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?”