A couple nights ago, Husband emerged from Ethan's room after bedtime with a look that was part bemused and part terrified. He told me that he'd pulled his first, "We'll have to ask Mommy in the morning," when Ethan posed two questions to which Husband had no answer.
The questions? "Is G-d a person?" and "Where does G-d live?"
You know, your basic 3.5 year old questions.
This is really not something I was ready for. Sure, we send him to a Jewish preschool, so I know he's heard of G-d and I guess I should have been prepared for the G-d questions given all of that. But I thought that since Ethan's main source of amusement at the moment is picking his nose and playing his guitar using matchbox cars as picks, he wasn't so likely to start asking meaning-of-life type questions just yet.
But ask he did. Husband's putting the question off until morning did buy us some time. Ethan's not asked again, but I hope he does, and I want to be prepared.
I just have to figure out what to say.
How do you explain the concept of G-d to a preschooler? When you aren't all that religious to being with? It's important to me that Ethan grow up with a sense of spirituality and that he feel a connection to Judaism, but G-d? In terms of defining him as a "person"? And where "he lives"?
I grew up with that image of the wise old wizard who lives in the clouds. That is not at all a Jewish image, or really any religion's true image of G-d--but it was somehow what I came up with in my head. I think a lot of people in my generation had that---G-d as Gandolf. It's really not how I want Ethan to grow up. It begs for disillusionment, which I know he's certain to go through, both in terms of religious belief and just about everything else at one time or another.
My view of G-d, though, is so abstract, and so interwoven with how we feel about the world and how we treat others, I'm not sure I even know how to put it into words for a 3.5 year old. Preschoolers are so literal--how to tell one that G-d lives in him, without freaking him out? How to explain to a 3.5 year old that to me, G-d is not a person, but an energy that guides us to do the right thing and be kind to others?
That is so much more confusing than, "He's a wise old wizard who lives up in the clouds and watches over you."