Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pet Heaven?

Recently, our older dog, Kaela, died.  It was hard on all of us.  For the girls, it was really the first death they have had to deal with.  We had a couple of fish that died, but given they were left-over snake food that just kept living, it was hard to get worked up about them.

Comforting children after a pet dies is hard.  I know learning to grieve is a part of life and tried my best to teach the girls how to deal with a loss.  I talked about how we will have our memories of Kaela and that we will always hold her in our hearts.

During all of this, I kept thinking it would have made it all so much easier if I could have just said to them, "Well, honey, Kaela is in Heaven now, looking down on us, playing with her tennis balls and chasing lizards."  How comforting that would have been to believe that -- to not really have to say good-bye, but just see-you-later.

But I didn't and can't say that because I don't believe it.  To me, that is a cop-out -- a made up construct to make us feel better as opposed to dealing with feelings.   The girls know how I feel; and we have told them about lots of perspectives and beliefs.  We have had many discussions about what different people believe and how religion is practiced around the world.  I've come to realize, however, that my discussions may not have been so high-brow and open minded as I thought.  In trying to present all sides, I have most certainly presented my view.  And it turns out, I have begun to alienate the girls, or at  a minimum, made God and religion topics you do not talk to Mommy about.

My husband told me of a recent conversation he had with LittleBug, one of our 7 year olds.  Turns out she is one deep thinker.  She was asking him if we hadn't had her, would she exist? (I know, seriously deep).  My husband talked to her about souls and various beliefs.  This led to a discussion about animals having souls and finally to God.  After a pause, LittleBug said, "Well, I know there is a God, Dad."  "How do you know this?"  "Because I think of Kaela throughout the day and who else but God would put thoughts of her in my head?"  (Yes, she really talks like that.)

So now my question is, where is the balance between teaching our beliefs to our child, but wanting her to share if her beliefs differ?  More deep thoughts . . . .


  1. This is such a long discussion, and I'm sure I'm going to piss a bunch of people off because this will be way too short to truly explain myself, but I always find it interesting when kids come up with ways answer questions with "god" because it's so much like Santa and the Easter Bunny. It all follows that magical thinking mode that they're in, so it makes sense -- of course they'd use it to explain the world. What I guess I don't understand is why so many adults give up Santa and the Easter Bunny but continue with the rest.

  2. This reminds me of one of my cousins who is a vegetarian. He was telling me when his wife was pregnant with their first child that they weren't going to make their children be vegetarians--that their kids could eat meat if they wanted to. I asked if they were going to be giving their kids meat periodically and they said no (of course not). I argued that this was not giving them a choice of whether or not to be vegetarian because if you don't eat meat, you won't produce the enzymes to digest meat, and you will feel sick when you do eat it. So, if they don't feed their kids meat, they are making the decision for their children that they will be vegetarians because it is unlikely that they will choose to eat much meat if doing so makes them sick. If it is truly important to them that their children have the choice, they need to be providing meat to their kids and seeing if, over time, they choose to eat it or not.

    I don’t have anything against vegetarians (and am largely one myself), and I don’t really care at all if they feed their kids meat or not, but I think we kid ourselves when we say to our children, “this is what we believe, but you can believe anything you want”. What we say and do will influence our children’s beliefs, and if, eventually, their beliefs differ from ours, there will be a period where they won’t want to discuss it with us because they know we think differently. And the truth is that we are really hoping that our children will have similar beliefs to our own—-we want them to be free to choose, but if they don’t choose to believe as we do, we will likely feel disappointed. While I don’t particularly want my children to be atheists, I equally don’t want them to come home during Spring Break from college to tell me that they have been born again. So when I say, “some people think this, and other people think that” I am not saying that each belief is equally valid.

  3. "where is the balance between teaching our beliefs to our child, but wanting her to share if her beliefs differ?" I think the trick is in acknowledging to your child that your own beliefs always benefit from her perspective--whatever the beliefs may be. It sounds like you do that already, but more of that is always better.