Sawyer wanted to know when the Easter Bunny was coming to our house.
This was a sticky one.
David tried to tell him he won't come because he's afraid of the dogs.
"But he comes at night. The dogs will be sleeping," Sawyer pointed out.
Got him on that one.
And so it was left to me to explain what Easter is and why we don't celebrate it. I mean, we'll take the kids to the town's Spring Fling that includes an Easter Egg hunt. But they won't wake up Easter morning to find a basket full of chocolate and jelly beans and peeps.
I figured I'd first better start with Christmas. See, we have a tree and we exchange gifts. My kids believe in Santa and Rudolph and elves.
But they don't believe in Jesus.
"Who's Jesus?" Sage asked me today.
Yes, I had managed to do Christmas without explaining what it means. I'm Jewish by birth and tradition. We've lit the menorah at Chanukah the past few years and this week the kids attended their first Passover Seder.
My husband is vaguely Christian. Which is to say he doesn't go to church. But he believes in G-d or a higher power, and, like me, is not a fan of organized religion.
When I was a child my parents allowed us to hang up stockings. We had no tree, but I fervently believed in Santa Claus and would perch on my bed Christmas Eve, gazing out the window in search of a shiny red light amid the stars.
Maybe they didn't want us to feel left out. When you grow up in a largely Catholic area, it's tough to understand why you're the only one not participating.
I think that's part of why we do a secular Christmas, even though that's an oxymoron. It's tradition for my husband. The gifts and candy canes and picking out a tree is fun for the kids. And there is my affinity for shiny things. Like sparkling lights and ornaments.
So today I started the Easter convo by telling the kids that Christmas is to celebrate the birth of a man named Jesus who lived a long time ago. Then he died, and on Easter, he came back to life.
"Like Michael Jackson," Sage said.
Okay. Not so much. The idea of resurrection is a slippery slope for a child, because then they will start asking if Grandpa is coming back. Or Michael Jackson.
"Well," I told them, trying again. "Some people believe that Jesus died and then was resurrected, or kind of came back to life. They are called Christians because his name was Jesus Christ. Now, Mommy believes he was alive. But I don't believe he came back to life. And that's why we don't celebrate Easter."
By this point, I had no idea if I was making sense. I was trying to make it as simplistic as possible (so yes, I'm aware that Christ wasn't his last name, but I didn't want to get into the whole Christians believe he was the Messiah and Jews don't. That discussion is for another day).
Luckily lunch was ready and their attention became focused on turkey sandwiches and carrots.
A few weeks ago, a game of Legos with the neighbor boys devolved into an argument about G-d. The boys said G-d was there, in the garage. Sawyer countered with "No he isn't. He's dead. MOM! Who's G-d?"
I'd been putting off talking to my kids about G-d. I struggle because I feel it's hypocritical to instruct them to believe in a G-d I'm not sure exists. Children are so black and white, you know? If you tell them something, they take it as truth. Now, I don't have a problem with Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy or even the Easter Bunny. To me, that's part of the magic of childhood.
So what did I tell Sawyer? At the time, I said we'd talk about it later with Daddy. It took a couple days, but he cornered us in the car coming home from the beach.
I explained that G-d is a spirit, not a person. That He is like the wind: you can't see it, but you know it's there by the way the leaves move. Some people like to talk to Him if they are feeling scared or lonely and it makes them feel better, and lots of people believe He created the world and everything in it.
"Is G-d real?" Sawyer asked.
"That's for you to decide," I told him.
Thing is, even though I am ambivalent about His existence, I do not want to close off the possibility for my kids. If G-d is something they feel will help them in their life at some point, then I'm all for it. I don't want their beliefs to be entirely colored by my thoughts. I have struggled with this a lot, wondering if I'm doing a disservice to my kids by not raising them in a particular religion or with a strong faith - or any faith - in G-d.
I think growing up in a religion is easier than not. There are rules. Guidelines. Books and television shows and games. And churches or temples that help. Maybe you sing songs with your toddler about Jesus, or whisper into your baby's ear about what a blessing from G-d he is so it's always a part of them.
Living in Orange County is tough when it comes to this stuff. We have Saddleback Church with Pastor Rick Warren right down the street. We didn't have Evangicals where I grew up back East; religion was a private thing and nobody really talked about it. Out here, every other SUV or minivan at the pickup line at school has a windshield sticker advertising Warren's Easter Sunday service at Anaheim Stadium.
I don't believe you need religion or belief in G-d to be a good person. There's been too much destruction in the name of it (see Bin Laden, Osama or perhaps Crusades, The). I have a tough time getting behind a G-d who would allow such suffering, especially of children.
You do need a loving family or mentor to guide you as to what is right and wrong. You teach your kids to be strong, kind, caring and accepting of others, not because they're trying to please G-d, but because it's the right thing to do as a human being.
That's what we're all trying to do, as parents. Whether we go to a church, temple or mosque. Whether or not we believe in a greater power, or if we find inspiration in the beauty of nature or in the miracle of children.
I am still on my own journey to find faith. And it weighs on me, how to set the right path for my kids.
It weighs on me.
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