promise [or, when these are the only gifts i have to give]

When the books are folded closed on Christmas Eve, and we try to untangle ourselves from the muddle of competing narratives

of a child born in the dirt and pain and hope,

and of innocent assertions that maybe Santa lives in your tummy, too.

And we leave hanging in the air like baubles, your wonderings

of whether Jesus is ready for Christmas,

and of why the tree is encircled with gifts,

and of whether you will get what you have been longing for.

And clinging tight like tinsel is my desire to protect your innocence from the fearful truths that run rampant in this world, running taut in the opposite direction with the hope that maybe I can stall the onset of the many questions I can never answer.

So when I can’t unravel the darkness and explain away the disaster and tragedy you’re yet to awaken to, I will make a promise to you.

When I don’t quite know how to answer, with any certainty

Why the Christmas story is important,
or How it is True,
or even Where to start,

I will make a promise to you, and let it be my gift.




I promise to tell you stories that invite inquiry, stories that don’t always end in a clean and neat parcel, tied with a bow, glistening under twinkling lights.

But I promise not to be so determined to uncover the truth that I forget the beauty of myth, and mystery, and stories. I don’t want to forget that it is stories which teach us, too.

I promise to remember that not all of life is able to be categorised, boxed and explained. I want to open your eyes to the wonder and strangeness of the world, the anomalies and exceptions and all the ways we Just Don’t Know, and to allow your curiosity to take you on winding and beautiful journeys.

I promise to be open to discussing with you your new ideas, thoughts, worries, discoveries. I look forward to the days when you will help me open my eyes to see things I am blind to now. And I will try to stay available and ready.

I will try to remember that my success as your parent does not lie in the degree to which you conform to my beliefs (or lack of). I promise to hold you in high esteem as a person, unique with your own agency, your own choices to make, and not merely my child to be molded.

I promise to teach you how to be fluid, soft, curious, rather than rigid, defiant and closed-minded.

When you come with questions and insecurities, I promise not to tell you what to believe. But I will always try to help you uncover what it is you are hoping to find, and show you how belief is possible even in the midst of tremendous uncertainty.

I promise never to tell you what to think, but rather how to think for yourself.

I will value knowing you over what you know.

I will always welcome you in my home, no matter what you believe, or don’t believe.

I promise to do my best to preserve your innocence and child-like faith. I promise not to rush in with my uncertainty when you are feeling close to God or making your own discoveries. But I also promise to nurture that faith – knowing that the other side of the coin means so many questions. It means asking how and why and when. It means asking the questions that most adults would be embarrassed to admit to wondering. I promise to cherish those questions, and hold them as greatly important.

I promise to not be threatened by your search, because search you will. I will not let my ideas and my faith and my doubt so become my identity that I feel threatened when you think differently.

I promise not to be afraid.

I promise to love.

I promise to be a safe place for anger, for doubt, for confusion, and perhaps, with more difficulty, a safe place for your certainty, faith, and unwavering belief. I promise to not make the mistake of thinking you are any less my child because you have become your own self.

I promise to allow you the space to live fully into the richness of who you are without restraint or requirement.

And when you are grown, and when you find someone to love and cherish and build a new life with, I will promise over and again, all of these things.

Love, Mummy.