Missed Opportunities: Talking about God

We were driving around a lot last evening, my three girls and me (or is it I?) when the youngest said “The other day, I told Boy X I didn’t believe in God and he said [switch to dramatic baritone here] ‘I can never speak to you again.'”

She was in the far back so I couldn’t reach her to do what I wanted to do, which is my lame attempt at a high-five, but I did yell “Score!”  Now, lest you think the entirely wrong thing about me and my response, what was going through my head was “One less boy to torment you with his tortuously inane blather.”  And, by my tone (Valley Girl meets Latin soccer color-commentary person), I’m pretty sure she got that.  But I did follow up with this, of the girl who still believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, “why don’t you believe in God?”

She did answer me, and I’m ashamed to say I don’t recall what she said, because sitting next to me was my oldest daughter who, heretofore, also rejected God, and now said “I’m starting to believe in a God.” Her reason?  Because she’s learning the big bang theory in science and it’s too confusing.  (Right now, the mother in me must add of this child who just made the National Junior Honor Society. I’m certain it will all make sense in the coming days and in the coming years, as she sorts out the big bang and God theories for herself.)

Now, this would have been the perfect opportunity for a good mom to step in and lay some groundwork for all her children’s theological perspectives.  They’ve been given some at our Unitarian Universalist church, but it worries me that their dad and I, with our conflicting ‘God views,’ have given them a  whole lot of perspective on what they could believe without giving them the tools to sort out what they DO believe.

It makes perfect sense to me that my youngest still believes in the Easter Bunny and in Santa Claus–because her dad and I work very hard to create and propogate that story.  And so it makes perfect sense for her NOT to believe in God because we keep our God stories to ourselves, for the most part.

Her best friend who lives down the road attends a Bible church and has been instructed in opposite ways by her parents. There is a God, he lives in heaven where the streets are paved with gold, and he will send you to hell if you do not accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior.  That’s their story and they’re sticking to it.  (And to their credit, the parents know who we are, how we are and still allow their child to play with ours–actually, I think they insist on it, hoping that through this contact we will see the light and all be saved.  They are good people who live their faith and that includes praying for those who do not believe–rather, who do not believe what they believe.)

But they taught their daughter there is no Santa (and she continues to try to convince my daughter the same, which has earned her a special place in pergatory in my book, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog entry) and all that other stuff and so that is what her young mind believes.

I, on the other hand, have taught fantasy and not what I hold to be true–because what I hold to be true is not as concrete, as structural, as the stories of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the God who rules heaven and earth from a throne in the sky.  It’s interesting to me that my oldest daughter is struggling with God as she struggles with the Big Bang theory, as that is exactly where I am.  In my twisted theology, as best as I can share it, God IS the Big Bang theory.  God is what exploded into a gabillion pieces and is now embodied in all our atoms, all our DNA.  God is that which connects us, I tell myself and sometimes tell my children.  Some would call it a web, but I don’t, as webs are made with gaps, where one may be connected to another through another, and that just doesn’t work for me. We are all connected or we are not.  So I choose the former.

But that story just doesn’t resonate as a guy on a cross, who died for our sins–at least not for those who are 8.  It’s too murky.  Too fluid.  Too structure-less.

I am grateful for all the encounters my children have with God and God stories.  Even for the kid who won’t talk to my daughter because she doesn’t believe in God.  It helps them to sort out for themselves what stories work and which ones don’t. I’m also grateful for a church community where they are given a variety of stories and the space to bring their questions–a place to know that the truth is out there, as well as in here, and that finding it will be their life’s work.  Or not.

So, here’s my vow: to talk to them more about God, about what I believe and why. Hearing my views on God won’t interfere with their search for truth and meaning nearly as much as for them to encounter other people’s views as the only legitimate sources of God talk.

Still, if I’m struck by lightning in the coming days, feel free to instruct my children otherwise.

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About TinaLBPorter

I write poetry and blog at www.tinalbporter.com. And I'm thrilled to be writing with you.
This entry was posted in Parenting, Unitarian Universalism, Weird Family Stuff. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Missed Opportunities: Talking about God

  1. Pingback: God will show up « uuMomma

  2. Brian says:

    I can only say this: If you don’t believe in God, you had better be right.

