Positive Assertion #2 – I Love My Daughters! How I’m Raising Kids Without Christ

A few months ago Pascal asked me to write about “the curiosity alarm.” When my wife talked to me about posting again a few minutes ago, she gave me the following prompt:

“What are your ambitions for your children if it’s not to know and follow Christ? What do you want for them?”

This echoed one of Pascal’s earlier questions. Time is short because the weights and treadmill are calling (along with an iPad app episode of Marvel’s Agents of Shield), but this shouldn’t take long. It’s easy to write about what I love (my first positive assertion took 15 minutes).

I am unashamedly a father, and my aim is to do the best I can at raising the two tiny lifeforms that enrich my life beyond words.

Our four-year-old graduates from Pre-K tomorrow :(. I just returned from James Avery with a charm bracelet embracing two charms. The book charm will remind her of our constant mantra to “stay curious and love learning.” The idea of a lifelong self-learner who learns by finding new ways to love the process and challenge of learning is a guiding principle for us. The “big sister” charm will remind her of her “so adorable” (her words) little sister and the overwhelming love and acceptance that comes from being in this family, no matter what. As soon as we can find a suitable glass slipper charm, she’ll have that too, to remind her to “have courage and be kind” and to risk being herself. Someday I’ll find one to represent our “special daddy-daughter thing” – I’ll always be honest with her, and she’ll always be honest with me.

So, what is “the curiosity alarm?” It’s just what it sounds like. It’s an alarm on my phone (now on my Apple Watch) that I set to remind me every day to ask my oldest what she’s curious about (our youngest is oooh so cute, but a little too young to answer such a question). She takes a minute to think of something if she hasn’t already, and then I answer her question or we look up the answer together. I highly recommend trying this if you have children. I thought to do this when I read this article called How Curiosity Changes the Brain to Enhance Learning.

I also highly recommend this audio book from The Great Courses called Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive.

I got so much out of it that I may dedicate some future posts to the tips discussed there. In fact, all of The Great Courses I’ve heard on audible are tremendous. My favorite of which is still probably Your Deceptive Mind – A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills.

Honestly, I thought long and hard before having each of my two children. I take the role of parenthood very seriously because I believe that creating a life is as “sacred” as anything I know of. We’ve essentially created an advanced artificial intelligence, without the artificial part. It’s imbued with one of the rarest and most majestic properties in the universe – consciousness, which is said to be the universe becoming self-aware and looking back on itself, or the ultimate metacognition. It’s capable of experiencing deep pain as well as deep love. It is unique, and it is of such immense intrinsic value that without its kind, existence itself would be unnoticed. We’ve created pockets of existence in our wake. Beings that are capable of immense love or hatred, and there can be no greater responsibility than to guide them down the path to the former and away from the latter.

So each time we choose to create life, we are effectively playing God. Choosing to bring forth a conscious life – a life that would experience suffering, live much of its existence without us, and eventually die. I raged against that and I still do. I think much of the suffering and current lifespan are problems awaiting a solution. Many of things that interest me reflect my desire to communicate a love of science and a sense that all problems that are ever going to be solved will be overcome by building a ladder of knowledge that makes it trivially simple to get from one rung to the next. This video is a great example of part of my philosophy about big problems that I would share with my children, and with all of you.

So, what do I desire for my children? What will replace the former grounding hope that they will know and follow Christ intimately? Honestly, I’m still working on that. I love the fruits of the spirit, just as I love the Boy Scout Oath and Law, and the simple life lessons in the new Cinderella movie (yes, I cried). I’ve made a practice of taking the good where I find it. The Bible has much good riddled among the pages, but not a monopoly on good. Anything I write now would be a very rough draft for a life philosophy I hope to develop over years, and hand off as merely a guide to help them find their own.

