The girls’ preschool was downtown. I always told myself that it was great because if anything happened it would be so easy to get to them, what with it being so close. The irony being, for as close as it was, getting there on time for pick up was rarely easy.
The drive to the school was always a non-stop thread of chatter—things they saw through the window, questions they had about what I was going to do while they were at school, what a song lyric on the radio meant. A few blocks from the school they would get quiet. There was a church on a corner that bore a larger-than-life Jesus Christ on the cross. We have never been to church with the girls other than for funerals, weddings, and baptisms. One morning they asked me what the man on the building was there for. I stammered my way through an explanation, such as I could remember and edit appropriately for their age.
“Mom, don’t you think he’s cold? Don’t you think that Big Jesus is freezing in this frosty morning air?” Finley asked.
I winced. “Probably, honey, but soon the sun will move this way and be shining on him.” She watched, tracing his form with her finger on the window.
“Hey, Big Jesus. Don’t worry, I know you are in your underwear and probably embarrassed about your nipples, but the sun is coming soon. Have a great day Big Jesus. I’ll see you on my way home.”
I felt a little nervous. I didn’t have the literacy of the bible to really explain things to her, nor did I have the integrity of faith to feel like it would be appropriate to go beyond explaining that there are several schools of thought and many religions.
“But I can still talk to Big Jesus, right?” she asked very seriously.
“Of course you can,” I said.
And she did, we all did. Even I did alone in the car; it seemed wrong to be stopped at the intersection without saying something. I remember getting a piece of artwork Finley had made at school. The teacher giggled, “She was going on and on about how she loves the big Cheez-Its.” I smiled and nodded, not knowing what she meant. As I walked to the car I saw that a teacher had written next to Fin’s, “I luv big cheezus” an explanation: “I love big Cheez-Its.”
Night before last we were driving to Karate and the girls saw we were getting close. “Oooh, Finley, we can say hi to Big Jesus!”
She sat up, craning her neck forward, and then she gasped. The building had a Genie Lift and all sorts of plastic over where he had been.
“Mom, what does that mean? Are they taking Big Jesus away? Will that disappear all the Jesuses?” Finley wondered.
“No, it doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t here. Big Jesus may not be there, but there is a Jesus spirit for people.” Briar explained.
“So will he be gone from here?” Fin pressed.
“Well, I don’t know. I just know you can’t take a symbol away and get rid of the thinking. I mean you can take stuff I love away, but I still love it. Statues are the reminders, not the thing.”
I sat still in the driver’s seat. Chest filled up with pride and my heart bursting.
“Yeah, Fin, that Big Jesus, and anything we believe in or love doesn’t have to do with a building, it has to do with us.” Avery chimed in confidently.
We waved to Big Jesus and told him it would be ok, we’ll still say hi and wish him a good day, even if we can’t see him when that plastic is gone.
These discussions were always complicated for us, too. I worried about our lack of organized religion confusing our kids, but they have formed their own ideas and questions with age and the conversation flows easily now.
Perhaps we could all use a little more Finley in our lives, with her open mind and Big Cheezits and worry over Big Jesus’ embarrassing nipples.
Nipples are a huge issue around our place, Shannon.
Oh Amanda. What a gift you are. This post flows so perfectly for the Out of the Mouths of Babes 2015 theme of The Village: Who Else is Here While You Mother? If you are game, let me know if I can repost it in early January. Our live performance is here March 7. I’d love to meet up with you live and in person and even have you in the audience on the 7th. Let me know. Waving to Big Jesus from here. xo S
Suzi, I cannot imagine ever not being thrilled to have you repost something of mine. Yes, you absolutely can. Please remind me as we get closer so I can write something to let people know. Have a wonderful weekend.
Oh the times I’ve stuttered and stammered my way through a faith based question. As your girls are so astutely aware of reverence comes from within. In every faith, in every soul, God is love. And you know what they say about “the details”.
I was so worried to post this. I honestly thought people would be offended. Thank you for this generous and kind comment.
My goodness do I love this. The universal thread of spirit and love that you teased out and presented to them (and they to each other) is beautiful. We have similarly difficult discussions here, and I stumble about, trying to find the most open, honest answer. Which is tough because I don’t know exactly what that *is*. I usually end up explaining that there are many different ways to believe, and that the different religions can teach me how to live a life of which I’ll be proud. Of course, then, the kids want to know *which* one *we* believe in.
PS: I almost spit out my pumpkin muffin when I read about Big Jesus’s nipples. This gem is officially added to the “Things Which Will Always Make Me Think of the Magees” List, along with the bananus.
I find myself reflecting on this time and thinking about how hard it can be to figure out what to say, but that it is so precious that they let me hear their questions and weigh in on what the answers are, or if there even are answers.
Bananus and nipples, you got our number 😉
This is so beautiful. I’ve stammered my way through answers to similar questions, and likewise been blindsided by what I viewed as very thoughtful and wise responses coming from them. “Praying is saying thank you,” one of them said years ago, and I love that. Just like “statues are the reminder, not the thing.” Oh, yes. Such wisdom. xox
At karate the sensei says as they bow before sparring, “I pray to you, you pray to me.” I love the gentleness. As you know, I am always seeking ways to create soft edges. I am grateful that I was not alone in this.
I love this. As non churchgoers, I’ve had the “why don’t we go to church?/different people believe different things” conversation with my 5yo, and how all different beliefs all share treating people well, etc. I understood and felt your palpable suspense and pride that they GET it. Beautiful.
And nipples are always a discussion point in our house too. Except my 2yo calls them “hoppos” which is also how she says “hippos”, which makes it extra funny.
So funny! Finley called to me from a Target aisle once, “Hey mom, do you need nip gloss for your nips?”
I died twelve times over!
nip gloss! dying.
I Love Big Cheesus too. And your amazing girls. What grace and compassion they have. And a true knowledge about love.
Thanks you, Pamela!
I love this! I am so interested to hear children interpret religeon as it is expressed in our daily landscape. Jesus=Cheez-its, YES!
Life with children is wondrous. And sticky 😉