We had to throw away my son’s painted Halloween pumpkin earlier this week. It had been sitting on our front steps since October, though it has been buried under snow for most of the winter. But it was starting to get, um, gelatinous and seemed to be decomposing inside (though the skin was intact, which was kind of weird and cool) so it was time for it to go.
I wanted to throw it in the trash can. Miles begged to put it in the backyard instead.
I wanted to break it open to see what the inside looked like. Miles screamed in horror and started to cry.
“No! I’m already too sad for the pumpkin.”
He went inside and Mr. Monkey comforted him for a bit and we want on with our day.
That night, an hour or so after bedtime, I heard crying coming from Miles’ room. When I went in to check on him, his cheeks were wet and he was doing the pitiful gasping for air cry. I asked him why he was crying and he said it was for the pumpkin and how sad it was that it was all alone in the backyard and wasn’t good anymore.
(my son has a tender heart).
I held him for a bit and we talked about how the pumpkin would become part of the dirt and that, in a way, we’d always have it with us but that, no, we couldn’t spray it with water and freeze it so it would never fall apart.
As I thought about how odd this attachment to the pumpkin was and how, holy moly, this totally affirms my decision to not get this kid a pet, he started to ask other questions:
“What happens to people’s bodies when they die?”
“What do people feel and think when they are dead?”
“Does when people die have something to do with God? Like the God stuff?”
Yikes. Could I just tell you how babies are made instead?
It all made me realize that I’m not prepared to talk about God with my kids. I’m barely ready to talk about God with my husband. I grew up in a VERY conservative religious tradition and even went to Christian college. For most of my life, I went to church 2-3 per week. I tried, so hard, to be a good believer, to feel what I was supposed to be feeling, but the pressure to fit in got to be too much.
Now I don’t go at all. Church was like a shoe that never quite fit right and I’ve stopped trying to heal the blisters.
I’m not an atheist but I’m also not sure I’m a Christian any more. Trying to figure how to talk about this with my son has made me feel very aware of how unsure I really am.
I believe in mystery and I believe in science and I believe that there is an about equal distribution of assholes in church as in the world. I believe that through faith you can find community but I also believe I can raise moral, kind and thoughtful children without church (you can with church too, of course, but I don’t think church is any guarantee that will happen).
Easter is coming but I don’t know what that means to me anymore.
I’m just glad we won’t be doing anything with pumpkins to celebrate.
Edited to add: Many, if not most, of the people I love in this world are religious and I am glad that their faith adds meaning and value to their life, so please don’t read this as a knock against religion or church going.