I want them to live a life of love and kindness, coupled with curiosity and lifelong learning that leads them to identify, connect, and share with their fellow humans as well as their conscious, non-human, more-distant cousins – and even to embrace a lifelong appreciation for the wonder of the cosmos itself, which connects us all. I want them to be involved in community service, connecting with the unloved in some way, and being the Jesus we all wish to know (whether or not we or they believe he existed in the traditional ways people claim). I want them to experience enough meta-cognition and psychological understanding to realize that none of us chose our genes or early environment, and that knowledge should filter how we view the actions of others that we perceive as negative. I want them to study philosophy, critical thinking, the arts, other cultures, and themselves. I want them conduct their objective ethics with as little prejudice as possible from behind the veil of ignorance. I want them to emanate the silver, golden and platinum rules and know which is the most appropriate when. I want them to have courage and be kind – and to teach others to do the same. I want them to continually gravitate to the ever shifting balance point between the humility about what we don’t and can’t know and the assertiveness needed to keep discovering, undaunted by the bigger challenges in life. I don’t have all the answers and they won’t either. I want them to be both accept and be motivated by the unknown. I don’t want them to let uncertainty paralyze them from taking action to show love for the weak and defend the oppressed. I want for them the same thing my father wants for me – to be comfortable being themselves, and to always feel my love as an unshakable bedrock in this life of confusion and doubt.

If my dear princesses ever read this, I want them to think of a newly discovered physical law of nature. It’s practically describable as the minus second law of thermodynamics, more fundamental than information itself. Also known as Daddy’s law, it describes that my love for them is as manifest, demonstrable and consistent as existence itself. I hope I tell them of my love verbally and non-verbally every day.

I wish they didn’t have to suffer in life. I wish their life didn’t have to end. Perhaps they or one of our great-grandchildren will be saved from such a fate (these are some of those big problems I mentioned). I’ll do what I can to protect them; the responsibility for their suffering is on me. This is part of the reason I’m so pro-science. There is hope for a better reality for the well-being of conscious creatures. Not a utopia, but better. And they can strive to be a part of that. If their life is hard (and it will be at times), I can only ask forgiveness. I’m not omniscient but I do cherish them. I chose them, and they are worth it all.

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that my life philosophies and my hopes for my children will change. I’ll refine them continually with the passage of time. Constructing an alternative hope for your children apart from an eternity with Christ is not an overnight task, and it deserves a lifetime of reflection, iteration, and refinement. I certainly am wrong about many things, and I’m just a man who loves them. I want them to develop and continually shape their own views on the supernatural through a life of continual searching rather than rejecting it outright or embracing dogmatism simply because others they trust preach it (that includes my dogmatism if they view it as such). I want them to qualify their statements, be careful when hold beliefs disproportional to the evidence, and think very carefully before writing their beliefs in pen. I want them to seek truth and to place more weight on the process of reasoning than they do an any specific conclusion. I want them to sit down with the puzzle of the universe (like all tough puzzles) rather than rejecting it as too hard. I care little for what they know or how smart they are, but I care much for how hard they try and how big their heart is. Their life is both precious and rare beyond measure, and I want them to make it precious for themselves and as many of their fellow beings as possible, in whatever that looks like for them.

If there is a message that should see them (and each of us) through hard times, with or without the added hope of an eternity with Jesus (wherever we land on that issue), it might be something like this. Life (yes, your life – your consciousness right now) is the most meaningful thing in the universe, regardless of how long it lasts. Let us internalize and embrace that. There are an infinite number of possible states in which you do not exist. You have one and its time (the time we can be certain of) is limited. That is immeasurably meaningful. Knowing that, please take seriously the challenge to develop philosophies that leave other conscious lives in a better state than we found them, and teach others to do the same. They are us and we are them – and some of them are my children and your children. We need nothing more that this.

This is my brief attempt to answer my J‘s challenge.

What about you? Are you raising your children with a non-biblical hope? Please share your ideas! We’d love to learn from you. 🙂

Gentleness and respect,
–Russell

8 comments

  1. I love this.

    For me, my job as a parent is to guide. Teach how to think, not what to think. Teach how to handle emotions, not dictate what should be felt. Explore the world together so that they find their own interests and are equipped to pursue their passions. I model compassion and presence as best I can.

    We spend time everyday looking things up and learning about the world. People have always asked how our kids know all that they do. All I’ve ever done is answer their questions. That’s all they need. Some of their questions don’t come in the form of words, but they are still asked. A unconditionally loving guide, that’s my role as a parent.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Madalyn,

      Well said! I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much for sharing.

