A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.19 “Four-Letter Word” and “Blame and Responsibility”

Dear adorably innocent daughter,

You’re only four-years-old, but you can use the word “fuck” properly in just about every part of the sentence. 

I know it’s my fault. I really have a mouth on me sometimes.

I can’t help but laugh every time you say it even though dad tells me not to.

 Two adorable examples come to mind:

One summer day we were playing in the sandbox and you complained about the “fucking bugs”. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to pee my pants. We live in an old swamp and I hate the fucking bugs, too.

But I think my favorite would be the night we were working on craft projects and you dropped a paper plate full of glitter. It went everywhere — all over the table, rug, and floor. You froze, then looked at me with fear in your eyes, and let out a soft and innocent “fuck”. I could never be mad after that.

Maybe I don’t have a lesson in this letter, and maybe I’m a nieve first-time parent, but I really don’t care if you swear. Pop Pop and dad really want to curb your habit, but I just always feel there are bigger fish to fry. Plus I’m not a fan of censorship.

Just always know there’s a time and place. If we’re hanging out at home, let it fly. If you’re at a job interview, maybe not so much. 




Dear daughter,

When you take god and the devil out of the equation, you become responsible for your own actions. 

Too many people use religion as an excuse for their wrongdoings. 

I’m sure by now you know what it feels like to be hurt. Keep that in mind in the way you treat others. Empathy is held dear to families of humanist parents. We are good humans and we own up to our mistakes and learn from them. We respect others.

God and the devil have absolutely nothing to do with the personal growth you will experience from the ups and downs of life and your interactions with others.

It is your responsibility to acknowledge when you are wrong and become a better person because of it. 

You don’t need religion to have a moral compass. In fact, you’re probably better without it. 

The Golden Rule isn’t Christian; it’s found in cultures all over the world. Please keep it in mind.



A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.18 “Self-confidence”

Dear daughter,

I sometimes struggle with self-confidence. I’ve always been an ambitious person and often define myself by my accomplishments. However, once I achieve a goal, it’s never enough. I need more — something bigger and better. I think it’s important to stay hungry, but at some point, you should also be happy with what you have. I always think “if I reach this one goal I will be happy” but that’s not always the case. No matter what I do, I’m never good enough.

Maybe there’s a way to change my thinking so this wasn’t always the case, but I haven’t made an effort to change yet.

Then there’s dealing with your physical flaws. I was cross-eyed most of my life, but two years ago I had surgery to straighten my eyes. Before the surgery, I wondered if I was doing the right thing — going under the knife for cosmetic reasons. It was pretty painful, but the surgery was worth it. It really improved my confidence. Before the surgery, I didn’t even like to look people in the eye. I was embarrassed. Now I look people in the eye and smile. 

I also hate my eyebrows. I have had several microblade appointments in the past couple of years now and l love it. It seems to have the same effect as the eye surgery. I was surprised that dad was okay with it considering it costs hundreds of dollars, but he knows how important it is to me. 

So those are flaws I was able to change and it had a positive effect on my life and self-confidence. But what about the things you can’t change?

I’m overweight, and as long as I’m on psych meds, I probably always will be. Not to mention, women in our family tend to be curvy. My weight sometimes bothers me, but not as much as one might think. Surprisingly, I have been able to accept this flaw. Sometimes I even feel sexy.

When it comes to confidence I try to focus on the positive, change the flaws I can and want to, and accept the flaws I can’t. 

People have inherent worth just in being a unique human being — logically I know this and it’s important to remember. Maybe you feel you accomplish more than someone else in certain areas, but that certainly doesn’t put them beneath you. All that ambition and those goals I have don’t put me above anyone else. We all have positive and negative traits, but as humans, we are equal. 

As you grow up, I can’t wait to see all your traits, qualities, goals, likes, and dislikes, etc. There’s so much that goes into making you a unique person, and I hope you will always feel confident in who you are. I will help in any way I can. You are amazing.



A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.17 “Be Different”

Dear daughter,

Nobody wants to be different growing up. I always felt I stood out in some ways, but most of the time I didn’t want to. As a child and preteen, I would try to wear what the popular girls wore. I wanted to do my hair and makeup like them. Thankfully, in high school, I broke away from that a bit, but I was still self-conscious. 

There was a girl back home the same age as me and about the same size — tiny little thing. She was pretty and bubbly and everyone loved her. We were in cheerleading together. 

This girl was different — and even proud of it. She stood out and that seemed to make her even more popular even though no one would dare follow in her footsteps. She listened to old music and dressed however she wanted. Her palms would sweat when she was nervous, and instead of being self-conscious, she found ways to laugh at her flaws and everyone thought it was cute.

She was a very genuine person and I always admired her confidence. I envied her even. 

As an adult, I know I’m different, and for once, I want to be different. When you’re an adult you kind of stop giving a fuck. I feel being unique has helped my career and strengthened my relationships. When you show people your true self, others will follow suit and do the same. Celebrating differences can be a great way to connect.

I know growing up is hard and you feel like everyone is judging you, but I hope you can find the confidence to always be yourself. I know you are unique — one of a kind — and I will always be proud of you. 



A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.16 “Respect That Freedom”

Dear daughter,

Religious claims are often ridiculous and far-fetched, and it’s hard to believe that anyone truly sees them as fact. But, don’t be an asshole. Deep down we’re all just humans trying to get by. 

It’s true, religious people can often be assholes to those living a secular life, but don’t fight fire with fire. We don’t have to emulate disrespectful behavior. Show empathy and consider what might have brought them to the place that they’re at. 

