Soon they’ll know Santa’s not real.

public domain Santa

My eldest child’s teacher sends weekly emails to the class to keep us up-to-date on what is going on in the classroom. The most recent email included a section headed “What to do if your child hears that others don’t believe in Santa” as the class is learning the story of St. Nicolas (a very real man) and there has been talk of Santa.

What to do if your child hears that others don’t believe  in Santa?
     If your child has older siblings he or she might hear them say that they don’t believe in Santa anymore. Then your child comes to you and asks you if Santa is real. What can you do?
     First of all,  have a talk with your older child. Remind them of when they were young and how Santa  was real for them. Ask them to be the “keeper of the magic” and not discount the imagination of the younger child….
Secondly, this is a teaching moment for tolerance. When your young one tells you that his or her friend said that there is no Santa you can share how  people believe in different things and celebrate holidays in different ways. Share that  “in our family we…. believe in Santa but in other families they may not and that is okay…. This phrase…”in our family we…” will become your mantra in the years to come. So many things come up where families do things in different ways. We can’t change others. We must show tolerance of other people’s  believes and journeys but still hold on  to what we want for our own  family.

This morning in the car I brought up Santa – how some children believe in him, and how in our family we know Santa is a story. The children were in full agreement – we’ve never really pushed the Santa myth, one of the grandmothers tried briefly, but it never really stuck. Silly grandma, Santa is a story.

In the car this afternoon the little one piped up:

Kid2: Everyone in my class believes in Santa, except me. I know Santa’s not real.

Me: Did you tell your friends Santa is not real?

Kid2: No. They all believe in Santa.

Kid2 then got quiet, and didn’t say much more.

I decided to use some of the teacher’s suggested language. Me: It is okay for them to believe in Santa, people believe a lot of different things, and … at this point Kid2 interrupted me, and in a super-sweet kindergarten voice, informed me:

Kid2: Soon they’ll know Santa’s not real.

I’m not sure what to say to that. I think we may have to have a conversation with the teacher.

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Mommy, what is church?

We were driving somewhere and Kid1 spoke up from the backseat: “Mommy, what is church?”

While I’ve done a lot of reading (see relevant book list below) on how to talk to the children about religious issues, I still felt caught off guard by the question. They like to ask these questions in the car when I can’t escape or easily change the topic — last time it was “how many gods do we have?

Kid1 continued “Grandma goes to church.”

Yes, I acknowledged, both grandmas, and other extended family, go to church. I left out that they go to Christian Science churches, “church” can be generic for now.

“Why do people go to church?” Kid1 was not going to let this drop. “We don’t go to church.”

“No-oh-o,” Kid2 agreed. “We no go to church. No.”

The questions hung in the car. The children were silent, waiting for answers.

A church is a group of people who gather together, usually on Sunday mornings, to hear a lecture about their perspectives on god. I started.

“Do you believe in god?” asked Kid1. “Why do people go to church?”

“No god!” piped up Kid2 from the backseat.

No, I continued. I do not believe in a god… People go to church for a number of reasons, often is is because the are seeking community with people who share the same views as themselves. 

“Why don’t we go to church?” asked Kid1.

We enjoy doing other things on Sunday morning, I replied,  and we find our sense of community elsewhere. 

This seemed to satisfy them.

“No church,” Kid2 said.

Kid1 agreed.


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Straightforward & Honest

When I clicked on When A Mother Decides To Stop Cancer Treatment And Face Death I was not prepared for the onslaught of feels I was overcome with. It was another vaguely interesting article on my Facebook feed, and then a few paragraphs in I was hit with all the feels.

“We’ve always been straightforward and honest,” Lum said during an extensive interview in June. The kids “get the facts and the truth and it’s not ‘Mommy has a tummy ache.’ No, ‘Mommy has cancer.’ “

Straightforward and honest are not words I would ever use to describe Christian Science.

Using Christian Science logic, acknowledging that “mommy has cancer” would only empower mortal mind, and make the “issue” harder to overcome. Actually, you’d never get that far, because cancer would be a diagnosis, which would require going to a doctor (see all the other posts on this topic).

Christian Science wouldn’t even say “mommy has a tummy ache.” “Mommy” would be “resting” or “working with the books” or something even more vague. “Mommy” would be working to overcome something – including fear of the unknown and worst-case scenarios. In Christian Science, “Mommy” is expected to overcome or it is failure on her part.

Our society does a poor job handling the issue of death, and Christian Science adds horrible layers of shame and secrecy. I was reminded of Lucia Greenhouse’s book fathermothergod, which

touches on some of the elephants in the Christian Scientists living room: secrecy surrounding illness, the idea that Christian Science must be protected (from what, I’m still not sure), the tremendously large abstract concepts that young children are expected to understand and demonstrate. Mortal mind, error, protective work….

Reading about Greenhouse’s mother’s health challenges difficult, as was the family drama that played out around it. The line between respecting decisions — even when you disagree with them — and stepping in to intervene is a very fine. Regardless what you choose to do, you will be criticized by someone for your actions.

