. Telling a child if they aren't baptized they'll go to hell is just cruel. Religion should not be dependent on the fear of what will happen if people don't follow."
"I would talk to your girls about religion. Maybe have a 'culture night' at the house once a week where you learn about new religions and explore what they believe? That way you can educate your daughter that not everyone believes the same thing and that religion is meant to cast fear into the believers." - themediumchunk
Others suggested the parents teach their daughters about different religions and cultures as a way to balance what they already know.
"Just be very careful to de-program your daughter and tell her that hell doesn't exist. You don't want this experience to leave permanent mental scars on her psyche."
"You can use the example of other religions (like Buddhism) with different concepts, to take away the fear of the christian hell, then work your way back up to 'it's all just make-believe, used to scare children into believing their stories.'" - Count2Zero
"My kid's elementary school used to do a whole body of work dedicated to all the religions in the world. Studied each one in depth, as well as the culture around it. It was fabulous!" - MelG146
"It would be an awesome way to introduce them to mythologies/ancient religions as well. Growing up I loved learning about Norse, Greek, Mayan and other region's mythology. It made me love history as a kid and it was one of the only subjects I really cared about in HS." - Exorsaik
"Make sure you also teach her about people who use religion to justify terrible things."
"I'm not sure how you go about that, but good luck." - Barbed_Dildo
"and it could continue into a lesson on bullying and manipulative scare tactics and why they're wrong." - CloverdillyStar
A few even suggested adjusting the terminology for educational purposes.
"I'd also go ahead and call all religions 'mythology' from now on. Theres no reason to fear imaginary entities for imaginary arbitrary sins."
"You and your husband are doing a great job raising your daughters. NTA." - SadlyNotPro
"I typically add 'mythology' to the end of whatever religion I'm discussing with my son. Greek mythology, Christian mythology, both are stories. It's also interesting to compare similar concepts. We were talking about flooding in Christian mythology and how it might have been tied to the Mediterranean Sea creation." - TehKarmah
It's up to each family how they will address religion and whether or not they should practice. But of course, if there are differences in beliefs among family members, those boundaries need to be respected.
Whether or not the OP and her husband choose to keep their children away from their grandmother forever is uncertain, but it's pretty clear nothing will change if their boundaries are not respected.