"Can we say a prayer before lunch?"
My pre-schooler threw that out at me as we were about to dig into our tacos at Chipotle a few weeks ago and, wow, did I have a flashback to my Bible Belt upbringing. "Go for it," I told her and she proceeded to say a few words in Hebrew that sounded vaguely familiar as we tend to celebrate every Jewish and Christian holiday (some more vigorously than others) in our home. Then we ate.
Ever since my girl started her new school that's part of a temple where my family is now members, the God stuff has been a constant topic of conversation. Yet every time she brings it up, I'm caught off guard.
I'm not religious, but was raised in both Methodist and Presbyterian churches, with plenty of visits to my stepfather's and best friend's Catholic church camp/Saturday night mass. My husband is Jewish, but identifies more culturally, and also questions religion.
I'm not anti-anything, but I'm just not sure any one religion really has it figured out, so I have a fear of commitment. And clearly, a lack of faith when it seems like choosing a religion means dismissing all others. I'm not okay with the school of thought that says, "I am right, and you are wrong."
My daughter, however, delights in telling anyone who will listen, "There's only one God."
Right now, I'm biting my tongue as my daughter proselytizes to the kid behind the counter at Pinkberry. For the most part I agree with the Judeo-Christian values. I also happen to think Jesus was a pretty rad dude, and we should follow his teachings, which are all-inclusive -- never hate-filled, never discriminative. (I do get tripped up on the whole messiah thing, admittedly.) But too many religions get stuck in the one path to heaven/enlightenment/nirvana, with way too much weight on being the opposite of something else, and therefore the only true religion. That's where the hate comes in, and I will not align myself with any religion that is anti. Unfortunately, you can find radicals in every religion, which makes me shy away from identifying at all.
These thoughts are way too intense for a 4 1/2-year-old who just wants to sing the Shabbat song and touch the Torah.
So I'm agreeing with her when she says, "God made the trees," and redirecting her when she also declares God the maker of her Snow White DVD. I talk about the positive elements of God and her newfound beliefs and stuff my conflicted feelings.
I don't know if this is right. I just know that I love my daughter's new school almost as much as she does. I also know the community of people we've been thrown into is truly a blessing as we settle in to a new city. Not knowing how religious, or not, they all are makes me assume we're in a like-minded group, focused on our children's educations and development. I can see our kids being friends for a very long time, growing up together and attending each other's Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (although I'm still pretty sure my kids won't be going that route).
It's a comfort, this new religious community. Not only for my daughter who is obsessed with making challah every Friday morning, but her parents who get to enjoy the fruits of her labor. Who knows what she'll be into by the time she's old enough to grasp the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, the hatred of the so-called men of God who claim that "God Hates Fags," or the complexities of Israel and Palestine. For now religion is for my daughter what it is for many: a safe place to gather with friends.
What do you tell your children about God?
Image via kevindooley/Flickr