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Jane Roper

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Jane Roper is the author of the memoir Double Time: How I Survived–and Mostly Thrived–Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins and blogger at Her writing has appeared on Babble, Salon, The Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and the upcoming anthology The Push: Birth Stories for the 21st Century. Jane lives in the Boston area with her husband and twin daughters.

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Jesus is just alright with them

By Jane Roper |

My daughters are obsessed with Jesus.

This is very strange given that we’re not Christian, and neither Alastair nor I bring Jesus up on a regular basis. We go to a Unitarian Universalist church, but in spite of the word “church,” it’s definitely NOT a Christian institution as such. There are Buddhists, Jews, atheists and “recovering Catholics” (their words, not mine) in the congregation, and most members would say that Jesus was a great teacher with a lot of excellent things to say about how people should act and treat each other. But the Son of God? Not so much. Sure, his name comes up from time to time in services, and occasionally in the stories the kids listen to in the Religious Education program. But Ralph Waldo Emerson, Martin Luther King and Thich Nhat Hanh’s names come up almost as often.

Among Elsa and Clio, however, Jesus is a much more frequent topic of conversation.

I think this is in part because he is one of the first people through which the girls learned about death. But not because his death was particularly, well, important to a whole lotta people. It was a total coincidence: A few weeks before Christmas, back when the girls were three, we were listening to a Christmas carol CD together (we may not be Christian, but I used to be, and I still LOVE Christmas, dammit) and there was a little storybook that went along with it.  For “Away in a Manger” there was a nativity scene, and the girls wanted me to explain it. So I did.  And then the girls wanted to know if they could meet Jesus sometime. I explained that, well, no. He lived a very, very long time ago. And was dead. (A brief, age-appropriate discussion of death ensued.)

But ever since then, whenever death comes up — almost every time, anyway — so does Jesus. (Either him or Sam Cooke, another of subject of the girls’ early understanding of mortality. Or our neighbor, Mr. Tony — rest his soul. We have a little holy trinity of death.)

And just the other night, while we were reading a bedtime story, Jesus appeared unto us again. (Just in time for Easter!)

In the book — a wonderful new one, by Alicia Potter and Melissa Sweet called Mrs. Harkness and the Panda — there was a part where Mrs. Harkness scatters her husband’s ashes in the mountains of China. This led to a discussion of cremation (I love when books result in teachable moments — even if they’re sometimes a little, er, tricky). And then (of course) Elsa asked, “Jesus didn’t have ashes, though right? They put his bones under the ground.”

For the sake of simplicity, I said yes, I thought so. (And then realized that I didn’t really know. They supposedly put him in some sort of cave at first, but did they bury him after that? Or just leave him there, out in the open? And did grave robbers / followers take his body elsewhere, as some posit? What did they do with it? Or perhaps his corpse really was re-animated and whisked up to heaven by an angel, and I’m going to hell.)

Back to bedtime:

Clio piped up and said, “When we were outside at the playground at school, we were digging, and we told Joey (name changed) that we found Jesus’s bones under the ground.”

“You did WHAT?”

“It was because he told Elsa that Jesus was going to come down from heaven and kill her. So we wanted to play a trick on him.”

“Why did he say that to you, Elsa?”

“Because,” Elsa said, “I told him that Jesus wasn’t up in heaven. Because we don’t believe in heaven, right?”

Instead of getting derailed on THAT whole discussion I reminded the girls — bumbling and stumbling all along the way — that Jesus is very special to a lot of people. So they may get upset when you say things like Jesus isn’t in heaven. And it’s definitely not nice to play tricks and make jokes about him. (Meanwhile, I’m just imagining the phone call I’m going to get from Joey’s mom, chiding me for my girls’ religious insensitivity.)

“So, why are you guys so interested in Jesus?” I asked once I’d said my piece.

“Because he was a very important teacher,” Clio said, parroting the language Alastair and I had used on countless occasions.

Elsa nodded. “And because he’s dead.”




DOUBLE TIME, my memoir of parenting twins and battling depression (among other things) is available for pre-order! Order before May 8, and I’ll send you a bookmark and free signed bookplate. Click for details.

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Photo: Shreyans Bhansal


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About Jane Roper


Jane Roper

Jane Roper is the author of the memoir Double Time: How I Survived–and Mostly Thrived–Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins and blogger at Jane lives in the Boston area with her husband and twin daughters.

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25 thoughts on “Jesus is just alright with them

  1. JT says:

    I love this post. Vintage witty Jane Roper. That’s all I have to say. Well, that, and – the more I learn about UU churches, the more I want to find one when we get back to the States.

