"What is (are) the hardest thing(s) about atheist parenting?" - Karen in
I think it probably varies from family-to-family. So, your mileage may vary...but, I would have to say that the hardest thing is not having a pat answer for those difficult questions. When you think about it, theists really wouldn't have to answer questions with real fact unless they wanted to take the time and find the fact. They can always say, "That's just how God made it." or "Because, that's how god wants it." or some variation of that answer. There are times when I envy that. Of course, I get over it fairly quickly and recognize that children deserve truthful answers (if possible and in terms they understand). Parenting isn't easy. Why would we expect the answers to a child's question(s) to be easy? As I've mentioned before, there's an easy solution to this "omg, omg...need a quick answer." dilemma. "That's a great question. Can I get back to you?" or "Let's discuss this later." I like this option for two reasons (and I'll compare it to the theist pat answer, as I see it):
1. Children learn that even adults need to do a little research and learn something, on occasion. I think theist parents (not all, but most) want to have that immediate answer to avoid looking ignorant or dismissive. In my opinion, based on the theist families I've observed, there's always a goal to make the parents look smarter than the child. I don't think that necessarily has to be.
2. It instills patience and thought. Saying, "God did it." is an immediate payoff and stops the conversation. Why would we want to do that to a child...especially one who is curious? Answers don't always come immediately. And, what I've found is, my children, on occasion, keep thinking about the issue until we have time to come back to it. Anything small steps in getting a child to think things through on a long term basis is worthwhile.
3. It's honest. I think you should respect children enough not to lie to them. Now, I do concede that lies in fun-and-games situations, like bluffing in Go Fish or not telling the whole truth about Santa Claus (or whatever) is not the same thing. I consider those situations to be comparable to sitting down for a tea party - obviously, the tea and cakes are play food and the dolls aren't really asking "one lump or two?" But, the child understands that this is make believe. I think theists carry this over a bit too eagerly into non-play situations. Telling a child that they'll see grandma again in heaven might be easy and fast and comforting, but... I'm not sure that is the right path. When I was a kid, my uncle died and I vaguely remember someone telling me that he "was at rest". Holy guacamole,... for the next two months, I would not nap! And, my parents didn't understand why I wouldn't nap and I'd fight sleep at night. Well, hello!?! A trusted authority just linked sleeping to death. Now... if someone had said, "Everything dies. And, because of that, we need to treasure our life. Carpe' Diem." or "Grandma died. But, when our bodies are hurt very badly or age...they don't work so well. She isn't hurting any more. She's not sad. She loved you so much and left you a legacy of stories and love. Let's talk about what your favorite things were with grandma."
Does that help?