We are trying to be straightforward and honest with our children about medical issues, but it is difficult. When the eldest child asks “why can’t [still in CS family member] join us at the beach or keep up with us on a [moderate] hike?” we walk the fine line of respecting the family member’s choice and being honest with the child. They’re “not feeling well” (which is true), or they’re “not as young as they used to be” (also true).

My fellow former-CS and I have watched family members secretly succumb to illnesses, only seeking medical care and sharing diagnosis days before their deaths. We have watched them struggle with “situations” that, if they had been diagnosed or treated by modern medicine, could have been resolved, or mitigated. We have offered support as they refused to seek diagnosis, much less treatment. While this is their choice, and it is within their rights to do, the results are often horrible and frustrating.

For the Christian Scientists reading this (if there are any), please be honest with yourself, if a healing isn’t forthcoming, seek medical treatment. Please don’t isolate yourselves in your darkened bedrooms with your  periodicals and books. Please be honest with yourselves and your children, they want to know, they want to help.


“how many gods do we have mommy?”

The other day, on our drive home, my eldest spoke up about his day:

Eldest: We went and saw the -th-grade play today. It was about a blue god with a big beard.

Me: Do you know which god it was?

Eldest: No. I only saw it once. (pause for a second or two) How many god’s are there mommy?

Me: It really depends on which religion you follow. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have one god. The ancient Greeks and Romans had many. Different religious traditions have different views of god and gods.

Eldest: How many gods do we have?

Me: How many would you like?

The little one, who has been listening to this, pipes up: ZERO!

Eldest: One. The blue one with the big beard.

Little one continues to chant: ZERO!

Me: That’s fine, you can have one, or none, or as many as you like.

The eldest seemed okay with this answer. The little one seemed pleased too. Then they started talking about farts. Because, farts.

How do you handle these questions?

In the Beginning

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


A few times a year our Sunday School teacher would sit us down and have us open our Bibles to Genesis and we would read two accounts of the creation of man, starting with Genesis 1:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  Genesis 1 KJV edition, emphasis mine

Genesis 1 was the correct story of man’s creation, Genesis 2 being the myth where man was made from mud and woman from man’s rib. In Christian Science Adam never awoke from his “dream” (when God put him under to make Eve), and that is why we perceive there to be in and suffering in the world.

I never got an answer on why God didn’t wake Adam up (so much easier to blame a talking snake and a woman), and I never got a firm answer on anyone in Christian Science about what I learned (or didn’t learn) in school about biology, evolution or creation science. I was allowed to drift and be influenced by a local Christian Radio station that regularly talked about the Grand Canyon as being evidence of Noah’s flood. I’ve since become pickier about my scientific sources, and more curious about other traditions’ creation mythologies.

As part of my goals to introduce my children to other religious and mythological traditions in a non-indoctrional way came across In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Barry Moser.

I’ve started reading some of these stories with the children and we’ve been talking about them.

The first story we read was The Pea-Pod Man, Raven the Creator where man emerges out of a pea-pod and meets Raven who can transmogrify into a humanoid and make little animals, and a companion woman for man, out of clay. Death does not enter this story, but little animals (and woman) out of mud do.

We also read about Death the Creator and Quat the Creator, both stories introduce death as being caused by some sort of stupidity. In Death the Creator, it is because the God Alatangana kidnaps Death’s daughter and marries her, and Death demands one of their children.

In Quat the Creator, Quat is one of twelve brothers born from the stone-mother Quatgoro. Quat was the eldest and he made little figures out of clay and danced life into them. One of Quat’s younger brothers, Tangaro the Fool, carved little figures out of wood, danced life into them, and then lost interest and buried them, about a week later he unburied them but they were stinky and rotten, so they had to be buried again. Because of Tangaro’s actions death entered the world.

There are more wonderful stories, including (but not limited to) First Man Becomes the Devil – Ulgen the Creator, Turtle Dives to the Bottom of the Sea – Earth Starter the Creator, Spider Anase finds Something – Wulbari the Creator, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky – Divine Woman the Creator, In the Beginning – Elohim the Creator.  The Frost Giant – Imir the Creator, The Sun-God and the Dragon – God Ra the Creator, First Man, First Woman – Yahweh the Creator. 

As we read, we talk about how these ancient cultures were trying to explain everything happening around them, and answer the big questions: where did we come from, why do we die, who or what created us, what is going on in our world. We are also noticing similarities in the stories — there is a lot of mud-building and stupidity.

Some of the stories are strange and dark, which makes sense, life is strange and there are dark moments that need to be explained. Where did we come from? We emerged out of a pea-pod! We were made from earthen or little mud figures (this is a popular one). How did death enter the world? Someone was foolish and buried little wooden people. Someone was disobedient and listened to a talking snake. Someone married Death’s Daughter without his permission.

In the Beginning is a wonderful resource to explore a wide range of creation stories. I highly recommend it for children and grownups of all ages who are curious about other culture’s creation stories, and in learning how our ancestors explored the answers to life’s big questions.

