August 14, 2014

Atheist Mama: Rediscovering wonder through my children's eyes


The picture above was taken about a month after my youngest son was born. The two kiddos above are examining a fat green caterpillar, a really rare find for a November afternoon.

The kids were delighted. They examined it, asked questions, laughed at its absurd form. It was wondrous.

At that point, I still counted myself as a believer, albeit a backslidden one. I wasn't in a crisis of faith, because I just didn't think about faith anymore.

In fact, I didn't think about a lot of things.

It's one of the most striking facets of examining my life before and after faith--that before, my thinking was so limited, and now? Definitely not so much.

At the time this photo was taken, when my son asked why the caterpillar looked the way that it did, I answered, "Because God made it that way." It was a simple enough answer to me, one that I had heard myself countless times.

I truly wish I had that time back. That I could go back and answer that question differently. That I could answer truthfully, "I don't know, but let's see if we can find out together."

It's one of the biggest regrets of my short parenting career, that moment right there.


But it also reinforces my shift in parenting as I separated more and more from faith over the past year. You see, one of the benefits of freeing my mind was rediscovering wonder. It was rediscovering the ability to say, "I don't know" and feel no need to fill in the gap with a theological answer.

I've rediscovered that it is okay to question. It is okay not to know. It is okay to have room to grow and learn.

My youngest child is three, nearly four now. His favorite question, like so many preschoolers, is "Why?" What I once dreaded has become a great bonding experience--although still frustrating at times (hey, I'm only human). Brandishing why back and forth is fun. Little guy will ask, and I will respond: "I don't know, why do you think?" Giggles all around.

Sometimes secular parenting is a lonely endeavor. Yesterday on Twitter, I had an exchange with two atheist mothers, in two very far off states, and both said the same thing: I don't know any other atheist mothers near me. I'm the same, although I hope to remedy that as I connect with some local freethinkers.

In that vacuum, moments like this, moments that reinforce our spirits and keep them high, are critical. In a world that is the domain of the religious, at least for now, buoying ourselves up with the small joys is critical.

There are no do-overs. This is the only life that we have.

Live well, and wonder.

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