Undoing the Santa Lie

If you have a free moment — Hahahahaha, like anyone has those anymore — head over to the PBS NewsHour site and check out my column about lying to kids about Santa. Although I think there are perfectly good reasons for doing the Santa thing and for NOT doing the Santa thing, I've got some advice for those like myself who have entered Santa territory lightly but worry a bit about the fallout when the Truth prevails. In the end, I realized that what's important isn't how parents do the whole Santa thing with their kids, but in how they undo it.

NewsHour Twitter Chat

A big thank you to the PBS NewsHour for inviting me to join last week's Twitter Chat about what works and what doesn't when it comes to celebrating holidays in multicultural or interfaith homes. I joined two other authors and NewsHour data producer Laura Santhanam, and it was a lot of rapid-fire fun. I'm told a full article on the NewsHour website is forthcoming, and will keep you posted.

New Blog: Natural Wonderers

Pack your bags, folks. We're hittin' the road. As of this week, I'll be hosting a brand-spanking-new blog over on Patheos called Natural Wonderers: Raising Curious, Compassionate Kids in a Secular Family. The idea for the blog came from Dale McGowan, who is now a managing editor there and invited me to take on the project this summer. The timing is perfect, as I've just wrapped up my book (due for release in March) and will tasked with promoting it over the next six or eight months.

The archives from this blog have already been moved over to the new digs and, at some point, I'm told, you'll be automatically diverted there whenever you try to come here. (Kind of like being forced onto one of those parking lot trams at Disneyland. You won't really have a choice.) Also, I'll be sending subscriber updates from the new blog, so try not to freak out when that happens.

I think this is going to be a great change for two main reasons:

1. Secular Parenting will get more exposure. Patheos, if you've never heard of it, a humongous network of, like, 400 blogs on all kinds of different faiths (and non-faiths.) It's often called the "WebMD of religion and spirituality." So, basically, I'm a doctor now.

2. You'll get more voices. Although I'll be hosting and running the blog — and continuing on with the work I've started here — Natural Wonderers will have lots of guest contributors, as well.  In fact, I hope that many of you will offer to write for a regular segment I'm planning to call "Bragging Rights," in which nonreligious parents will tell about how they successfully tackled a challenging issue or question arising from their lack of belief. (Please e-mail me if you're interested!)

I'm exceedingly happy about the opportunity and can't thank you all enough for supporting me these last four years. Hope to see you on the other side.

xo WTR, MD

Relax, It's Just God: Last Call!

Big news! I finished my book!

Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious is slated for release March 31, 2015 — just in time to not be given out as Christmas gifts. What timing! I'm super excited, and grateful to all of you who have stuck with me all this time. How did four years go by? Jesus Christ. My kid is old now.

I'll be updating you as regularly as I can, but in the meantime, let this serve as last call: If you'd like something specifically to be covered in the book — or have a particularly nagging question or concern — let me know that now! It's not too late, but will be soon.

"Mommy, What's Catechism?"

1959catechism_class

This segment of "Mommy, What's That?" — a series where you can find simple, straightforward and age-appropriate language to explain religious ideas to children in non-religious ways — comes courtesy of a reader, Chris. Chris told me that some of his daughter's friends are in CCD — short for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine AKA "Catechism" — and he is having a little trouble coming up with the language to explain it to his little one.

1959catechism_class

If you don't know already, CCD is basically Catholic instruction for kids who attend secular schools. It's meant to 1) teach about the Catholic faith and 2) ready children to become Catholics. In a sense, it's indoctrination in its most classic form: Teaching children to believe, through "classes" — because, you know, it's educational! Like school! — to adopt one, single perspective to the exclusion of all other perspectives. I'm not a big fan.

BUT, hey, other people I like and admire see it as a harmless way to introduce kids to the Catholic culture. And if balanced out at home with other perspectives and the assurance that Catholicism is a choice, like any other choice, then I think it's just fine. My aim is not to keep secular children away from religion — or from people who wish to indoctrinate them! — but rather to teach kids to think critically, value science, and to take charge of their own belief systems.

Now back to Chris' question. How can you explain Catechism in your secular home?

The short answer:

CCD is a school that teaches kids how to be a part of a religion called Catholicism.

The long answer:

Many people think it's important for their children to grow up to know about and believe they way they believe, so they will send their children to special schools to learn these things. Jewish kids might go to Hebrew School, Catholic kids might go to Catholic School, etc. CCD is a special type of Catholic school that is only held on weekends and week nights, and where kids can learn all about Catholic beliefs and what it takes to be a Catholic.* Any child can take CCD classes — including you! — but the kids who take them usually feel pressured to believe what they learn there. And we want you to learn about lots of different religious — rather than just one — and make up your own mind about what to believe. If you want to know more about the classes, though, why not ask your friends what they are learning? I bet they'd love to share that with you."

* If you want to take a minor tangent, Chris, you might tell your daughter that Catholics have sacraments, which means that they believe God wants them to take part in certain activities — and then give her an example or two. I'll touch on some of them — baptism, confession and communion — in the coming days. So look for that!

And let me know in the comments if this answers your question!