Saturday, September 19, 2020

Conversations with my preschooler: God

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that today I was going to post Wes' birth story. Yep, we had that baby. He was born in April, right in the early days of the pandemic, and I spent 2.5 months typing up the whole thing in way too much detail. I typed in the little scraps of time I had when my brain and fingers were both available, here and there, in stolen moments. For two. and. a. half. months. And tonight, somehow, I accidentally deleted the whole thing. I don't know how. But that's why his birth story isn't up yet. He's 5 months old. I'll start over and I'll write and publish it, hopefully soon, but it's going to take me a minute to sit with the loss of that piece I'd written before I'm ready to rewrite it.

However, I would like to share (for those of you not following me on Twitter), an enlightening conversation I had with Margie today. She just turned four, and we have some really interesting chats these days. I tweeted it, and you can view the original thread here if you like.
This morning, my 4yo wanted to talk about Passover (because it’s Rosh Hashanah, so she’s thinking about Jewish holidays, I suppose). And she LOVES the Passover story. She has such a greater understanding and more interesting questions than she did last Passover, only 5mo ago.

For example, she wanted to know HOW Moses talked to god if he couldn’t see him. And where is god and who is god, etc. The classic intro to religion stuff. We are not a religious family, and I believe in choice, so I told her that everyone can believe different things.

I explained that Moses could hear what he believed was god’s voice. “Like Elsa can hear the spirits!” Exactly. And that we don’t know for sure where god lives, but some people believe he lives up in the clouds. “Like Mary Poppins!” Yup.

And that some people believe that god isn’t real, and that the world can be explained with science. And some people believe there are many gods. Some believe god is a man, some believe god is a woman. And some people believe in a combination of things.

She was thoughtful for a while and said, “well I believe that god is real and lives in the clouds like Mary Poppins, but I ALSO believe that god is pretend because I never seen him before. I think he is real AND pretend.” My little skeptic.

She asked what I believe, and I was honest. I don’t believe there is a god living up in the clouds, but I do believe there are magical mysteries in the universe that we don’t always understand with science. And that I am ok with just not knowing the answer.

I asked what she thinks god looks like, what she was imagining when she is thinking about him right now. She thought for a minute and said, “I think god is blue, like a will o the wisp, because they are spirits and god is a spirit.” Logic checks out!

She also thinks that Moses looked like Elsa because he could hear a spirit too. I think she’s a little freaked about the idea of god, like she is with Santa. Interested in learning and talking but doesn’t want him coming anywhere near her. It’s fun to have these conversations!

She is so thoughtful and creative, I love hearing how her brain is turning these things over and mixing them up and around with the Disney stories she loves so much. We talked about the Passover story again. She likes hearing about the matzah and Pharaoh and the plagues.

She was curious about the death of the firstborn (I don’t think we’d talked about that one before but I figured she could handle it now). “Why Pharaoh didn’t want to die though? Everybody dies.” I said he didn’t want to die just yet, he has a lot of living he wanted to do still.

She also likes the part about the Red Sea, where the water splits apart so the Jewish people can walk across the bottom (“like Moana when she gives the heart back to Te’Fiti!”). We talked about traditions (“like Anna and Elsa in Olaf’s Frozen Adventure!”) and prayers.

We talked about how singing the prayers is a way to remember the traditions and say thanks, even if we don’t believe we are actually talking to god. And that it’s ok for people to believe different things about god.

“But people think that god lives up in the clouds?! That is ridiculous! That’s where MARY POPPINS lives hahahahaha!!!!” She’s still not sure what she believes. She’s 4. But we talked about not laughing at people who believe something that we don’t.

And I love that she believes that god is “both real and pretend” - that is such classic 4 year old logic and I just love it. It’s like how her dolls and stuffies and puppets are somewhere between real and pretend. Make believe at this age is so wonderful.

It’s fun to be able to share stories from the Torah, talk about the holidays, tell traditional tales of our ancestors, with this hybrid context that she innately understands. That some of it is real and some of it is pretend and it’s ok if that line is a bit fuzzy.

Now she wants to watch the Rugrats Passover special and talk about god some more. Sounds like as good a way as any to spend the morning of the new year. The apple cake I made (@smittenkitchen recipe) should go nicely with it.

Anyway, Shana Tova. Happy new year. May the memories of those we’ve loved and lost be blessings, and may we channel the strength of our ancestors to build a better future for our children.

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