The Belief Book

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


I don’t remember where I first heard about The Belief Book by David G. McAfee and Chuck Harrison, but I do remember coming across very positive things about how it explained religion to children.

 The Belief Book is a slim, 74 page paperback, aimed at “readers and thinkers of all ages, including kids and kids at heart.” The nine chapters (including introduction and conclusion) map out the path questions take to becoming religions.

People have questions! They form stories to help answer them. These stories are passed along from generation to generation and gradually they become beliefs. These beliefs are people’s creations, they create myths and gods, which go on to become religions.

I appreciate the simple, straightforward manner in which the information is presented. I also like that they define the words they are using to clarify their points, and provide examples of the way the words are used, for example on page four they define Believe, God and Religion:

Be-lieve:
verb

  1. To think a thing is true or that something is real. “Dave and Chuck believe definitions are important because they have seen many people get angry or upset because they disagree about a word’s meaning.”
  2. Trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something. “Dave and Chuck believe definitions are important and they believe in always telling the truth.

They also define words in the text, such as “logical” on page 30.

A mix of the things you’ve tried, like Brussels sprouts, and the stories you’ve heard, have led you to some beliefs that are log-i-cal. Logic is what makes sense based on the facts. Dave and Chuck think that following the evidence and looking at all things with a logical mind is the best way to get good answers to big questions!

 The Belief Book is a quick, fun, simple read, that touches on really big ideas. I will probably read it to the children at some point in the not too distant future — most likely the older one, it is still a bit advanced for the little one, and once they’re reading on their own, I’ll probably put it on their bookshelf for them to discover.

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Raising Freethinkers

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


After reading through Parenting Beyond Belief, I got my hands on the follow-up book, Raising Freethinkers. If you have children (or are thinking about having children), and you have not read these books, go do so now.

I really wish this book had been around in the 1980s when I was growing up, that my parents had read it, and acted on it. I was regularly sent the message that thinking is great, exploring other religious views is fine, questioning is wonderful, but at the end of the day Christian Science is the One True Religion (TM), and the only reason to pay attention in a science class is because you need to get good grades — because for some reason good grades are important in a world mired in the Adam Dream. I digress.

Raising Freethinkers is the follow up book to Parenting Beyond Belief, it is the “practical guide” and a gimmicky green faux-sticker boasts that it includes “more than 100 activities” (aka ways to encourage thought). It also includes pages of resources at the end of each chapter, with extensive lists and summaries of books, movies, websites, blogs, and organizations offering insight, advice, guidance, facts, and support. These alone make it worth the shelf-space.

There are nine chapters, an introduction and appendices. The chapters are done with a brief introduction followed by a Q&A style series of questions relating to the topic at hand. I found it to be a quick read, and there are little colored flags for areas I plan to go back and re-read when they relate more to situations that arise.

Chapters one and two deal with encouraging the inquiring mind, and introducing ethics, and yes, you can be ethical without God getting involved. Chapter two also discusses humanist discipline, which focuses on the “Five Es” exampleexplanation, encouragement, empathy, and engagement.

I’ve throughly tagged Chapter 3: Secular Family, Religious World which discusses the importance of religious literacy — the four main reasons are

  1. To understand the world
  2. To be empowered
  3. To make truly informed decisions
  4. To avoid the “teen epiphany”

Religious literacy is also important because they are going to have to interact with people who hold different beliefs, and I want to protect them from, not from all religion experience and information, but what the author of this chapter, Jan Devor terms “an emotional hijacking that interferes with their own reasoned decision making.” I’m going to use the resource guide and check out some of the basic-overview books on religion they recommend, because I’m not as literate on religion as I’d like to be.

Another chapter I know I will return to is Chapter 4: The Physical Self. This chapter really stood out as what was completely missing from my Christian Science upbringing. On p. 100 the question What are the basic humanist principles related to the body? The answer is about as far from the one I was given in Christian Science as possible:

  1. Health and safety come first.
  2. Our bodies are good and natural.

The author of the chapter, Amanda Metskas goes on to elaborate on these points, while my brain sits boggling at those concepts — in Christian Science accidents are unknown to God and we are always safe in God’s loving care. Man is spiritual, not material. I could pull out more CS-platitudes, but if you’ve read this blog (or were raised in Christian Science) you could probably come up with a few dozen more without too much effort.

Not needing to feel ashamed about one’s body is huge, being honest (and age-appropriate) with children about bodily functions, reproduction, etc. is important. My parents never really talked to me about sex, the over-arching message I got was my body was icky, sex was to be avoided until marriage, then submit in marriage, because if you husband isn’t happy he’ll go somewhere else. Sexual submission was not Ms. Eddy’s take on the issue, her views were differently messed up.

Chapters five and six talk about a life worth living and celebrations, while chapter seven discusses life and death. Chapter eight examines the human need for community — something we continue to strive for, and chapter nine is a “grab bag” of ideas that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else.

I highly recommend both Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers for anyone who is raising or interacting with children on a regular basis. We should focus on educating our children so they can make their own decisions, not indoctrinating them.