so last night after a long day i was looking forward to getting wingman settled into bed, the duke settled in the living room with a book, and me settled with my glass of wine, my husband, and my television boyfriend.
i got wingman all tucked in and turned the light out and was leaving the room when i hear him ask
"mama, how big is god?"
sigh. there are times as a parent when you can defer questions for a later "better" time. like the time the duke asked me where babies came from on the way into target. but last night, this was not one of those questions. not even if by answering it it meant that you were going to miss your television boyfriend.
parental sacrifice is so great sometimes.
so i got into bed next to him and we chatted about it.
the thing is, you're never going to have a more honest conversation about god than the one you have with a child. with anyone else it's a matter of them trying to convince you that he does NOT exist and why. or trying to convince you that he DOES exist and why.
with a child it just is.
wingman has always been the one to come up with the deep thinking and the wondering and worrying. we've been driving in the car and he'll randomly bust out with something like "i don't ever want to die." or "isn't that sky just AMAZING?" or "i think i would like a stepfather."
by the way, as you may imagine, that last one really threw me when he said it. i told him i'd have to get married again for him to have a stepfather. and that wasn't going to happen. and wasn't he happy with his papa? he said "oh yeah! i just think it would be cool to have more parents to love me."
and the cool thing about talking to wingman about god is that he has his opinions and i have mine. and we can just tell each other what we think. and we're both listened to, heard. there isn't church or organized religion in our house, but there is a lot of spirituality and the study of history. and you don't have a lot of history study without study of religion. not properly. so much of what was shaped in this world was (is) tied to religion. jesus, what wasn't, right?( no pun intended) whether it was a civilization, a culture, a border, etc. you can't really get away from it. so in this house there's perspective, context, and the chance for your own opinions on the matter. it's all fair game.
and when you're 8 and you still believe in santa claus and the tooth fairy and you haven't soured on your president yet...when you still believe that the world is a good and right place filled with magic and wonder, and just enough real life, well god just fits right in there. because no one has told you different yet. and someday they will. but today, today you're 8. and you get to believe exactly what you want to.
the thing i love about thinking about the idea of/the existence of god, santa claus, the tooth fairy, true love, the perfect reuben, a margarita ordered from a restaurant that does not suck, etc., is that you get blessed with the most precious gift of all. hope. hope that the thing that is in your brain or in your heart does indeed exist. and that one day, if you haven't already, that you will come across it. you really will.
and i know hope has become a tag word of late, sure. bandied about in meaningless fashion sometimes. but just because it's become kind of trite does not mean that its real meaning and importance is negated.
that being said, to have hope as an adult is not always easy. not when you know that the world around you contains so much misery and heartache. when you may not have enough of anything that you need to just make it through the day, let alone the week, the year, your life. when there are so many needs in the larger world that you cannot even begin to think about it some days.
but when you're little, you don't have all of that. you just lie in your bed at night thinking about the things that 'could' be. things that 'might' be. hope is infinite. it doesn't cost a thing and it's yours for the taking.
that being said, my kids are HUGE believers of santa. the duke has said before, "OF COURSE santa's real. for one, my mother would NEVER spend, like, 70 dollars on me!"
we were talking about santa awhile ago, in relation to a larger discussion on faith and beliefs and religion and agnosticism and atheism and all that. and the duke's theory was that for the kids who don't believe in santa, that's fine with him. but he didn't think it was okay to make fun of the kids who do. like there's something wrong with them. he said
"just like people shouldn't make fun of or tease people who believe in god or religion or have faith just because they don't believe or don't have it."
bear with me because this isn't too formed as a cohesive thought, but to me, santa is the beginning for some kids about learning what faith is. faith right on their level. and by faith i mean the idea of believing in something. really truly believing. a precursor to actual faith if you will.
that for some kids there is this guy, a myth, perpetuated and totally co-opted for the commercial a lot of the times, sure, but regardless he remains a constant mythical *good.* something that these kids can identify with.
and his mere existence introduces kids to wishing. who else but a guy who is all about toys and candy and being good and elves and all the magic that surrounds santa could get to kids in that way? kids 'get' it. and sure we can talk all we want about manipulation and all that, but the fact remains that kids 'get' santa.
and this myth opens the door to the what-ifs. to believing in something that is so fantastical and SO preposterous (flying reindeer? chimney diving?) *that it just might be right on.* and kids know that the fantastical can be real. it's only adults who lose sight of that.
santa is about belief, even when it seems impossible. about lying in bed and wondering and wish making and hoping against hope that it will be how you want it christmas morning. even when you know circumstances in your house suggest otherwise. because wishing and hoping ARE real. they exist. and they're there even when nothing else is.
okay, yeah, i get the disappointment aspect. there's no real way around that. and having been disappointed as a child, and having seen a glimmer of disappointment in my own child's face i get it. (wingman has always wanted a Nintendo DS. he has never gotten one. he was too little then, and now they are just too pricey. he'll get over it. or he won't. who knows. as far as i'm concerned, that's what therapists and blogs are for.)
so yeah, i don't necessarily think disappointment is always a bad thing. but that's a discussion for another time regarding how parents perpetuate the myth if they can't fulfill it and all that. because i can see it eventually becoming a liability under certain circumstances.
does that make any sense? probably not. it did in my head. but that's neither here nor there because it's just one part of my larger point and i'm sticking to it whether it makes sense in print or not.
the bottom line is that for some kids, for me, i think you learn to believe and to wish and to dream with santa. and that's his real gift, his real magic. in the larger picture, it's not the stuff, it's the idea.
that being said, one day the duke won't believe. seriously, he's 12. the only reason he still believes in santa is because i let him. and because he knows how cheap i am and it's the only way he thinks he's gonna get anything good. and may i say that santa TOTALLY ROCKS this house. not in mass consumerist excess, just in real and true fabulousness.
and really, the duke may actually "know." word on the street is that he is rather an astute young lad. but he's not saying anything and neither am i.
and then one day wingman won't believe. and when that day comes, or the day comes that they really want to know "the truth," or they catch me in the act i'll say
"you know, i am santa now and have been as you got bigger. but santa is about belief and as long as you once believed that's all that really matters. and if you spoil it for your brother i'm locking you in the basement."
i don't care who believes in what. everyone is entitled to their own ideas about everything. god, the tooth fairy, the existence of the perfect reuben or a restaurant margarita that doesn't suck. believe away because i accept you and your beliefs just as you are.
but just so you know, i believe in santa just as much as my kids do.