The Do Nothing Just Yet Approach
‘No religion’ on its own may seem to be a daring, exciting thing. Atheists appear to blatantly flash their free thinking ideas, no doubt arising from brains grubby with autonomy and independent thought. But as soon as you throw parenthood in the picture, the image frays and falls apart. How can baby-eaters have babies of their own? Even fellow atheists who apparently know everything, ask how one goes about reconciling the two — family and no-God.
The answer is that you don’t have to. No-god is the same as blue-sky, hot-pan, cool-ice and smelly-poo. You generally don’t have to contrive a way of showing what just is. The continuous modeling and telling of ethical living is all on you, all the time. You do not get to delegate parenting to satellite offices with magical ponies and the grand-daddy of all time outs. Many of the concerns about parenting without God is like obsessing about just what sort of boat ride Bilbo and Frodo are going to have in their final quest for peace. Not that the process of turning parent is like the War of the Ring. But we must take pause to note its immensity; that it demands so much and makes so much just happen.
When a mother and her newborn first set eyes on each other, something of the sacred and the cursed still hovering around them, there is an instant of life coming full circle. What other way would life fold into itself but between two beings utterly unselfed. To kiss away the pain from your body, you press your baby to your lips.
Don’t let anyone tell you that raising children is hard, or that it is easy. I sit in rooms empty and full, and my child walks in. How can I describe the impossible love that fills me up in an instant, like sunshine warm and distilled. It is the most easy, generous thing I have come by. I suspect that it grows in soils that have been tilled and dredged free of things that make the self. All your plans, your projects, all your laziness and curiosity are jealous cousins to this free love.
Then there is the cleaving dread of losing it, of ruining it, of being crushed by it. You’re like a land creature that crawled into the ocean to start playing fish; your graceless, ponderous mass trying to fling itself like sunlight. All the while you hedge and dart away from paths taken by beached whales because leaving the ocean means going to the nowhere place between earth and sky. Children make you good for nothing that is just you.
We let much of this wheels-just-came-off not happen. Like interrupted conversations, we hang in mid air and allow distractions to compose us. Perhaps the thing to do is to wait and see; to let yourself be so beaten and broken that your tears and laughter flow into those of all others everywhere. Watch yourself scatter with the wind, cry over every slight, celebrate every kind look. Don’t do or be anything for a little while.