Little ones say things that literally take my breath away. I wrote this 3 years ago, and it gave me chills to remember it. I thought I’d share with you why our family (still) has the Easter bunny tradition pass over us.
It seems that at least once a week, My eldest and I have a conversation that astounds me. She is not yet four, but the questions she asks and her grasp of things is amazing to me.
But perhaps just as amazing as her questions is how, when I am answering her questions, the words seem to take on extra gravitas as they come out of my mouth. Things that I’ve known for years suddenly become REALLY, REALLY REAL as I explain them to my daughter. It brings me to tears on occasion.
For example, last week as we were driving we were talking about the fields and trees we were passing and how God had made them all. She remembered we learned Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and asked more about creation. And as I began to explain to her that God made things by SPEAKING – as in, he just opened his mouth and said it, and then it was, the truth of that fact dawned on me again with such power that it literally made my pulse quicken. I’ve known that truth for years, but as we talked about how God didn’t make things out of wood or playdoh or paper like we do; he just said “let there be a sun”, and there was a sun! … I was filled afresh with wonder.
Or again last week, we were talking about calendars. She was complaining that it was very hard to wait until November when it would be her birthday. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: I know it’s hard to wait, but if you take it one day at a time, eventually your birthday will come. The best we can do is just go day by day, and after a while it will be your birthday, and granny will be here, and then it will be Christmas, and one day even Jesus will come back. Just one day at a time.
Her: That’s silly: Jesus coming back.
Me: No really – He is coming back. One day we are going to see him face to face, just like you are looking at me now. (Again – moment of stunned realization as the gravitas of that truth hit me afresh. I got teary eyed.)
Her: But Mom, Jesus is too big to fit into our house.
Me: (laughing and amazed) Actually, Jesus is a regular sized person – so he could visit us in our house. But the bible says when he comes back he’s going to take us to be with him in the new heaven and new earth where God has made new homes for us all to live in.
Her: (thinking) Is everyone going to live there?
Me: No, only people who love Jesus and believe in Him and want to be with him now will also be with Him then.
Her: (thinking) Mom, what are the names?
Me: The names?
Her: The names of the people who don’t believe in him!!? We need to pray for them, Mom.
Oh my, between her serious little questions and articulating answers for her, the weight of eternity hung heavily over me that day. There’s something about saying these things out loud to her simple, trusting face which makes the enormous responsibility of parenting loom all the larger. I DARE not say these things to her unless I am completely and utterly convinced they are true.
Conversations with my children have forced me, again and again, to revisit why I am a Christian. Not just because it ‘works for me’ (although it does), or because God has answered prayers (although He has)… but fundamentally because I am convinced that Jesus lived, died and was who He said he was. While at law school I applied ALL of my ‘laws of evidence’ rules and all of my critical reasoning to figuring out whether there was sufficient evidence in Jesus – and came out with a mental conviction which completely overwhelmed my expectations.
And so I say these weighty things to my trusting daughter with a straight face and a full heart, and as I speak it – the truth of it is tested again for me.
Which brings me to the Easter Bunny and Santa. Before my children were born I had thought that navigating ‘what to do about Santa and the easter bunny and the tooth fairy’ would be big issues for me. As it turns out, they are not big issues at all.
Now that I find myself in real conversation with a daughter (as opposed to hypothetical ‘what would I do if I were a parent’ imagining), and the experience of ‘the gravitas of truth’ has fallen on me – I just CAN NOT, even if I wanted to, look at my daughter straight-faced and tell her that those things were true if they are not.
I tell her many things, and I read her many stories – and she needs to know from my face and tone of voice that some of those fall into the ‘pretend’ category (little red riding hood, the monster at the end of this book, sesame street and Santa), but others fall into the ‘real’ category (David and Goliath, Jesus rising from the dead, evaporation and how clouds are formed). So far, she’s had no difficulty in understanding that. She has a lively imagination, and her make-believe world and made-up stories are often hilarious patchwork narratives comprised of Aesop’s Fables and Old Testament characters… but at the end of the day, she knows that God is real, and Curious George isn’t.
And so we are happy to tell her stories which are fun and fill her in on our cultural narrative. I want her to know about Goldilocks and the three bears, Sleeping Beauty and Old Mother Goose. They form part of our rich heritage. And so, dare I say it, does Santa and the tooth fairy. They are fun, and she needs to be able to understand the symbols and pictures all around her during the year…
But as someone who feels the sharp conviction of truth when I have to speak it out loud to my daughter, I cannot and will not tell her that Santa is coming down the chimney this Christmas and wake her up with excitement to see what he’s brought. Her trust is too precious and the truth is too great to mess with those boundaries.