When I started this blog, I was thinking about the on-going lived theology of living with little ones. I wanted to look at parenting as an experiment in the best possible sense: living out your beliefs with those you love.
Well, in the midst of the experimenting this past week, I got laughed at.
We were sitting at the dinner table, talking about this and that, and I mentioned God, referring to something that he had done in our lives recently.
“Yes, Beangirl? What’s so funny?”
“Mummy, God’s not a man!!”
Fantastic. Because she’s absolutely right.
Now, I could take some credit for this one and feel progressively proud. Or I could chalk this one up to the influence of her feminist paternal grandmother – we did spend a long spell with her last summer. Some of that thinking may have worn off. But it was the laugh that got me. You don’t laugh like that when you’re applying something you’ve been taught. This went deeper. Who Beangirl is responded deeply to my gendered slip. And laughed at me.
This past week, I’ve been reading Rebecca Nye’s book Children’s Spirituality: What it is and why it matters
It explores the nature and nurture of children’s spirituality in an accessible way. Do check out that link – there are sample pages to be read. What I’ve been dwelling with this week is the question of innate spirituality. Do we see children as empty and need to be filled? Or are children already filled?
Do we feel that we need to teach our kids about religion before they can know their own spirituality? Or do we find ways of valuing the spirituality that they already have?
Put this way, of course we’re led to be in the later camp. And as Beangirl’s guffaw goes to show, there’s definitely some truth there. But how do we really act as if that’s our answer? What does it really look like in our homes and churches when we recognise that kids come with something to share already?
I think that it might dramatically change things for kids. And probably not in an order and good government kind of way. There might be chaos. I think that children’s story time during worship would change. I know that I tend to ask questions in a leading way, trying to get the kids towards a point without too many meandering tangents. And it’s my point that we’re headed for. Maybe we could turn that around.
So I did an experiment. During children’s time, I asked the kids to help me out with my homework for the Elders’ Institute course on Lay Ministry. We looked at Micah 6:8 together, and I asked them what each step of it meant for how we do church on a Sunday morning. They had some great answers. I took notes.
But I still had some “real” answers prepared to pull out if things went wonky. That may have been cheating. Or it might be language training. As parents, part of our job is helping our children explore language, and so part of faith-based parenting is teaching our kids faith-based language. We introduce them to the vocabulary of the gospel. But I think often we do it assuming that they don’t know the concept to start with. Which might just be the wrong end of the stick.
Imagine it like teaching children a second language. You might give them a long list of words to learn: apple, orange, firetruck, lemon. And then you teach them what a lemon is. It’s yellow, tart, juicy, useful with fish, rolls about the table in a circle.
Or you could put a lemon in their hands, and then teach them the word.