My eldest daughter Isabeau and I have frequent conversations about the concept of God these days. While I believe, it is an entirely personal faith and I would like my children to make up their own minds as to what they believe – or not. At the same time, I want to offer them guidance, teach them to be open to, respectful of, and curious about what others believe, and help them explore what the world has to offer in this respect.
My five-year-old attends an ecumenical
school, which in the Western part of the world tends to mean that religious teaching (if any) is restricted to the Christian churches. I think this is a pity because there is much beauty and goodness to be found in most of the world’s faiths and particularly in a mixed culture like ours, children should learn about as many of them as possible. What matters is the quest for truth, beauty and goodness – the light within – and not what form it has been moulded into by mankind.
Be that as it may, I am grateful that she is taught the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus in a playful and (hopefully) loving manner. As long as there is freedom and no force in the learning, any teaching about faith is welcome.
What that teaching, and my own little talks about God (by any of His or Her names), lead to however, is a lot of difficult questions! Any parent who has discussed abstract concepts with their children will know how children infallibly zoom in on the most unanswerable questions – and expect us to answer them, as well!
It is very important to me that I do not obscure their own easy, bright light and understanding with ‘difficult stuff’ so it is a fine line I am treading. I think I will have done one vital part of my job as a parent if I help keep that bright light shining in in my children.
Last week my daughter and I talked (among other things) about how God is both Father and Mother. So I said that God is in everything. God created everything and is in everything, including your heart. Whenever you feel lonely or have a difficult decision to make, you can just be still in your head and listen, and God will help you feel better and know what is right. (‘Still, like this, mommy?’ ‘Exactly so, darling’)
Today while playing a game, Isabeau offhandedly continued our discussion (as if it had never been concluded, as our discussions tend to be) and said that God and Jesus are in everything. So are they also in toys?
– Well, yes of course, darling.
– Because God and Jesus created everything, didn’t they?
– Well… actually God created everything. He imagined everything and created the little pieces that are in everything, like molecules and atoms (oh God, there I went with the difficult stuff)…
– Okay… So God created everything, and Jesus painted it all!
– Right… That’s exactly right, my darling.
Phew… she got me out of a difficult situation there and solved it all neatly and perfectly. Out of the mouth of babes…
“What matters is the quest for truth, beauty and goodness – the light within – and not what form it has been moulded into by mankind.’ So beautifully expressed. I have found in raising my children that there is much power in simply replying to a question, “I don’t really know. I’m still trying to figure that out.” It puts parent and child on the same playing field. We are all in this journey together.
So true, Zurn. There is nothing more irritating and discouraging to an honest exchange of ideas than someone who knows it all. Especially if it’s your parents ;-). I have to plead guilty to that charge but am trying to mend my ways…