Is it Just Me? – Blessings In Disguise

Stone ThumbnailWriter Robin Stone’s column, Is it Just Me? makes its debut at Connected Parenting today, with this piece about answering tough questions.

“Mommy, what does G-d look like?”

Six year-old Harrison and I lay in his bed watching the ceiling fan make its clockwise rotations. On another night, he had asked me why the fan didn’t move in the opposite direction. Once, he wanted to know if there was any species in which the “man animal” has the babies.

When I can’t answer Harrison’s questions from my own teeming intelligence, I tell him, “we’ll ask Google”, but there is no Googling G-d and I began to sweat a river.

“I’m not sure what G-d looks like, Harrison.”

“But, what do you THINK, Mommy?” he asked with a dash of desperation.

What did I think? G-d’s appearance was a subject that made my brain hurt. At forty-nine, I still wasn’t sure how to explain what I believed. I owed Harrison honesty, but what was I going to say? That G-d is a guy some people made up to keep us all from killing each other over a clay cup of chicken fat? Or, “Sorry, kid. You live, you die and that’s all there is.” I wanted to ensure Harrison’s spiritual comfort, but the notion of saying that G-d resembled Dumbledore, the benevolent headmaster in the Harry Potter movies, left me hotly uncomfortable.

So, I did what all conscientious parents do when they don’t know what to say: I procrastinated. “Honey, it’s sleepy-time. I promise we’ll discuss this tomorrow.”Ironically, I prayed that Harrison would forget and be off on a new topic the next night. Still, I realized that I needed to formulate an answer with which both he and I would feel comfortable. G-d required my attention.

As a little girl, I was asked to hold ten fingers up to G-d when making a promise or pledging the truth. I was terrified of lying. G-d was a “nice old man”, but I’d heard enough stories in Hebrew school to know that you didn’t want to piss Him off. After all, look what happened to Noah and Moses. Now, when I want to ensure my own kids are being honest, I simply ask them to swear on Mommy’s life. I may not have embraced all Jewish traditions, but I’ve definitely got the guilt thing going on.

My family wasn’t exactly devout, but believing in G-d was delicious soul food fed to me for as long as I can remember, and I swallowed it without chewing. Eventually, reason, world events and general adolescent skepticism led me to question most of what I’d been taught. Since I had no alternatives, I simply hid the G-d question away like a grossly over-due parking ticket. The traditions, however, continued to warm me from inside.

I’ve since come to believe in a Collective Unconscious, that humans host souls on repeating, yet different journeys, sort of like waves in the ocean. I like that we’re all in this together.

But, I also love and am envious of how little kids live in the moment. I couldn’t foist my complicated and unfinished version of G-d on my son and challenge the spirit with which he goes forth. Instead, I remembered one of the best pieces of parenting advice my mother ever gave me: when talking to young children about big issues, only impart the information they need. Don’t undermine their intelligence, but don’t poop on their parties either.

The following evening, when Harrison again asked me what I thought G-d looks like, I said, “I think G-d looks exactly like whatever you want G-d to look like.”

“Why, Mommy?” he asked, eyes electrified with anticipation.

“Because G-d wants to make you feel safe and happy, and that’s different for everyone.”

“Well, then, I think G-d looks like a tree that grows chocolates,” said Harrison.

He smiled at me, pleased. And, as he quickly moved on to his next burning question, I thought how that night, G-d looked just like Harrison’s bedroom.

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