Sampling spiritual practices: Teaching my kids to appreciate something about every religion

JANUARY 11, 2016 By Layney Wells

I’ve spent most of my life tasting and sampling religions, trying them on as you might a hat. Among my first words was “Krishna”; among my first books, a children’s illustrated Bible; among the first gifts I gave, a hand crafted finger painted menorah.

I grew up Quaker, attending meeting for worship regularly, and often tagging along to other services of various denominations. At 17, I had a brief and intense love affair with Jesus and the United Methodist Church, complete with a tattoo and Christian rock band.

I was no stranger to talks of god, religion, and spirituality as a child, but as a parent, I have balked at these conversations.

My kids can tell you who several Hindu deities are. They can point out unalome and an Om, but we don’t own the Bible, Torah or Quran. Until recently, they didn’t know Jesus Christ was more than something they heard me exclaim in exasperation (oops), or what a rabbi, priest, pastor or imam are.

It’s always been my intention to teach the boys about all religions, to give them a clear picture and plenty of room to decide for themselves, but I didn’t anticipate how difficult that would be, or more accurately —how uncomfortable it would make me.

Over the years I’ve stored away bits and pieces of each religion I’ve encountered, holding on to what I appreciate, what I relate to, and leaving the rest behind. I accept and appreciate all religions, but identify with none, and am by no means an expert in any theology. I’ve vacillated recently as to whether this makes it more or less difficult to explain such things to my four year olds.

Being able to give a definitive answer to what or who god is, and letting someone else explain, would be much easier. But on the other hand, would that provide sufficient depth to their understanding, appreciation for diversity, or room to make their own decision?

As the boys become more in tune with the world around them, it’s become clear I couldn’t avoid it any longer.

True to form, Alim and Milo met my worry and discomfort with the simple, beautiful acceptance that children often do. As they listened eagerly, with open hearts and minds, I realized that even with my limited expertise I was able to share the bits and pieces I’ve been storing over the course of a lifetime.

As it turns out, the very thing I had been putting off for so long turned out to be one of the most satisfying interactions I’ve had with my kids to date.

I may not take them to temple, or Sunday school, we may not say grace or pray before bed, but we cultivate a deep appreciation and respect for all religions and for all people. We hold on the endless wonders and possibilities without closing any doors, and we take it all with a grain of salt.

Leave a Reply