What I Will Teach My Children

By Jennifer Filipowicz (aka Super Happy Jen)

 “What will you teach your children?”  This was a question posed to me when I recently wore an atheist t-shirt to a child’s birthday party.   What a broad question, thought I, and not knowing quite how to answer, it stuck with me.

Today my three-and-a-half-year-old found a fly buzzing around my bedroom.  “When flies are outside we don’t kill them but when they come inside we have to kill them!” he exclaimed.

“Or we could just live and let live,” I replied, not wanting to raise a murderous child, or find the fly swatter.

A few minutes later, my son asked to watch a video about bugs.  Using the miracle of the internet, I managed to find something before his attention span waned, the BBC documentary series “Life in the Undergrowth” with David Attenborough. Since the bug that sparked his interest was a fly, I chose the episode about flying insects.

Two sections sparked discussion.  The first was of two damsel flies contorting themselves bizarrely for carnal purposes. 

“What are those bugs doing?”

“They’re mating…um…making babies.”

Luckily the damsel fly quickly started laying eggs.

“What is that bug doing?”

“Laying eggs.”

“Why?”

“Because its babies come from eggs.”

Later on, the show featured a wasp laying its eggs inside a caterpillar.  I’ve heard these types of insects used as evidence against a benevolent god, with the wasp larvae keeping its hosts alive until they are eaten from the inside out.  Now I started to think perhaps I had chosen a documentary too adult for my young ones eyes. Did I really want to expose him to the cruelty of the world so early? We watched as the wasp larvae exploded out of the unfortunate caterpillar, and I thought of how best to explain what was happening.  In the end my son summed it up perfectly: “Ew!”

So what will I teach my children? I will plod along, taking advantage of some teachable moments and missing others.  And for his part, my son will forget some things I say and absorb the rest.  And if we don’t get to the topic of religion, I doubt that will matter.  There is so much more to learn.

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