The Howe To Blog

Parenting Advice from the Unqualified



Bible Stories and Meat Pies


We have a long and storied history of misfires when it comes to discussing issues of God, religion and spirituality with our daughter.

During our first real substantive conversation about God when she was 3, we managed to scare the bejeezus out of her and leave her thinking she had a little man living in her tummy.

Then there was the time she thought church was called “cheech,” which made our spiritual failings glaringly evident every time she said, “Hey, Mom, let’s go to cheech this Sunday.”

We’re doing better these days, mainly because she’s older and there are fewer risks of miscommunication when discussing the complexities of God and such. But, from time to time, things still get lost in translation.

Last night at bedtime when Daddy was reading to the child from a book of nighttime blessings, they settled on a story about Jesus and shepherds. She seemed to be paying attention, but when the story ended, she jumped up and ran around the house chanting, “Shepherd’s Pie! Shepherd’s Pie! Shepherd’s Pie!” We think she may have missed the point of that story. Either that or she was hungry for pub food.


Conversations with My 4-Year-Old

Something strange was happening in our house this week. Nobody slept. Everyone was cranky. We cried for no particular reason. We yelled our conversations. Our bodies ached and creaked. We glared at each other from across the room. We were all tired, aggressive, sad and confused. At one point, the child collapsed into a heap of tears on our laundry room floor when I told her she couldn’t draw with a Sharpie pen. I asked her why she was crying. “I just don’t know!” she wailed. We just didn’t know. We had no idea what was going on this week. If I were one of those people who looked to astrology for the answers, I’d say that Jupiter was in retrograde. Yes, a planet had to be in retrograde to cause this inexplicable upset in our home. Or maybe it was El Niño’s fault. I’ll blame El Niño. Whatever the cause of this week’s chaos, it led to a few absolutely absurd conversations with my child. A few examples for your amusement:

Keep reading.

Confessions of a Mad Mommy


“Mommy, did God make Daddy funny because he wanted Daddy to be funny?” my daughter asked one day.

“I suppose so.”

Then, fishing for a compliment, I pressed further: “What did God make Mommy?”


Keep reading.

Howe To…Go to Church Because Your Kid Made You

2015.05.17blogpicI realized I might be neglecting my child’s religious education when she asked me recently if we could go to “cheech” on Sunday. The Carmelite Sisters at my Catholic high school would have cringed at that one. God and all things spiritual are definitely part of the dialogue in our house, but our weekly, or even monthly, schedule doesn’t involve attending religious services short of the occasional baptism or wedding mass.

Hailey attends a Presbyterian preschool, and while it doesn’t indoctrinate the children into any particular denomination, the kids attend chapel once a month and hear stories and sing songs about Jesus. I suppose I’ve lazily relied on these chapel visits as Hailey’s more formal religious education. After Hailey expressed her interest in cheech, we talked about Jesus for a bit. I asked her who Jesus was, what he did, what he looked like. She spun a grand tale of the son of God who was a super hero and wore a helmet and a cape. Not far off, I suppose.

One ritual we do practice is nightly prayers and expressions of gratitude when we put Hailey to bed. Hailey usually kicks these off with something simple: “Thank you, God, for my good day. I’m thankful for my teachers.” But recently, even this simple ritual has taken a strange turn. The other night, Hailey’s prayer went like this: “God, thank you for everything but I have a question: Why does Elsa freeze stuff so much? Why does she do it? Why?” We better get ourselves to cheech immediately.

Howe to…Explain God to a 3-Year-Old

If I were a betting woman, I’d wager that the last time Josh and I were in a church was either for a wedding, a funeral or a baptism. It’s not that we’re godless heathens or anything; quite the opposite. We’re both believers and fairly spiritual — I was raised Catholic and Josh was raised a Christian of no particular denomination. But as adults, and as a married couple, we haven’t embraced a particular church or indoctrinated our child into any specific religion, and that works for us. Our own brand of spirituality blends our Christian roots and values with a new age-y/Buddhist quest for enlightenment and living with presence, all mixed up with our golden rules of being kind, doing good and to live and let live. All of this is well and good, until our very bright 3-year old starts asking for specifics about God….then, well, there’s a good chance we may have scared the shit out of her.

Hailey: “But where does God live?”

Andrea & Josh (known hereafter as Godless Heathens): “Well, God lives everywhere, sweetie. He’s always here, watching out for us and taking care of us. He loves us very much.”

Hailey: [eyes darting around the room in a paranoid, twitchy kind of way] “You mean he’s in my room watching me right now!?”

Godless Heathen #1 (Josh): “Well, not watching you, like spying on you. Just making sure you’re okay. He does this for everyone. He’s not like a real person you can see; he’s like air, like a cloud.” (Josh makes a blowing sound with his mouth.)

Hailey looks terrified.

Godless Heathen #2 (Andrea): “God is all around us in everything we see, like in the ocean, in a butterfly, in a tree and in other people we love. But most importantly, he is in you, in your heart.”

Hailey: “There’s a little man in my tummy???!!! Show me! Show him to me right now. Daddy, is there a man in your tummy too?”

Godless Heathens: “Oh, sweetie, not in your tummy, he’s, oh, well, nevermind, let’s just forget this conversation ever happened.”

Godless Heathen #2 whispers to Godless Heathen #1: “Let’s back the hell away from this conversation now.”

For the next week or so, we worried that we irrevocably fucked up our kid about God. Then we went out to dinner with Josh’s parents and Hailey turns to her grandma and says, “I know where God lives.” Oh, no, I think. Let’s back the hell away from this conversation now….But then Hailey leans over to her grandma, taps on her chest and says, “He’s in my heartbeat.” And I just smiled, because, if what my 3-year-old thinks about God is that he is with her all the time in her heartbeat, well, then, we did a better job than I thought we did with our first significant God conversation.


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