Driving back home yesterday, my five-year-old daughter, out of nowhere, launched into the ‘God discussion.’ Even before I had kids I always knew it would one day come up, so I’ve rehearsed for it many times. I had my own God talk with my folks when I was roughly her age. There’s very little I remember from when I was that young but I do recall my God talk with my father, and how exceptionally bummed I was when the discussion detoured to death. It ended up with me crying until my mother chimed in with the notion of the afterlife as only a mild consolation.
These are different times however. Today’s five-year-old has a far more advanced operating system. Rather than paraphrase what transpired between us, I thought I wold recreate it word for word.
Daughter: Daddy, who was the first person?
Me. What do you mean?
D: If you and mommy made me, and nonna and jeddo made mommy, and do and nanna made you, then who was the first person who made the first human bean?
Me. Human being, not bean.
D: Human being.
Me: Before I answer that question, I want to introduce you to a new word. Theory.
Me: I beg your pardon, not what. How many times do I have to remind you?
D: I beg your pardon.
Me: Or ‘pardon me.’
Me: Never mind… Where were we? Yes, a Theory.
D: Like Siri, on your phone?
Me: No, ‘theory,’ put your tongue out.
Me: That’s it.
D: Whats a theory?
Me: A theory is an idea someone has about something, but there is no way to know for sure if it is right or wrong. To answer your question about how we started, some people have a theory that we started out from simple cells, evolved into other animals like fish, then more complex animals like monkeys, until we became what we are today.
D: Daddy, monkeys are mammals, right?
D: Okay, I like this Siri.
Me: Theory. Put your tongue out with the first letter.
D: Theeee-reeee. Better?
D: Nature made us.
Me: Exactly – that’s one possible theory about how it all started. But other people have a different theory, they believe that there is is this character or entity called God that made the first man and woman, known as Adam and Eve. They started having babies, and their babies started having more babies, until we became what we are today, many, many people.
D: How did he make them?
Me: No one knows.
D: I don’t believe that. I don’t believe this character called God made me. You and mommy made me.
Me: Yes, we made you, but the theory of God is not about who made you, or who made me, but about who made the first person a long time ago. That was your original question.
D: Yes, nature made the first person.
Me: I am happy you have your own theory, it means you are growing up and using your brain. The best part of a theory is that you decide what it is by using your brain, rather than listening to someone’s theory and just believing it. But can I tell you something that’s far more important than how we all started, or whether God is real or not?
D: Yes, daddy, tell me.
Me: It’s okay for different people to have different theories about how life started, or about anything really. But we must always respect other people’s views and not dislike them because their views are different from what we believe in. If your friends at school believe God exists, you should respect their views, as much as they should respect yours. Sometimes, there are silly people in this world who like to fight about who is right and who is wrong. Remember, no one knows who is right and who is wrong. We all have theories, and theories are nothing but ideas.
D: Bibi believes in God and Jesus.
Me: Great, and you should respect what she believes in. It’s also okay to talk about your theories, even explain why you think your theory is right, but its not okay to fight about it. Because whether you are right or wrong, or whether Bibi is right or wrong, is not all that important. It’s exactly like how you like Avocados and Ape and Laura think avocados are yucky.
D: Yes, they are so silly for not liking avocados!
M: Well imagine if you tell Ape and Laura you will never play with them again because they don’t like avocados. Wouldn’t that be silly?
D: Very silly, daddy!
Me: There you go. I’m very proud of you. Now tell me, why don’t you think there is a God?
D: Many reasons, daddy.
Me: Tell me a few.
D: First, he doesn’t have a normal name like everyone else. I’ve never met anyone called God.
Me: Point well taken. And what else.
D: No one has seen him or anything. What does he even look like?
Me: No one knows. You are right, no one has ever seen him.
D: So he is not real.
Me: These are good enough reasons to have your own theory. Keep thinking about it. If you change your mind and have a different theory, that’s okay too. Your theory is yours, you decide what it is. And remember, having a theory is a good thing. Fighting about it with others is not.
D: Daddy when we get home can I have a ghiacciolo?
Me: Why not, you’ve earned it. But remember, sugary things will ruin your teeth.
D: That’s your theory, daddy, maybe it’s not true.