Thursday, March 28, 2013


Did you hear the one about what the child of two atheists said the week before Thanksgiving?

“At school we had to say what we were thankful for and I said god.”
 “Um. What?”
“ I said god.”
“Did other kids say that first and that’s why you said it?”
“No. Just me.”
“Really? What made you say that?”
“I don’t know. What’s god mean?”

“E, if you don’t know what it means, why would you say that’s what your thankful for?” I asked.
“I don’t know, I’m just thankful for god.”
“But you don’t even know what it means! Why would you say you’re thankful for it?”
“I don’t know.” And he got quiet, and I knew my husband thought I was overreacting and he chimed in, “He can be thankful for whatever he wants to be thankful for.”

Of course he’s right, E can say whatever he wants and I honestly don’t mind my kids wondering about god. I really just couldn’t fathom why he’d say he was thankful for something if he didn’t know what it was.

He piped up from the backseat, “I’m thankful for the workers that came up from Carolina to get our power back on after the hurricane.”

“There you go, buddy.”
I liked that one better; it was something concrete and after 8 days without power I know he was truly thankful for it. I thought that was a weird conversation and was over with.

On Thanksgiving Day I had the video camera out and asked each kid what he or she was thankful for. Z made my heart melt when he said, “I’m thankful that Great Grandma is okay after the hurricane.” Sweetness. “E, how about you?” He looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’m thankful for god.”

Alright little man, clearly you are interested in god right now. If those two hints weren’t enough, saying “Maybe we can go there!” when we drove past a local church really got your message across. Lucky for you I happen to know the Reverend at the local Unitarian Universalist church. I emailed him to tell him he might be seeing me on a Sunday soon. He told me that the Holiday Pageant was coming up and I thought that would be the perfect time to take my curious six year old to church. Bob warned, “but it’s more animals and angels than God and Jesus.” I told him that’s the best this kid was going to get out of his atheist mama.

The Sunday of the pageant approached and so I asked E if he’d like to go to church soon.
“Grandma’s church??!!” he asked excitedly.
“No. A different church.”
“Oh. I like Grandma’s church.”

Grandma's church? But he'd only been there in the summer when . . . hey, wait a minute . . . .

"E, you do realize that the carnival is not at Grandma’s church all the time right, it’s only there for a few days in the summer?”
His face fell. “Oh. Okay.”
“WAIT A MINUTE. Do you only want to go to church because you think it’s a CARNIVAL all the time?”
“Yea---no! No. ha ha. No.”
Oh-kay. I guess I can stop feeling guilty about this since the kid actually craves cotton candy more than a deity. Nonetheless, I told him we were going to go to the UU church for the pageant. I gave the rest of my family the option of going.

12-year-old B, “Sounds interesting! But no thanks.”
10-year-old G, “No.”
4-year-old Z, “Is E going? Okay”
38-year-old husband: “I’m going to go to Lowe’s. You take the 2-year-old terror.”

So off we went. I’d been to a service at the old stone church before but my youngest three hadn’t. Just as I experienced last time, every congregant was extremely welcoming. We settled into our row right before the pageant started.

The pageant itself was lovely. Church members told the stories of ancient Druid Solstice celebrations, the first Hanukah and the first Christmas while incorporating a story of a little girl getting a new sister adopted from Africa (as an transracially adoptive family I especially appreciated this tidbit).

The boys did well, even going up with the other children to sit near the altar for parts of the show. The 2-year-old, not so much. She lost her toy phone, sent beads flying when she tugged at and broke my bracelet and then insisted on fake nursing*. Gosh, is she ever charming.

In spite of the shenanigans I managed to enjoy singing along with a number of songs from the church choir days of my youth.  Afterwards everyone was invited to coffee hour and my children’s eyes grew wide at the table of food offered. We chatted and played before heading home.

When I told my husband about it, he murmured, “Great, now they’re going to think church is always a play and then food.”

Seeing as before they thought church was always a carnival with rides and prizes, this might be a step in the right direction.

* About the fake-nursing: Late last spring she noticed our friend nursing and got her face right in the action and demanded to know what was going on. We told her the baby was getting Mommy Milk and henceforth an obsession was born. As an ardent supporter of breastfeeding, I wish I could have nursed her but since she came to me as a foster baby that we later adopted, it wasn’t in the cards. My heart ached over the lost breastfeeding bond with her so when she wanted to try it later, I let her give a suckle. Nothing came out and she was left perplexed at the talk of Mommy Milk. However, when she randomly decided to try again a few months later by pulling my bathing suit top down at a crowded pool, I knew we had to put some rules in place. I explained to her I had no milk left but that if she wanted to pretend she could suck on my chest. Now it’s an occasional method of comfort to her. Naturally she wanted to try at the church that day.

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