Tuesday, May 28, 2013

parenting without religion-part one-prayer

We sleep in on Sundays. We don’t do nighttime prayers and the one time I braved a Sunday Easter service for the sake of the egg hunt afterwards, my four year old blurted out “Is that God!?!?” in reference to the Asian pastor approaching the stage. To avoid further offense to the entire congegration, I put my finger up to my lips and politely hushed him.

Maybe. Nobody really knows. That’s what I really wanted to say.  

I am raising my kids in a house free of religion, but not free of values. I have always wondered why people seem to think the two go hand in hand.

I am teaching humility, graciousness, charity, and empathy to my sons. I just prefer experience to the bible as my teaching tool. Do we really need a commandment to know that murder is bad?

I don’t think religion is bad, but it’s not for me.

I'll let my boys decide if it is for them.

Part of fostering that kind of open mindedness and free thinking is by exposing them to religions and non religious beliefs and by not telling them what exactly it is I believe.

Eldon believes in God and heaven. I don't. He also believes in Santa and I encourage that too.

While I don't agree with many most aspects of the bible (sexual purity, homosexuals, a woman's role, just to name a few) I do appreciate it for a few others. Believing in things you can't see, loving another person more than you love yourself, helping others when they need it, helping others even when YOU need it. The grand scheme lessons that seem to get lost in today's politically tailored religion.

So, we tailor those things to our own lifestyle. Things like prayer. Obviously, I don't pray but I do like the thought of bedtime prayers for children. I like that it causes them to think of other people and helps them to realize that there are things out there that we can't control. I think that there is no better way to end the day than with a quiet moment to think about your hopes for the world and your personal wishes.

Whether or not we cast those hopes up to God or just profess them out loud, I want my children to have hopes.

So, we made a wish jar. Every night before bed, we write down what we wish for and what we're thankful for (some may call it a prayer) and put it in the jar. Not all wishes are granted (much like how not all prayers are answered the way we want them to be) and that's an important lesson too. When things don't go the way we hoped, we change course and revise our wishes.

I once wished for a healthy baby. He isn't. Now, I wish for a successful surgery and a baby who can be active as he grows.

I have a friend who is raising her children in a Christian home. She once told me that whenever they hear sirens or pull over to let an ambulance pass, her family stops to pray for whoever is waiting for the help to arrive. Beautiful lady with lovely children. I love that she is teaching them to think about strangers and wish for their health and safety.

I LOVED her idea...but we don't pray.

Instead, we send love. We act it out and everything. Much like mommy's kisses to knee scrapes, positive thoughts and floating hugs are a comfort to strangers in need. At least, that's what I tell my son.

Here is the rundown of what we do. Sorta cheesy, but cheesy is inevitable when you spend the day talking to wee ones.

First, we cross our arms across our chests. We squeeze as tight as we can and then we carefully put it in to a balloon alongside thoughts of warmth, light, love, and comfort. We blow up the ballon, (yep, still acting this out...driver's side stoplight style) tie it off, and let go to send the hug up into the air.

It floats allllll the way to the people who need it and when it gets there, they can't see it coming, but suddenly- it pops right over top of them and showers them with all the happy thoughts we placed in the balloon.

"do you think they felt it, mom?"

"yes. I know they did."

We no longer only use this method in the car. We use it whenever and wherever we hear of people suffering. (We sent lots to Boston and more to Oklahoma.)

I have good kids. Maybe not good "Christian" kids, but they are good. I am a good mom and my kids are not lacking because they lack religion.

I field alot of questions about how I teach values without the help of God and how I would feel about my kids believing in things that I don't, so this was part one. I have much more to say about parenting without religion. Stay tuned.


  1. Love it. It reminds me of Christopher Hitchens' famous challenge to name one moral act committed by a religious person that could not have been committed by an unbeliever. Hint: you can't. Religion doesn't own good will.