How Do You Explain God To A Three Year Old?

When you eject a baby from your belly, they don’t come with a handbook, which means bringing up a kid is mostly guesswork. Particularly when she's having an existential crisis.
Publish date:
December 27, 2012
parenting, children, jewish, God

For the past few months, I’ve been taking my kid regularly to the Jewish version of church, which we call shul or synagogue. We’ve actually been every Saturday morning for the past eight weeks, in an effort to get her into one of the local Jewish schools.

I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of the laborious school entry procedure, but in simple terms, we have to have had a record of our religious practice (officially called Proof of Religious Practice) so she can attend the same Jewish school I went to as a kid.

Our first week of attending the kid's toddler service at shul arrived. We dressed in our finest and I had to explain to my girl where we were going. It went a little something like this.

‘Today we are going to talk to God’.

‘Who’s God?’

And at that point, I looked at my husband who shrugged, all ‘I’ll come back to you on that one’. And I had no idea whatsoever how to answer her.

Since becoming a parent, there are things I’ve struggled with. For instance when my child started furiously humping her hand at any given opportunity.

I didn’t want her to feel this was wrong, but doing it on the floor of the living room at her nana and papa’s house, well, there’s a time and place.

After Googling how to deal with this (one stoopido suggestion: ‘Take the kid to a pediatrician – they are sick!!!’) I came up with ‘private time’ and have since explained that this occurs in bed. Alone.

So, she threw me a curve ball and I do believe I hit it out of the park. I have no idea what that means as it’s a sporting reference, but I think I dealt with the situation well.

But trying to explain God to a three year old - where the hell was I meant to begin? Especially when I'm not entirely sure what I believe in to start with.

I went to Jewish schools and was brought up to believe in Hashem (which is the Jewish name for God). But am I a true believer? I really don’t know. I’m neither here nor there. My parent’s were pretty blasé about it all, never really thrusting any opinion on my brother or I.

And sitting here now, contemplating God, I’m a shrugger. I’m just sitting here shrugging my shoulders.

When I told my girl we were off to chat to God, I said that God is everywhere which, in turn, garnered the following exchange:

‘Can I see him?’


‘Is God a girl or a boy?’

'God is everything.' Yeah, that one earned me a furrowed brow, or more of a ‘What the fuck mum?’ look.

I hoped the service would answer her questions, or at least help me along the way, and with the promise of snacks at the toddlers' group, she was more than excited to go.

During the children’s service they sing songs, and one of them is about how God created the world, and man and woman, but even simply explaining the world, or anything outside of our street is tough for her to grasp.

A friend of mine was asked by her daughter if God existed and why you should believe in him if you can’t see him. She had a really good response which was: just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Like you can’t see love, but you can still love people. I thought that was really wise and I’ve popped it in the bank for future use.

Having now completed our Proof of Religious Practice, I still don’t have the words to explain God to a three year old, but now when I ask her ‘What is God?’ she replies that ‘God is everywhere and he made the World’ which I guess is her parroting back what she’s learned.

And if you do have any wise words for how I should deal with this, I’d be more than grateful for your input on this or any other conundrums she’s bound to throw at me.

And God aside, something else my girl and I can take away with us from this whole experience is that that we now have a new sense of community.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not flipping to the other side and going all religious on y’all, but there’s nowt wrong with popping over to God's big house now and again, and saying your thanks. Or at least looking to find the Wizard behind the curtain…

You can find @danigraph tweeting here. Probably not about God.