  2. Dana says:

    So laughing my ass off right now. Jane, my sister and I had a lot of funny Jesus exchanges when we were Elsa and Clio’s age. Oh, and bonus points for posting a picture with a Barry Manilow look alike holding the cross! :)

  3. Amy at parentingontheloose says:

    Jane, I love how you are not afraid to tackle tough subjects with your kids and in your posts. They are lucky to have you as their mom! And we are lucky to get to read about it. Now you’re making me wonder… Jesus buried in a preschool playground?

  4. Donna says:

    Your kids are obsessed with Jesus, mine with R2D2 and C3PO. I think I got the easier obsession to deal with :)

  5. Isabelle says:

    Awesome post! We are also not Christian and recently had a similar moment trying to explain the whole resurrection or whatever it is called, that and what is so “good” about Good Friday. We may need to look into a UU church too. There is nothing like trying to explain religious holidays to a preschooler to make you realize just how bizarre some of the stories are.

  6. Planut says:

    Have you heard the news? He is risen. Hallalujah! Have a glorious Easter.

  7. guajolote says:

    Dammit woke the baby w laughter while rocking to sleep!!

  8. The Mommy Psychologist says:

    This is absolutely hilarious. And it did make me laugh out loud. Not in the cheesy LOL way, but for real.

    “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself.”

  9. Dawn Holycross says:

    It really isn’t so hard to explain. Jesus is the Son of God. He died on a cross to be the sacrifice for yours and my sins. That is why it’s called Good Friday because Jesus was crucified for our sins and took the punishment of our sins upon Himself. Why did He do that? He was without sin, and he became the sacrifice for all mankind. Through Christ, we can have a relationship with God and eternal life in heaven, which is real, too. After Jesus died on the cross, his loved ones took him down and buried him in a tomb. A large stone was placed at the entrance of the tomb. The Jews of the day were worried his disciplies would steal his body and tell everyone he rose again so they placed a stone that no human could roll away. They also placed guards around his tomb to make sure his body was not stolen. Then what happened was that God Himself rolled the stone away. Jesus rose from the grave. That is why it’s called the Resurrection and that is why we celebrate Easter. The grave is empty, the stone is rolled away, and Christ is alive! We celebrate the fact that our Savior (mine and yours) did not die and is no longer on a cross. He rose from the dead. He is alive and He has come in the form of the Holy Spirit to all who ask Him into their hearts. The reason your girls are “obsessed” about Him is because God has placed eternity in their hearts and as young children, they are sensitive to the things of God. Adults who have become weary and wary of religion can close their hearts off to the truth. So, please, for your children’s sake, go to an Easter service at a Bible believing church this weekend. Hear the story of the death and resurrection of Christ and allow Jesus to speak to your heart. He will if you listen. Thanks for listening to me. May the Lord bless you. May you come to know Him.

  10. diane caso says:

    I think that kids are just always fascinated by things that are “different”…as long as you are as honest with them as you can be. Curiosity is such a wonderful thing…just not when it makes us suirm…

  11. Michelle Tate says:

    I am a strong Christian and we take our children to a bible believing church and teach them that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. He is not dead. He did die by hanging on the cross, but He rose on Easter morning and is very much alive to this day in Heaven preparing a place for us. I have no problem telling my children about other religions when the questions come up about Mormonism, Buddhist, Catholic, and just plain not believing in anything particular. HOWEVER, I do my research and to the best of my ability I state things that the other religions believe and then ask my children if they think that is true or not and we discuss. I do NOT however, make up things to pacify my children or retell stories that are not factual. They have NEVER found Jesus’ bones (that’s because there are none to be found), they did not bury Him underground and they did not cremate Him. Nobody “stole” His body, He reappeared to people alive as day with the holes in His hands and feet to show where He was nailed to the cross. He ascended into Heaven 40 days later. It’s important to make children aware of other religious beliefs and teachings even if you have a strong belief system in place like we do; however, it is NOT okay to allow your children to spread boldface untruths that you have placed upon them. That will get the neighbors calling and that will cause unrest between your children and their friends. Teach that it’s ok for them to believe what they believe, you have your own beliefs, and for us who believe in the one true way, we will be praying for you and your family. God bless and have a wonderful Easter! He is Risen!

