This post is part of our month-long series featuring different ways that parents of various religions have talked to their kids about God.
In my house growing up, the intellect was God. We were cultural Jews We ate bagels and lox, matzah and kugel, but we rarely went to temple and but parents didn’t fast or keep Passover. Judaism was the way we stayed connected to family, an excuse to gather, which I loved. At 11 years old when everyone started talking bat mitzvahs and my parents started talking Hebrew School, they couldn’t argue when I said, “I have no desire to do this thing, its all about big parties, materialism, and monetary gifts.”
As I reached my adulthood and forged my own relationship with God, spirituality, and religion in general, I knew I wanted to bring up my someday child with a delight in the divine. I knew I wanted to create experiences that fostered a sense of wonder in the miracles of life.
Every night before bed, starting before my daughter was verbal, around 3 or 4 months, I started saying prayers: Hebrew prayers–the Shema, the Shehechiyanu, a prayer from yoga class, the serenity prayer, and others I made up. Prayers that soothed me and connected me to my heart. At first it was a long thing, maybe 20 minutes of prayers and whispers about the divine, as she nursed. It was a way to soothe her to sleep, to designate day from night. I learned that I was saying them for her, but I was also saying them for me. Being in her presence, saying those prayers, connected me to God in a deep deep way. It was a form of prayer and meditation that was truly divine, and truly needed as a new mother who had lost her time for her daily rituals of self care and meditation.
As she grew older, and stories and sudsy bubbles and stalling came into play, the prayers and songs have gotten shorter–a neat package of five-ish minutes, including a list we do together of “Thank Gods” (essentially a gratitude list) which is sometimes spoken and sometimes sung in a tune we make up on the spot.
My favorite story about my babe and God is when she was around 18 months old. She started asking me, “Momma, who is my other mother?” Now, being the fairly new mother that I was, my first thought was “OH MY GOD I AM SUCH A SUCKY MOTHER SHE’S ASKING FOR BACKUP.” But I tried to hide my neurosis and simply asked, “Who do you think?” She was under 2 and never really answered. As I worked on my motherhood issues, did some psyche digging, I realized–aha–I have two mothers (one officially a step mother but I don’t call her that) so OF COURSE she thinks she should have two also, as I am always talking about my “other mother.”
And then on New Year’s Eve, my babe newly 2 years old, I was doing the nighttime prayers, cuddling her in that rockabye baby way that she was almost grown out of, and she looked up at me and said, “Momma, I know who my other mother is!”
“Who?” I asked, bracing myself for some superior replacement mom.
“God. God is my other mother.”
“Yes my love,” I said. “God is your other mother. Exactly.”
In that moment, I knew that not only would I never be replaced, but that instead I would forever have a spectacular additional partner to me and my beloved husband in raising my child. I had succeeded in nurturing a sprout of faith and connection with a power greater than me who can help grow us all.
And my favorite part? My daughter taught me that God is a woman.
Alysia Reiner is an award-winning stage, screen & television actress. She is currently shooting the recurring role of FIG on ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, the new series by Jenji Kohan who created WEEDS, and just wrapped ARE WE OFFICIALLY DATING with Zac Efron.
To read all of the post in this series, click here.