Afternoon stroll with a toddler

This is how an afternoon stroll turns into a discussion about God with my three-year-old.

One sunny afternoon in early spring, I took my daughter who was three and a half at the time and my three-month-old son for a quick walk outside. The trees were still naked with no leaves in sight, but it was still warm enough and spring was in the air. We started walking and all of a sudden my daughter asked: “Mommy what happened to the leaves?” I paused for a moment thinking of a simple response she could grasp so I went with “the leaves will come back soon when it’s summer.” She seemed to understand but after a moment she asked: “But mom who takes the leaves away and returns them in the summer?” This time I said without thinking “God.” She then, of course, asked me who is God and what role does he plays in this process. I explained that God made all the people in her life and he also made everything in nature like the trees, the leaves, and the flowers. Of course this led to dozens of questions of “Did God make this…?” This started a daily ritual where she tries to figure out who made everything in her eyesight. My new moto is “God created humans, animals and nature and humans created many things like your toys.”

I had no intention of teaching my daughter about God that day even though we are a devout Muslim family and she watches us perform our five daily prayers. We now talk openly about God and she even has her own conversations with him. The other day she told me: “You know God has superpowers and he can do anything.” I encourage her to ask us all her questions and we try our best to answer as honestly as we can. Of course certain concepts are still hard for her to grasp, but we now have an open dialogue about a subject I didn’t think I could have with her for at least a few more years. It’s been almost a year since that faithful walk and she now makes “duaa,” which mean invocation in Arabic, where she asks God for things she wants. Right now what she wants is a baby sister, and although we tried reasoning with her that God will choose if our next baby will be a girl or a boy she is not having it! “I told God it has to be a girl, because I already have a brother.” Insha Allah (God willing) she will understand when that time comes.

I recently read an article on a report from UN that concluded that teaching kids about God violates their human rights. Apparently, the document linked religious teaching and child labor. According to them forcing kids to participate in religious obligations will hinder the child’s freedom of thought.[1] We wholeheartedly agree that no child should be forced into any practice especially when it comes to religion. When it comes to our religion and God, in our house we lead by example and let our faith shine and pray that our kids will follow in our footsteps.

[1] http://buzzsouthafrica.com/teaching-kids-about-god/