  12. Nita says:

    It is true that he is alive! As we receive his spirit in our hearts to be in charge, he lives in us. We can hear his still small voice and he controls our desires and actually tells you how very much you are loved. He takes the heart of stone and it becomes a compassionate run by Christ heart. As we are shepherded by him, we listen, desire to read Bible, and he covers us in his righteousness and we go to heaven. It is a personal relationship with a living Christ. If we reject Christ to have control of our heart, we reject God. We cannot become clean enough without Christ inside of us loving us and changing our hearts to hearts of flesh instead of stone. Only if his spirit is drawing you and seeking with all heart can see narrow path. Death to self before we die, but joy, love and peace with Christ living in us! We become stained glass windows with Christ shining out.

  13. [...] Roper of Babble blog Baby Squared has written a memoir that you’ll want to read. Why read yet another memoir? Because when a [...]

  14. ML@My3LittleBirds says:

    Kids- particularly at 3- are so concrete that it’s hard to explain ANY of these concepts to them without sounding like a total nutcase. Even though I am Christian I struggle with this. Thanks for the post- it made me smile this morning Jane!

  15. Jane Roper says:

    Another thing I love about Unitarian Universalism is that we don’t try to convert people, but are open to multiple beliefs and points of views. UUSs believe that there are many paths to leading a good life, and to having spiritual fulfillment. Whether that means through Jesus or Buddha or a million different Gods or a single God or no God at all — nature, humanistic teachings and wisdom, poetry, music — whatever makes you feel connected to something larger, or helps you find solace or guidance. They believe in questioning, searching, thinking, doubting, and respecting people of all faiths and beliefs.
    So, Nita and Dawn, it’s great that your faith is a source of such joy and inspiration to you. So is mine.

  16. Dawn Holycross says:

    @ML, I have to disagree. I think it’s we ourselves as Christians who can become self-conscious in explaining the truth about Jesus and the Bible. It’s not nutty at all. Kids readily accept what we tell them because that is how God made them. I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old and they know more than some adults about Jesus, and who he is. My 4 year old know that He died and that He rose again on the third day. They could tell you all about what the real meaning of Christmas and Easter is. So, our kids are very open and willing–eager–to hear about spiritual things.

  17. Rosstwinmom says:

    I just love the Elsa and Clio show. They are smart cookies. And hilarious.

    What a great post. As usual, I’ll be keeping this info in my pocket for when my boys ask. Also, it’s a great thing to help me think about how to teach my boys the language of not belittling the beliefs of others. It won’t be easy considering they say what I say, and I’m a pig, but still.

  18. Jon P says:

    You gotta admit, Jesus is one powerful brand.

  19. Dawn Holycross says:

    @Jon, Jesus isn’t a brand. He is the Son of God who died for you.

  20. Dawn Holycross says:

    @Jane Roper, I am just wondering, so please don’t take my question the wrong way. I really want to know. Do you believe that you have an eternal soul? If you do, do you think you will live on after your body has died? Where will your soul go? I am sincerely asking because I have always wondered about how people who believe in Unitarian Universalism feel about this. Thank so much.

  21. Jane Roper says:

    @Dawn, I can’t speak for all UU’s, because we all have different beliefs and ideas about the “big questions” like that. The UU tradition is about discussing and exploring and considering those beliefs together, but ultimately allowing people to make up their own minds. For myself, yes, I do believe that I have a soul, and I do believe that in some way people’s souls live on after they die — maybe just in the memories of people who loved or knew them or maybe in a more “real” form, as a sort of cosmic energy or spirit. I’m not sure, and probably never will be. And I’m OK with that. :-)

  22. Voice of Reason says:


  23. gar roper says:

    Belief is beautifu, fulfilling and uplifting… until that belief needs to be “proven or advanced under pressure.” Careful analysis makes it clear that belief can not be proven. Belief can not guide us to the truth, only to what we believe is true, and as a belief it can not prove a truth (or disprove a truth either for that mater.)
    The good belief does is seen in love and charitable works. The evil belief does is seen in fundamentalism and oppression/attack on one peson justified by the belief of another.

    Our founding fathers understood that no law about religious belief should be made since it wouldl enevitably involve tyranny of one belief over another. A law made for the common good, which may be acceptable or unacceptable to a religious group is not a law about relivious belief, and is NOT subject for claims of unconstitutionality or un-Americanism.

  24. Betsy R. says:

    I love how smart and curious Elsa and Clio are! Your discussions with them about “big questions” always make me smile. My twins are two and a half, and we are just getting into some questions that have been dicey to answer…

  25. Bill Trippe says:

    Wonderful post, Jane, and it was nice reading the interesting and respectful comments from so many of your readers.

    Somehow I avoid answering these big questions (except in my own head), but I do have a favorite song that I think answers it better than I ever could.

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