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  3. uuMomma says:

    Nylon: doh!! That’s fabulous.

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  4. nylonthread says:

    Here’s a funny one: my 4yr-old was talking about what God looked like, “long white beard, deep voice, white robes” and I started to feel horrified, wondering if her daycare teachers were teaching the children about God. So, I asked, “and does God live up in the sky?” She answered, “No, Mommy! (you idiot!) Homer’s sky!” Meaning, she was talking about God as depicted by the creators of “The Simpsons.” Doh!

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  5. mskitty says:

    I love hearing about your kids! I think it’s really normal for UU kids to go through a God-denying period. It’s part of exercising their right to think for themselves and not believing in God gives them a certain independence of thought that makes an impression on people. Many times, their thinking broadens their definition of God so that their beliefs change. One thing it says is that a kid is feeling strong enough to challenge accepted beliefs. That’s good!

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  6. uuMomma says:

    Hey! to all of you. Thanks so much for all your wonderful comments–makes me feel like I’m back in the saddle.

    Jerry! How the heck are you … and how did you find me here? Thanks for missing me!

    t

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  7. Jerry in Lowell says:

    I don’t have children, although I do have a Godchild. I always assumed that my role was to be available to him to discuss this God thing and all the other hoo ha that surrounds it. But he never asks. I have expperienced too much magic within the mundane to NOT believe in a power greater than us all. Knowing God is the goal of many lifetimes, so it should also be with the current one we have. But to deny the existance of anything that you can’t see, hear, taste smell or touch is perhaps the very meaning of ‘ a lack of faith’. And it also is a bit narrow of vision since our thoughts are equally nebulous. Besides, if an Einstein can believe in God, maybe you’d better think again.
    Thank you, Tina, for another nicely provocative screed. I’ve been missing you in the Gary Post-Tribune.

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  8. Mama G says:

    Great post! I have been thinking about this very idea of what/how we teach our children about God and what they could/should believe. I just saw Jesus Camp a few days ago and my mind is whirling with comments. I’ll have to blog on that myself soon. In the meantime, I really enjoyed what you had to say.

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  9. Suz says:

    I’m constantly grateful for parents like you who give their children information and the freedom to deal with it as they will.

    I didn’t have that. I was Catholic and that was that. Even today my Dad will say, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.”

    Which leads me to wonder what part of Catholicism had him at First UU to attend my Commitment Ceremony? The mind whirls. LOL!

    Great, thoughtful post. Thanks!

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  10. Michigan ME says:

    The most important thing I try to impart to my kids is that the search for truth doesn’t have to be filled with angst. It should be an awe-inspiring journey. My children often tell me what they believe and I love how it changes from month to month, year to year. It tells me they’re thinking and growing and open to possibilities. I tell them that that I hope that whatever they choose to believe (or not to believe) is their decision, but that I hope they’ll always use their UU Principles and sources as guideposts. Great blog today, as usual.

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  11. Jan says:

    Two very insightful moms here. Would that all children had the nurturing parents you both are to your children. Best wishes as you keep on keepin; on.

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  12. Kaleigh says:

    Heh.

    My son (just turned 8) dropped the bomb on us that he doesn’t believe in God. The timing makes perfect sense: this is the year that he figured out who Santa and the Easter Bunny are. His reason to not believe in God? “I can’t believe in what I can’t see.”

    We were talking about all this in the car yesterday because our forms for summer camp arrived in the mail. The kids go to camp in Michigan, at a camp that is affiliated with my parents’ Presbyterian church. And yes, the camp is definitely Christian. Not in a creepy “Jesus Camp” kind of way (at all), but in a sweet, gentle way.

    But as we read the forms and pamphlets out loud, my son did react a bit. Because the whole, “I am a child of God” theme that really worked for him last year? Made him do this face that was between a smirk and a cringe. But he still wants to go – he’s been before and he knows how much (or how little) of that will be a part of the experience.

    My daughter, ever the Gemini, simply said, “I haven’t decided what I think about God yet.” Which is fine. She certainly doesn’t have to set it all in stone yet. Or ever.

    Those car conversations are often the best. I think it’s because we can’t see their faces so they feel comfortable speaking freely.

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