My oldest daughter turns ten in February, and I just bought her birthday gift online: The Magic of Reality, by Richard Dawkins. If she reads it, it will be an introduction to the kinds of ideas to which her father subscribes.
I expect my wife to be troubled by the book. For 10 years, she’s worked to teach Christianity to all our children, and to model it within our home. That was the agreement we made many years ago, before we were married or had children. We agreed that any kids would have a Christian identity, and they’d also observe Jewish holidays along with me. Years later, when I started to leave Judaism and identify as atheist, I chose not to present non-belief to the children. I thought it would confuse them.
Now, my oldest child has reached an age where she can appreciate what non-belief means. I want to share some of what I think and what I like, and the ideas in Dawkins’s book are part of that. My daughter may not read the book. She may not like it. She may disagree with it or be upset by it. But I want her to have something that gives her insight into what her father thinks is true, and why.
My wife will probably accept and respect my desire to talk to the kids about my knowledge and values. She is an understanding and open-minded person. Nevertheless, she will probably also be upset. How can the book not be construed as a challenge to all the work she’s done: all the participation in church: all the kiddie bibles, books, and videos; all the worship music?
Here’s my plan, so far. After the book arrives, and before the birthday, I’ll tell my wife the reasons I want to give our daughter the book. My suggestion at that time will be to give the book and later allow our daughter to come to her parents with questions. Or maybe we won’t wait for questions, and we’ll simply talk about some of what the book discusses.
Surely, there is a way to get out in front of an issue before it becomes a problem. That’s what I’m going to try and do. But I fear my daughter will get caught in the middle of her parents’ (ahem) “struggle for her soul.” I refuse to participate in that kind of thing, because it would be harmful to everyone. The best-case scenario is a new era in the house where we talk openly about belief , and traditions, and truth, and non-belief. We don’t really do that now, not that there’s a great need to. I just happen to think it’s come time to introduce these discussions and develop a family way for them.