Interesting things happen when you live in a religious culture, but have not yet educated your young child about religion.
The Tot attends daycare at our local YMCA while I exercise. I have struggled a bit with my feelings toward the Y, mostly because they have lots of propaganda festooning the walls. Which makes sense, since their mission is "To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all." But really, except for the Christian banners, they seem much more focused on building healthy bodies and minds than the other stuff. So I've decided the whole package of benefits they offer more than counterbalances the Christian themes.
Anyway, as she sometimes does, the Tot was singing snippets of a song she heard that day. I couldn't really make sense of it at first, but then I realized it was some insipid religious song she must have picked up at the Y. ("Thank You for the puppies" is the line that stays with me.) Then I realized she was singing this refrain:
Well, it makes sense, right? She referred the phonemes back to something with which she is familiar. And since she's never been taught to pray at home, the closest match was Swiper's catchphrase.
This makes me feel a lot more comfortable about her being exposed to Christian ideas and rituals. It's going to happen, and the idea tends to make me nervous. However, this incident makes clear that the parental influence is a real determining force in how children interpret new ideas. Since she's going to the Y for preschool too, I'm sure there will be some great teaching moments when she comes home to ask me what the heck the teachers are talking about, and (in the words of Oolon Colluphid) just who is this God person anyway? And I also realize sometimes she'll just sit and listen to the story of Noah (the ark, not the naked drunkenness, presumably) or whatever, and interpret it as a fictional story like many others, without any further intervention from me.
But I am starting to wonder if one day she'll come home and ask, "Hey, why is everyone at the Y so crazy about Cheez-Its?"