      I’ve seen many evidences that the behavior we model (attributional styles, compassion, etc.) is absorbed much more readily (by our children or anyone else) than the words that we speak. I think we all know this intrinsically. I may share (in a future post) the not-so-intuitive points about the importance of modeling proper attributional style, what that means, and how it can affect our kids. I learned it from Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive and it’s something I honestly hadn’t thought about before, so it may help someone else as well – regardless of their faith or non-faith position.

      Gentleness and respect,
      –Russell

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great, R! Two thoughts:

    1) We should definitely have more babies. The best contribution we can give to the world is more people who grew up with you as their father.

    2) Please don’t get on the treadmill. It’s 12:50. Sleep next to me.

    Like

  3. (Maybe just one more—wouldn’t want the dad skills you can offer to each individual child to suffer because you have too many curious minds to tend to at once!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. More children? Such a blessing, to those whose love is true and clean, without opportunities and the wish of wealth and social climbing. Love takes time and mutual respect because the love we, man and woman, give to each other is part of the Love of God. You may discover someone, even a prostitute, and looking for affection you, of course will try to kept her attention and feel that the service she/he is doing you has something more than the banal sexual act. That person, if intelligent, will study your needs and try to do whatever you want SINCE that grants his/her future.
      They are not waiting for a poor men/woman to appear and become the love of his/her life! They saw an opportunity and they catch it for how much long and profitable they can!

      Cherish you children! Being or not your wish you put them in this world. Some women are proud enough to go on with their lives without taking material or social benefits out of it. They know they were part of the ‘pleasure’ by their own will. Some others make a way of living out of it.

      You can be a good father – perhaps even better! – being the splendid person you used to be, even if sex had always been a problem in the kind of life you chose or were chosen to. But, please, LET GOD OUT OF IT, out of what you think to be the most convenient argumentation!

      Let your children find God by themselves! Don’t ‘cook’ them through books or the burden of Karma and other stupid things ignorant people choose to be their support in life!

      Be yourself, show fiercely your children to the world and show the world you love THEM not as sins but as part of your love for life that moral rules forced you to have them apart.
      This is pure love, at least if they are lucky enough not to have someone to use them for their own profit as it often happens after some divorces. After that, if you are strong enough to affirm yourself without fear, you can be a good father, your children will not suffer so much from the different treatment you gave their mothers, and the social differences among them – that will be inevitable if you choose the worst to fulfill the needs you may well solve by other means.

      If God choose YOU don’t allow Evil, whatever his name may be, to make trash of your soul!

      Like Ret Buttler said to Scarlet in “Gone with the Wind” if you have courage you do not need reputation! You need only to be yourself and not a poor devol people put up with because they need and while they need.
      Be a great Professor, showing your great academic value, a parent attending
      your children, but do all this “não servindo ninguém que possa morrer”.

      You need silence, peace and solitude to reconstruct yourself.
      No one can tell you if you can do it or not. But TRY!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such an excellent post, Russell. These assertion posts are awesome and it seems you enjoy it. I hope it continues to keep you motivated so all of us can read more.

    I have many of the same hopes for my children, and the main hope which encompasses it all is that I wish them a lasting and enduring contentment in their lives.

    I remember when my wife was pregnant with our first child. We (me more than her) were so nervous about whether or not we would do the right things as parents. I’ll never forget a story that my friend’s mom told us: “I had just given birth in the hospital,
    and I was so overwhelmed by the responsibility. I was asking the nurse a ton of
    questions and she could tell I was overwhelmed. The nurse looked at me and said,
    ‘It’s ok, you just need to love’m honey’ “. With all the challenges that parenting has brought that’s the one thing I’ve never found difficult to do, and gods or no gods that wouldn’t change.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Oh Russell – – this is exactly what I was talking about. This is what I’ve seen in you. Your daughters will thrive in the environment that you and J are thoughtfully creating. There will be times when it seems that they don’t love you back. Hold on. We can all grow through it. They are precious gifts to you, humanity, and the universe.

    Liked by 1 person

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