This post is part of our month-long series featuring different ways that parents of various religions have talked to their kids about God.
I live with a little theologian. My eldest daughter has had a lot to say about God for as long as I can remember. The expected questions have come along about creation and death, and they become more complex and challenging as she gets older. What has not changed is that she has consistently referred to God using female pronouns. Until recently, she never asked directly about whether God is male or female. It has been consistent that God is She. “Why did God make dogs and cats Momma? Does She like them both the best?”
It has made my feminist heart swell with pride ever since.
Now at 8 years old, my daughter has read her junior bible several times through and attends Sunday school at our church. Despite having a lot of disagreement with the Catholic Church, we made the decision to raise our children in the tradition in which we were raised. It is a tradition I love in many ways. The ritual is so comforting to me and it feels like home. I have also seen the Catholic Church do amazing things in this world.
Yet it brings with it so much I disagree with–judgment of homosexuality, women banned from the priesthood, abortion, covering up sexual abuse by its leadership…the list goes on. I want my daughter to be able understand and engage with both parts of this experience, to find her own way and develop her own perspective as she grows. As we raise her with the values of our family, she will find these conflicts for herself, and learn to reconcile them on her own. I can offer her my support and experience, but I want her relationship with religion to be her own. I want her to find her own image of God, not to inherit mine. This shapes how I talk to her about God. I bring a lot of questions and a lot of silence to the conversation.
I held my breath as I sent my little theologian into her own exploration of the Church. She came home from Sunday school struggling with her pronouns when talking about God. I heard her using He and She together, flipping from one to another, catching herself using the male and switching to the female. Usually a very articulate child, she stumbled over her words, trying to figure out how to put these pieces together. I made note and remained silent. I so wanted for my daughter to not lose touch with her own experience of God in this world, to not have whatever image lives in her head be erased by The Father language she hears from those around her. So I remained silent until finally she asked me recently.
“Mom, is God a man or a woman?” I responded, “What do you think?”
“Well, what do you think?” she asked.
Silence. Think. Think. “Tell me what you think God is like.” I finally responded.
“Well, what do you think God is like, Mom?”
“I think that God is kind and present and loves us all even we are not at our best. And I think God is sad when we are sad and tries to help us get back to be the best we can be for each other.”
Then my daughter replied, “Definitely a woman.”
Kathleen Flinton, LICSW, is a Clinical Social Worker at the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights.
To read all of the post in this series, click here.