It was during one of those long car rides to grandma and grandpa’s house. You know, the five-hour one with the pee stops, an “I think I have to poop, Mom,” stop, a coffee for mom stop, and a Happy Meal stop. When I say it felt long, I mean that heavily, very, very heavily.
So, it’s not uncommon for my 8-year-old to get unrealistically philosophical with his mother. Actually, he loves to ask me questions about things he knows I’m unsure about, just to watch me squirm. So on this specific day, it turned religious.
Religion is complicated for me. It always has been. I’m spiritual, and while that can mean so many different things for me, it’s not religious per se. And when my son decided to ask about God, again, I went blank. Or maybe I was clueless and afraid to admit it.
“Mom, was God a human on this earth? Like, was he here?” he pointed to where he was sitting. “Or over there?” he asked, pointing to a field. “How did he die? Where did he go? Was he always invisible, or just invisible now?”
Oh, perfect, I thought. This is one of those pivotal, crucial moments in his childhood where he will remember exactly what I say. He’ll use it against me in therapy years down the road and describe the intellect of his mother as “lacking in prominent areas such as religion and politics.”
“Well,” I began. “That’s a tough one. You see, I think Jesus was human. Wait, is that right? Hold on. I can pull over and Google this. This feels important to you. Is this important to you? You look confused. Am I confusing you? Oh God. I mean gosh. Sorry, I hope I didn’t offend you.”
It was a shit-storm—like, my toddler literally told us at that moment he had to poop. And as I stood in the Porta Potty sitting beside a California gas station, my toddler made me stand in the corner of the shit box so he could concentrate. Well, I was concentrating, too.
How the hell was I going to get out of this, or into this, and get it right? I was going to have to cave and confess the truth: that Mommy didn’t grow up in the church, and when I did attend, I was focused on what I was going to order at Denny’s afterward, therefore not paying attention in the least. No one who was a constant in my everyday life practiced anything involving God, or Jesus, or any of it. I didn’t want to demean his process or mock how seriously he might be taking this, so I was kind of freaking out. By the time my toddler had finished his business, I was ready to confess it all.
I walked my youngest back to the car and opened the door. My 8-year-old’s eyes locked with mine, and as I opened my mouth to speak, he let out, “Mom, can you just buy me that thing you were telling me about? That Bible thing?”
Oh my gosh. I had completely forgotten I mentioned the Bible during the last conversation I screwed up about God. I’m brilliant! And he’s even more brilliant for remembering.
“Yes!” I squealed. “What a fantastic idea! I’ll totally get you a Bible!”
“Okay, like, today. I want it today,” he said.
“Well, I can’t get you one today, but I can definitely get you one soon, like in two days, soon.”
“Oh, you’re going to order it off Amazon, aren’t you?”
When I say my son has my number, I mean, he can read my mind.
So, when we got home from our weekend trip to the grandparents’ house, the first thing I did was order him a children’s Bible. I was literally as giddy with excitement as he was as he sat next to me and looked through the options. We found one with great ratings and scrolled through pictures in the book and the stories inside. He was so taken by the illustrations and the titles of the stories, that it made me realize something.
I’ve always wished my family had been able to answer all of my questions about God and life and so on while I was a kid. I wish someone would have found a way to explain it to me if they couldn’t find the words. I wish someone would have jumped at the opportunity to fill me up with knowledge when I was seeking it, and not discount it or demean it, or lay their jaded opinions all over it.
So it made sense as to why I was so eager to get this book under his eyes. This wasn’t the first time he had asked about God, and after realizing it wasn’t a fluke, I began to fantasize about where it could take him. Maybe he’ll want to educate me on the stories. Maybe he’ll want to begin going to church, or give back in the church, or become a pastor one day.
Just because I’m not religious, by no means do I want to hinder my children from exploring their spirituality and faith. I want nothing more than for them to become who they truly are to the fullest, and if that means nurturing every process of exploration, then let’s do this! I don’t care what this turns into, as long as it’s his choice.
I love how curious my kids are. I love their yearnings for information. And I’ll always be the one in their lives who listens to those little requests, because they’re actually the big requests. You know, the ones that change lives.