As I stood in a chilly conference room inside a brightly lit Catholic church in Seattle, with my four-month-old baby in my arms, I had a feeling I can only describe as familiarly unfamiliar. It was the same church in which my husband and I had gotten married three years prior, but now I was there in preparation of our son’s baptism. It was the first baptism I’d ever attended, and it was my own son’s.
Neither my husband nor I are particularly religious in the faiths we were brought up in – Catholicism for him, Hinduism for me – but we’d like to teach our son about both, and others. Being baptized as Catholic didn’t mean we weren’t simultaneously raising him as Hindu.
Still, something about standing there, in a familiarly unfamiliar place, made me very nervous, until I saw a sign.
Not an existential sign in the form of a ray of sunlight or shadowy picture, but a real, literal sign with “The Golden Rule” in the middle and the signs for 13 of the world’s top religions around it.
It had had a passage from the religious texts of each of the 13 religions; each passage said basically said the same thing at the core – treat everyone and everything in the same way you’d like them to treat you. It immediately gave me a sense of comfort, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Whichever religion, if any, my son may choose, I realized in that moment that that was the message I’d like us to teach him. Now, at nearly three years old, my son is a proud owner of the Baby Ganesh and is learning the story and mantras, and also is starting to learn about Jesus. And I’ve also made it my goal to pair some books on different religions during his bedtime.
Here are a few:
“Let’s Celebrate Diwali” + “Amal’s Ramadan” Both from Bharat Babies, these books teach early readers about two of the most important holidays in the Hindu and Islamic faiths – Diwali and Ramadan. In the first book, Harini learns about Diwali traditions as celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, while in the second book, Amal learns about Muslim traditions as he celebrates Ramadan for the first time.
“How Ganesh Broke His Tusk” + “Dear Pope Francis” For my little family in particular, combining the story of his beloved Ganapati Bappa with letters children around the world wrote to the Catholic Pope seems to be the perfect combination of his two worlds.
“The Kids Book of World Religions” Instead of focusing on a particular religion, this book takes on a historical look at various world religions, scriptures, places of worship, religious leaders and major festivals. By gaining a greater understanding of the cultures and beliefs of people around the world, children build respect and tolerance for the differences that make each of us unique.
“What is a Patka?” + “My Dadima Wears a Sari” Growing up in a place with few Indians, I used to be slightly embarrassed whenever my grandma wore a sari in public – I just wanted to blend in. By a certain age – and as my friends oohed and aahed over who cool saris and bindis were – I began to respect the things that made my family different. These two books explore how religion and culture can be expressed on the outside, from Mohan’s Sikh patka and the questions he gets about it every day, to Rupa’s grandmother’s sari and all it can do, from shielding Rupa in a rainstorm to becoming a pouch to carry seashells.
Avani Nadkarni is a former journalist who currently works in tech PR and is forever navigating the tricky balance of trying to raise her child in the U.S. while teaching him about his Indian and Sri Lankan roots.