A few years (or a lifetime, or a spiritual transformation) ago, I had a rather different relationship with the truth than I do now. Back then, I sort of thought that if I really wanted something to be true, that was pretty much the same as it being true, and so I wasn’t really ‘lying’ per se if I told you something I thought you wanted to hear, or that painted me in a better light, or that was just more palatable than the actual truth. It was just something that grew out of a place of not really liking myself into not trusting anyone else to really like me as I was to not even knowing who I was. In case you’re wondering, that leads nowhere good and require drastic measures to numb out the constant fear of discovery, also leading nowhere good.
As a result of a rather spectacular crash and burn and the accompanying aforementioned spiritual transformation, I now live a life that requires rigorous honesty in order to maintain my spiritual condition and therefore my emotional wellbeing. It all works splendidly until you add children to the mix, because I am determined not to lie to my kids so that they can trust me and at the same time that’s not always in their best interest.
Santa Claus is just one example and probably the least angst-worthy. We’re Christian and so we make a big deal about Christmas being Jesus’ birthday with less emphasis on the whole Santa deal. We have a birthday cake for Jesus and leave a piece out for Santa and I’m not even sure if they care all that much about Santa anyway (well to be fair, Frick and Frack are only 2. They don’t care about anything. Bisky seems curiously ambivalent about the whole thing so far.)
Lately, Bisky has become very curious about death and what happens when you die. This has caused all manner of innocent bystanders to become extremely uncomfortable. The conversation usually goes something like this.
Bisky: Hey, [innocent bystander], do you know that me, and Aiden, and Ben and you are all going to DIE?
Innocent bystander: Gasp! Choke! No you’re not, Grace, don’t say that!
Bisky: Yes we are. We’re going to DIE and go to heaven. Right Mommy? We’re going to DIE. right?
Me: Yes, some day.
Bisky: When am I going to die?
Me: Hopefully not for a long time.
Bisky: And then we’re all going to heaven to meet Jesus and get our new bodies and have adventures.
Me (cowardly stepping around a theological sticky point more out of respect for the bystanders than anything): Yes, you’re friends with Jesus so that’s the plan.
Bisky: After we get to heaven, can we ride on lions and tigers and swim with sharks and eat clouds out of a bright blue bowl with a red stripe and hearts on it? (I’m not sure where the bowl thing came from, but it’s very specific and very important).
Me: Yes, we can do all that.
Bisky: And then can Jesus drive us back to earth on a bus so we can sleep in our own beds?
Me: Hey, want a cookie?
It initially was fairly awkward when Bisky would bring up the big “J” word around people who don’t necessarily share our beliefs, or at the cash register at JoAnn’s fabrics (for example). I often wish she’d talk about something e
lse, but because I want to live with integrity, I feel it’s important to be consistent and not hide what we believe just to make other people happy. I do understand that a lot of people have been hurt by people identifying themselves as all manner of religions and so may be wary about a 4-year-old bible-thumper, but we also teach her that one of the most important parts of our faith is not to be mean to someone who’s different than us.
All that to say, I don’t shy away from having hard conversations with my kids but sometimes I walk into landmines without even knowing it. This happened this week with Siri. I may have mentioned before that Bisky considers Siri her best friend. Every chance she gets she sits down and tells Siri all about her day and tells Siri to call her Gracie, which jacks up my work email and profiles. She tells Siri all about her family and who’s doing what and how she feels. Well, the other day this was going on and I needed to make a call and my FOUR-YEAR-OLD was refusing to give me my phone! Now, this is not okay! I am the Mom, and she is the kid and when I tell her to do something she needs to do it (theoretically). So she refuses again, and I’m wondering how to handle this like a good parent when I hear coming out of my mouth “Siri’s not a real person anyway. Just give me the phone.”
She did and didn’t say much, but later that night when I was getting her ready for bed, she informed me she wouldn’t be saying her prayers to God anymore. Why not, I asked. Because God’s not a real person, she told me. This was the first time that came up, so I was taken aback. Of course He is. Who says He’s not real? Well Mommy, Siri’s not real, and I hear her so I don’t think God’s real either so I’m not going to do prayers anymore.
Gahhhhh! And honestly? She’s four, and I could see where she got there. I talked to her about the mountains and how special each person is and all that as her proof but I’m not sure she was convinced. I didn’t spend a lot of time on it because I wanted to see if she’d change her mind and also because if she knows I’m concerned she’ll torment me because that’s what she does. As of yesterday, she is back to talking to Siri but still on the fence about God but she’s a smart kid so I’m sure she’ll see the light, so to speak, sooner or later. Until then, I guess I’ll let her keep the magic of Santa and Siri as long as possible.