Motherhood hasn’t come naturally to Daisy Leverington. Five years in and she remains wide-eyed, terrified and in awe of the little person she’s responsible for. This week, it’s been all about God.
Our little girl trotted home from school this week and, somewhat surprisingly, declared that God made her, and that he died on a big cross. She stated this as fact. Not ‘some people believe that…’, or ‘I think that…’ Just fact.
She told us that God loves everyone and that he made us all. Somewhat taken aback, her dad and I pressed for further information. She then burst into song explaining how we are all God’s children.
As non-God-fearing atheists, we naturally had a few questions.
We were genuinely curious as to what her non-religious primary school had been teaching. Perhaps unbeknown to many, there exists a slightly archaic law by which all schools must include an element of ‘daily Christian worship’ in their curriculum (which some schools do choose to ignore).
After a lengthy phone conversation with her headteacher last year, we were given the choice to take her out of the Bible sessions and sit her in a classroom where she could colour in or play with any other kids who had been removed. Knowing our daughter would be utterly mortified to be excluded in such a way, and would see it as a punishment, we opted to let her stay with the rest of her class and see where it took her.
This week, it brought her to the conclusion that God is definitely real and that He made her. As someone whose vagina and finances took on new and interesting proportions five years ago, I disagree.
At only just five years old and brought up to listen to grown-ups, our kid now faces her first decision on whether or not to believe an adult in authority.
We have gently explained that Mum and Dad do not believe in God, but that the people who teach the worship classes do. We’ve also told her that it’s entirely her choice what she believes.
For the first time she sees adults could possibly be fallible. We no longer present a united front between school and home. She’s an intelligent kid, and knows believing her teachers would make her parents wrong, and vice versa.
God isn’t being presented to her as one of many colourful and interesting religious icons, but as hard fact, and she isn’t old enough to distinguish this from the facts about bees and caterpillars that she learns in her other lessons at school. We could go along with her belief in God and uphold the authority of the school staff, or undermine them, actively encouraging her that they are wrong.
“When she’s old enough to make an informed decision as to whether she wants to go to church or dance naked during a full moon or live in a cave and meditate, we will support her beliefs wholeheartedly.”
Last year when she started Reception and we discovered that she would taking part in ‘daily acts of worship’, I lost a mate because I had a good old moan about it on Facebook. I was cross that in 2016, we still allow Christianity to be our default in schools.
I said that her dad and I would strive to give her a rounded and unbiased education at home; we would teach her about all the gods of Hinduism, what happens during Sikh worship, and how important Allah is to Islam. We would tell her that ‘some people believe in….’ and not ‘this is the definite truth’, because I don’t think that at five years old, she can make an informed choice with only a sliver of one-sided information.
I was irked, and sad to unexpectedly lose a best friend over the whole shitshow on social media. I use small words and lots of swears when I’m angry.
Religion isn’t something I feel I have any authority to enforce on my daughter. When she’s old enough to make an informed decision as to whether she wants to go to church or dance naked during a full moon or live in a cave and meditate, we will support her beliefs wholeheartedly.
We will light candles during Diwali and talk about the importance of fasting during Ramadan. We will look at beautiful saris and read about how awesome Hanuman’s monkey army is in the Rama and Sita story. We’ll talk about Buddhism and Scientology and folklore and magic and evolution. We will talk about how religion can help bring about both peace and war, and how for the vast majority of people religion is something positive and helpful, but we will never tell her to favour one over the other.
We will teach respect and tolerance, not fact and lies. Which, I suppose, is why I object to her coming home feeling like she’s been taught the latter.
At the moment though, she’s dressed at Batman and putting lipstick on the cat, so I’ve got other things to worry about.
Read all of Daisy’s Motherhood columns here.
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Daisy Leverington - Actor, mother, expert at winging it.