[driving home from school]
Brian: "Papa, do some people think they were alive before they were born?"
Me: [curious as to where this is going, given that we have a bunch of little missionaries in his class] "Yes, they do. They think they lived in heaven."
Brian: "No, do they think they were, like, bugs and elephants?"
Me: [Okay, the little missionary's parents are New Age? And when did Brian start using "like"?] "Oh, yes. That's called reincarnation. Yes, some people believe that."
Brian: "[Namey Redactedson] said she was a cat" [a moment passes] "But that's not true."
Me: [Now my agnostic/skeptic chord is plucked; I don't want him to dismiss supernatural claims out of hand, and don't want him to do like a couple kids in his class and push his parent's religion on others, so I ask:] "How do you know that's not true, bub?"
Brian: "Because I don't remember I was a cat. Cats don't talk."
Me: "They don't, do they? But maybe [Namey] thinks she remembers being a cat. Maybe she just believes it. What if you remembered being a cat?"
Brian: "I think I would be dreaming. [with that adorable exaggerated incredulousness seen only in kids] How would my brain be in a cat?"
Me: [Thinking but never saying "That's my boy." I try my best to get them to think for answers in this area rather than give them a package of answers, which, in a way, is passing on my Agnosticism, I suppose :-).] "That is a puzzle. Did she give you any testable evidence? Maybe we could think about it."
Brian: "What is testable evidence?"
Me: [somehow not realizing I've overreached, and slipping way out of the boundary of appropriate 1st grade complexity] "Sometimes our brains can trick us into feeling some things are true when they are not, like when some kids think there are monsters. Did she tell you something everyone could do or observe to evaluate whether or not people can be cats before they are people? " [silent thought] "I mean, did she give you a fact that any person could objectively and reasonably defer to as a reason to think a person was reincarnated? If she did, then we could evaluate that evidence, and better decide how likely reincarnation is."
[Silence, as Brian tries to figure out the mess in what his Papa just said, and as we pull into the garage.]
Alan: [having been quiet all this time, and ready to put a period on this boring conversation] "I'm going to be a bird!.. Can I have a snack?"
Oh well :-). Not every day can have a profound message, and not every day can anyone get parenting right on key.
I am curious, though, New Age parents aside (as they're rare here), do LDS parents tell their children to talk to other children about their religion at school or does that just happen? It seems once a week we hear about their classmates talking about the "invisible face in the sky" and all the great things they're promised in heaven.
While, in general, I don't want my kids questioning another kid's faith at school, and I want them to be judicious about doing so if that kid pushed his/her faith first, I could see talk of reincarnation, heaven and invisible faces in the sky as great learning opportunities (as long as I don't blow it in getting too complex :-)). I don't mind that, even if the kids are told to proselytize in 1st grade. But when such talk of eventual rewards and invisible benefactors begins being tied to the faith that our family is supernaturally lacking, or non-ideal, or even evil or should never have been... I do worry about that. I'll have to bring my A-game that day.