How do I explain God to my toddler? I hadn’t thought of that…

Rory Looks Out the Window Krysteena Marie Design

At sixteen months, Rory isn’t exactly pondering the wonders and origins of the universe. But recently my mom asked me how I would approach the idea of God when the time comes, and I realized I hadn’t really thought about it. You see, I was raised in a Christian household. As children, we said our prayers before bed, and asked blessings before dinner. We put our Nativity up each Christmas (my brother and I fought over who got to carry baby Jesus to the manger), and went to the occasional church service. But we were never strictly observant. Faith was a given, a mostly unspoken and always unquestioned member of our family. But as I grew older I found myself drifting further from faith, and drifting into what I considered a loose spirituality and today can’t say that I consider myself religious in any sense of the word.

My extended family, however is still religious, ranging from loosely observant to attending service every Sunday. Since I believe that faith is a deeply personal choice (and mostly because I don’t want to break the hearts of those closest to me), I tend to avoid the topic if it comes up at family gatherings. But the day will come when the subject of God is introduced to Rory by someone other than myself. Mom wanted to know how I feel about that, and how I would answer any questions Rory may come to me with.

Since religion isn’t exactly on my front burner most days, I’d never thought much about it. I know we’d love to introduce her to different ideas of God, from mythos to modern religion- to explain to her that while some believe in the God of Abraham, others believe in another, or in many gods, and that others believe in no god at all. “Of course,” Mom replies, “at that point she will ask what you believe. What will you say then?”

After some thought, (since that possible scenario hadn’t yet occurred to me) I was surprised to realize I *do* know what I want to say when she asks. I want to tell her that I believe it’s up to us to be good to each other and to love one another and take care of each other …not because a book tells us we should, or because we’ll go someplace scary if we don’t, but because it makes us feel good, and it makes things better for everyone. (Here we’d discuss the birthday gift she made for Daddy and how happy he was to receive it and how that made her feel… or some similar example). There are lots of things in this world that I don’t understand and we can’t explain, but the love all around us and between us is real and makes our world a better place to live. But if someone believes different from you that doesn’t mean that they are wrong or that you are wrong. People have fought with each other for a very long time over who is right, but we all have to find our way and read and learn and experience our world and decide what is best for us. And whether somebody is Christian, or Hindu, or Muslim, or Jewish, or believes something else, or in nothing at all, we can still love them because of who they are, not because of how they think.

So… I suppose that’s what I’d like to tell her. And maybe someday when the time comes I’ll remember. Or I’ll say,”Hang on a second, while I pull up this old blog post I wrote when your Grammy asked me that very question”. But for now, I think I’ll just continue to watch her finger paint, and clean up the blue and green foot prints trekked across my living room floor.  🙂

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One thought on “How do I explain God to my toddler? I hadn’t thought of that…

  1. kkriss says:

    Thanks for this. It has been on my mind now and then because my daughter has asked after her Catholic school cousins talked about Jesus and my mom talked about death. I’m much like you and for now I’ve just said people believe different things and that’s a good thing, but have left it there until she’s ready to learn more. I like your idea of how caring for others makes us happy. I may seek out some comparative religion books for her eventually to help introduce many of them. My hope is to give her the knowledge and love to find her own belief, whatever it may be – as long as it is something she comes to on her own educated terms, not because someone scared her into it.

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