Everything You Need to Survive the Tightrope Walk of Parenting

Parenting can be a tightrope walk.

We’re always in search of a middle ground. We want our kids to eat healthy, but we don’t want to deny them sweets.  We want to guide them to good decisions, but we don’t want to make decisions for them.  It isn’t always clear at first where the middle is, so we are always readjusting our sense of balance.  At least, I am.

I think that the most delicate and debated issue that requires nearly constant readjustment is that of religion–or in my case, lack thereof.  I’ve written of my desire to let my daughter make her own choices about her beliefs as she gets older.  But that’s easy to type.  In practice, it gets a bit murky.  How do you answer your child’s questions about the world without indoctrinating them?  Is that even possible?!  Sometimes I wonder.  Writer Wendy Thomas Russell delves into the murkiness of the non-religious parenting on her blog Relax, It’s Just God.

All that never far from my mind, I was eager to read the teen novel Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss.  Yes, it’s a novel published for teens.  But I am recommending it to parents.  Non-religious parents, in particular, may relate to the father, described as an “enthusiastic atheist,” as they read the teen’s story of exploring religion.

I couldn’t help but wonder if my daughter would feel like she needed to hide her interest in beliefs that differ from mine like Phillip does.  Or if I would forbid her from it like Phillip’s dad does.  I don’t think that I would, but sometimes we act more emotionally than rationally, especially when it is about the people we love the most. The book isn’t about religion being true or not true or good or bad.  It’s about the way religion affects people and the choices we make as we decide how we will let it affect us.  It’s about family.

Recommended to parents of all sorts, but especially those wondering how to approach the balancing act that is allowing our kids to explore beliefs that are different from our own.


For more about secular family life, see my Secular Thursday page or check out the Books for Secular Families Amazon Book Shop.  A portion of purchases made from Amazon.com links on this site benefit Proper Noun Blog.  Thanks for your support! (Book was reviewed from a library copy.)

Finding Magic & Wonder

The blog’s been quiet this week, I know.  I’ve been reading as usual, and I’ve been thinking about what I’ve read recently.  The Magic of Reality, in particular (which I blogged about here).  My daughter is too young yet for the book (aimed at teens and non-science-oriented adults), but she isn’t too young to start encouraging a sense of wonder at science and nature.

I’ve been immersed in science picture books for a work project recently, and wonder seems to be a theme this season.  At least that’s what I see in books like A Leaf Can Be… and Step Gently Out.  Both of these books use art and poetry to introduce the subject while creating a sense of awe, and they both offer more details in the back matter.

These are the sorts of books that I love to share with my daughter because they don’t really end when you finish reading the book.  The best part is what happens after you read them.  Maybe they’ll show up in a Picture Book Preschool post some time soon because they really do seem made for inspiring young science projects or at least a closer look.  It is so exciting to see my preschooler notice nature in a new way or make connections she hadn’t before because of what we’ve read.

How do you encourage a sense of wonder in your children?


Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

For more about science for kids, see my Secular Thursday page.

To Hitch

As you likely have already heard Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great, died last week.  If you had any doubt of Hitchens’ influence during his lifetime, you can see it very clearly in the tributes to him that are all over the internet.  The blog Why Evolution is True has a whole series of posts full of reader tributes to Hitch: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.  Clearly this is a man who touched a lot of lives for the better.

I have to admit, though, that my favorite tribute to Hitchens can be found in the Urban Dictionary thanks to the woman behind the Socratic Mama blog.  The word is “hitchling,” and it is defined as “a child void of religious indoctrination who is encouraged to read broadly and to seek the truth unapologetically.”

You can even purchase hitchling t-shirts!  The best part is that the profits go to the Foundation Beyond Belief!

I plan to resume my Books for Secular Families posts next week.  Happy Holidays, everyone!

Our Secular Bedtime

“May I have a blessing?” Ladybug asked at bedtime one night.

I have to admit, I was thrown.  How would she even know the word “blessing”?  A few questions revealed a bedtime blessing she had heard at a recent sleepover, and while I wasn’t opposed to a general blessing-type-thing, the one Ladybug recited about angels protecting us as we sleep wasn’t going to fly at our house.

So began my somewhat reluctant search for a bedtime blessing (or whatever) that fit our family.  It’s a difficult task for a non-religious family for whom the word “blessing” is a little too far from our comfort zone.  I felt a bit less reluctant about the idea of a blessing after reading Raising Happiness (which I mentioned in this post about gratitude) since it included a recommendation to say a mealtime prayer (or prayer-like thing, the author notes for non-religious families) as a way of modeling shared optimism and gratitude.

My requirements were as follows:

  • Express empowerment or optimism
  • No reference to anything supernatural

Sounds pretty simple, right?  That’s what I thought, but nothing I found in books of children’s prayers and blessings were secular enough for us–even the Unitarian prayers still felt like they were invoking something in a way that wouldn’t feel right for us.

Then one night before bedtime, we found what we were looking for as we finished our bedtime story for the night.  The story had a little bear looking to put off bedtime with request for one more story, one more prayer, one more anything that would mean not sleeping for a few more minutes.  It’s a familiar routine at our house, but it was the end of the story stood out that night.

The final words to Sleepyhead by Karma Wilson are now our bedtime “blessing”:

“Sleepyhead, Sleepyhead

Sleep tight, sleep tight.

Tomorrow’s play is just ahead.

I love you so. Now rest your head.”

That felt right.

I’ve since discovered this post about secular bedtime prayers from Kelly Naturally that might have something that feels right for you.

See more posts about science, religion, and secular family life on my Secular Thursday page.

Disclosure: Amazon Links are affiliate links.

How Non-Religious People Talk About Religion

I must admit that I have yet to read Richard Dawkins’ new book aimed at young people and their grown-ups, but I did read an interesting take on it on a new blog about secular parenting.

The blogger questioned referring to religious stories as “myths,” which the book does (and many non-believing parents do as well).  She puts forth some compelling arguments–most notably to me is the idea that there are no atheist children and we want our kids to feel comfortable exploring different beliefs to come to their own conclusions.  Allowing my daughter to decide for herself is among my strongest values–and the most complex.

Of course, Dawkins isn’t the first to talk about religion like this.  I blogged about The Story of Religion by Betsy Maestro in a post about religious literacy for secular families, and one of the things I liked about it was its somewhat understated way of saying that religions evolved for a reason, that people made up these stories to find meaning.  It never claims that any of these stories came from a supernatural source, but it does consistently remind readers that people believe these stories, which I think is a good point to keep in mind.

I try to keep that in mind as I write these Secular Thursday posts because I don’t want to alienate any reader.  I started the “Book for Secular Families” series because there really wasn’t anything like it out there, and that’s what librarians do–we look for people who aren’t being served and we try to help them.  I’ve spent my career immersed in children’s books, and, more than anything, I want to empower people find books that help them explore and explain their world.  I hope I’ve helped you–no matter what you believe!  :)

With that in mind, please feel free to download and share this bibliography for your next trip to the library.

See more posts about science, religion, and secular family life on my Secular Thursday page.

Disclosure: Amazon Links are affiliate links.