My three-year-old is getting smarter, which means it's time for religion lessons.

He still hasn't made the connection between a wonderful device called "the potty" and the uncomfortable mess in his pants, but he has managed to figure out how to operate the remote control so that Winnie the Pooh magically speaks Spanish.

Bedtime has now become Religion 101, which is much more difficult to teach for this theology graduate than I thought.

I'm afraid he might be terribly confused by now, attending both a Jewish and Unitarian preschool. Our house resembles a children's multifaith museum, with colorful Sukkot baskets and Stars of David made from construction paper decorating the walls of his room.

"David," I say in my semi-serious don't-get-down-from-the-table-yet tone of voice, "Do you know who God is?"

He gives me a blank stare. This speech-delayed toddler uses his words very sparingly, so I'm not expecting a lengthy discourse on salvation history. I just would be pleased if he recognized the name of God, outside the context of rushed words before pizza and chicken tenders, at bedtime after a few rounds of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," and in the hard pews at church on Sunday.

"Think basic, very basic," I tell myself, looking around his bedroom.

"Do you see your big stuffed Nemo?" I ask him. "God gave you him."

"No, Daddy did," my son replies.

"Yes, but God gave Nemo to Daddy," I explain.

"Actually, Toys-R-Us gave Nemo to Daddy," the smart man of house injects. I'm not amused. This could get complicated.

"David, God made Nemo," I say. "Nemo just lived at Toys-R-Us for a while before Daddy brought him home." Time to move on.

"David, who gave you your heart?" I ask. We've recently been making the connection between a person's heart and love.

"Warren," my little guy responds. My husband and I look at each other and smile. Warren is our sixty-year-old neighbor who watches him an hour or two a week and spoils him with new matchbox cars and t-shirts and shorts. Every time David has something new, he assumes it comes from Warren.

"No, David. God gave you your heart." I try one more before adjourning the first session of this class. "David, who gave you your baby sister?"

"Dr. Brown," he says, so matter-of-factly that I can't help but laugh. In my attempt at an innocent Reader's Digest version of the birds and bees, I told David that Dr. Brown (my obstetrician) pulled Baby Katherine out of my stomach six months ago just like the wonderful doctor did with David nearly three years ago.

"Yes, David," I explain. "Dr. Brown pulled out Katherine. But God made Katherine. And you. And me. And Dad."

"Oh," he says. I may be getting somewhere. But he's pulled that fake "Oh" before, like when I told him that socks don't need to be microwaved and his blankie doesn't need to be refrigerated.

According to recent studies, children have a clear concept of God by the time they go to school. By the ages of 2 to 4, their sense of morality is already formed. This means Religion 101 needs to meet every night until God is the answer to at least three out of every four questions and his name becomes as familiar as Nemo.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus