When Mommy & Daddy Believe Very Different ThingsDan Pearce
My son’s mom and I have two very different belief sets. She’s a devout church-going Christian. I’m a spiritual agnostic. She finds peace in a pew. I find peace on a mountain top.
Up to this point, it hasn’t been too big a deal when it comes to co-parenting our son. I let her take him to church, and she lets me take him hiking. We have a mutual agreement that we will both always be passionate about our personal beliefs but never tell him what he must believe. It will always be his choice, we’ve decided.
And now that he’s getting older (he just turned five), he’s starting to see that mom and dad live different kinds of lives, and he’s starting to ask questions. This means that for the first time, he’s going to have to start processing our distinctive beliefs and start deciding for himself what he himself wants to believe.
On Sunday, I picked him up like I always do, and I asked him what he did that day, just like I always do. “I went to church,” he said.
“Oh, did you like it?”
“Yeah,” he responded, and then added, “Daddy, why don’t you like church?”
I wasn’t quite prepared for his question. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“Why don’t you like church?”
“Do you like church?” I asked him.
“I don’t know. There’s some things I like. But Daddy, why don’t you like it?” I went on to explain that Daddy doesn’t believe in the same things Mommy does and that’s okay because everybody in the whole world believes different things and it’s up to each person to figure out what feels good for them and to believe in it.
“Well why does Mommy like church and you don’t?”
I could hardly believe these questions were coming from a five-year-old. “Well,” I said. “You know how Mommy believes in Jesus?”
“Daddy doesn’t know if he believes in Jesus. Daddy believes in other things.”
“But Dad, don’t you know that Jesus made everything, even the whole world?”
“That’s what some people believe,” I told him. “And if you want to believe it, that’s okay.”
He thought about it for a little while. “Dad, why don’t you and Mom think the same stuff?”
I had to ponder my answer. I really wasn’t prepared for this conversation. “Noah, when you go to church do you feel happy or special?”
“That’s good. Lots of people feel happy or special when they go to church and if you like feeling like that, and you want to go to church, that’s okay.” He didn’t reply. “But Daddy never felt very happy or special when he went to church so I don’t go to church anymore.”
“You didn’t feel happy at church?” he seemed doubtful.
“Nope. Do you know where Daddy goes to feel happy and special?”
“Daddy goes hiking. When I go hiking and I go to the tops of the mountains, I feel happy and special.”
“You feel happy and special when you go in the mountains?” he asked, suddenly more fascinated.
“Yep. Do you feel happy and special when you go hiking with Dad?”
“Good, so you don’t need to worry too much about it right now. Just do the things that make you feel happy and special, okay?”
We sat in silence for a little while. Eventually he asked a few more questions, probing to see what was okay for him to feel and what wasn’t okay for him to feel.
Every time I answered that it was his choice what he wanted to do and believe, he seemed more and more relieved.
By the end of the conversation, he was a much happier camper, content that Dad had his life and mom had hers. The difference in our lives seemed not to be weighing on him anymore, and we moved onto other topics.
After a couple rounds of our favorite driving games, he suddenly asked, “Daddy, what does believe mean?”
And that’s when I really realized two things. First, at this point things may not be as deep or complicated as I think they are. And second, my kid is going to be okay, no matter what he chooses to believe. He’s going to be okay because he’s got two parents who want his happiness above anything else. And I’m thankful for that.
I can only imagine that in this day and age there are a lot of parents who have completely different beliefs than their counterparts.
And I think that’s okay. In some ways it’s a beautiful opportunity.
If as parents we learn to teach our children how to believe more than we teach them what to believe, our kids will be as strong or stronger in their beliefs than any of us ever were. If we can learn to be passionate about our own beliefs without demanding that our kids believe them, those beliefs will have a much better chance of actually becoming the beliefs of our children.
I really believe that.
As parents we have a beautiful opportunity to raise a generation of spiritual intellects who will stand behind their beliefs (whatever they are) and for all the right reasons. In the day and age we live in, the world is bigger than it used to be. More information is at our fingertips. More chance for truth and conviction presents itself to those who want it. More beauty can exist in what we teach our kids and in how we teach it to them.
So lets teach them the important things. The things that will bring everybody closer together and make believing an easier thing for our children.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
P.S. Do you have different beliefs than your spouse or your children’s co-parent? How do you handle this? And what do you teach your children about it?
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