Debates are one thing, blatant disrespect is another.

We all know that Christians try to “spread the word” and while it’s annoying, it’s probably best to walk away. I once was talking to a friend in high school who decided he wanted to convert me, and when I didn’t budge in my convictions, he told me he’d rather talk to a shoebox because it opens up more than me. It was uncalled for and the discussion was not worth risking our friendship over.

Don’t be like that. I’m doing my best not to either.

We’re all humans free to live our lives how we want. Respect that freedom.



A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.15 “Be Careful”

Dear daughter,

Be careful. It’s dangerous being a woman. I have been assaulted, drugged, and stalked, and unfortunately, that’s an all too common narrative in an American woman’s life. 

Always be aware of your surroundings and have friends and loved ones around as much as possible. In the three situations I mentioned above, friends and family were able to intervene. These situations could have turned out a lot worse if they hadn’t been around. 

I don’t have the answers. I wish life as a woman wasn’t this way. The best I can offer is to live by the saying, “Expect the best and prepare for the worst”. 

I will always be here to help you in any way I can.




A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.14 “You’re a Mystery”

Dear daughter,

You’re a mystery to me.

It’s the summer after your fourth birthday and you’ve cut up two toys with scissors. I find it quite disturbing. It’s not like they were a truck or jump rope; they were an alien and dinosaur. They had eyes.

I personify everything — even as an adult — and could never hurt anything with eyes. 

Maybe it’s good that you are a little less sensitive than I am, but I hope throughout your childhood I can instill a value in empathy.

Maybe toys aren’t a good example here, but it’s important to respect and care for other creatures and property — like our kitties, Jaxie and Belle Belle, and others’ belongings.

We must always be considerate of others’ feelings and needs as well as the world around us. 

It’s possible to have a better understanding of others when you picture their pain as your own. Please keep this in mind.

Maybe they were just toys and you’re just four years old, but for some reason, your actions still bother me. I’m sure it’s mostly my own sensitivity, but hopefully, in time I will understand your behavior. 

I’m still excited to see the person you become.



A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.13 “Give Credit”

To my incredible daughter —

You are strong, resilient, and capable of so much. Success and happiness are within your grasp. Be proud of your accomplishments. Give yourself credit.

So many people claim god is responsible for their success and don’t recognize their own hard work and inner strength.

Give credit to others when it’s due. Modern medicine and science come to mind, but there are so many people working to make the world a better place. God isn’t responsible for that. 

Humans are amazing with limitless potential. No deity required. Let’s recognize that.

I can’t wait to see all of the incredible things you will do.



A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.12 “Sing” and “The Living World”

Dear daughter,

Sing. Turn on some music and sing. Even if you suck, don’t give fuck about what anybody thinks.

I want to sing, but I won’t. Someone told me I was a bad singer growing up, and I became very self-conscious. Maybe it was true but it was very hurtful, especially since I was so young yet already setting my sights on a career in music.

This made music school especially tough. I was required to sing in ear training classes. I did well in my classes, but barely. I felt awful. 

When our family celebrates birthdays, I will not sing “happy birthday” with everyone. I just smile and won’t make eye contact. This has gone on for years. I feel extremely awkward and I wish it wasn’t like that.

When you are in a situation where you know someone is self-conscious or struggling, lift them up — don’t tear them down. If someone is tearing you down, fuck ‘em. 

So daughter — fuck everyone else and sing. 





Dear daughter,

Today, you trampled my newly planted hostas and I nearly cried. I tried to hide how upset I really was but you picked up on it anyway.

Every morning in the summer I go outside and water all of our plants and flowers. This year we even have Norway Spruce seedlings which have been really fun to watch grow. Sometimes you join me in this daily ritual that I really enjoy.

I don’t think you meant to hurt the hostas and I know you felt really bad afterward. Hopefully, you will be more careful from now on. Plants are living things and watching their growth and life cycle is absolutely fascinating.

The living world around us is truly amazing and we must respect the environment we’re in. 

Maybe one day you will have my interest in plants. Maybe you won’t. Either way, I hope you will have picked up general respect for living things and this ever-changing planet that we are a part of. 



A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.11 “Person Before Gender”

Dear daughter,

I find myself more attracted to men than women, but I have been attracted to both. I really don’t have any experience with other genders, but I’d like to think I’d keep an open mind. 

I really feel that when you fall in love with someone, it isn’t for their gender but for who they are as a person. 

There are so many different genders and I hope you keep an open mind as well. For love or for friendship, value people for who they are and not what they identify as. 

Also, don’t let your gender define you or your role. You are free to be whoever you feel you are or want to be.



A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.10 “Glitter” and “Evidence”

Yesterday was a very uneventful Thanksgiving thanks to the pandemic. My daughter is young enough to not really grasp that we missed a major holiday but old enough to really miss her Pop Pop as well as the rest of the family.

Here are two more letters.


Dear daughter,

One word: glitter. You love arts and crafts and have been asking for glitter for a while, and against our better judgment, daddy and I gave in a bought you some two weeks ago. You’ve made some pretty awesome pictures with it, but it’s everywhere. It’s on the floor, in the rug, in the sink, and this morning I even found a couple of flecks in our bed. Even though our house will never be free of glitter again, it was worth it. You are so happy when you are creating art.

You’re four years old right now and the walls of our little house are covered with your beautiful artwork. Since I’m an artist myself, I couldn’t be happier that you have shown a strong interest in art. Maybe it’s a little selfish of me, but I hope that interest never dies. 

It doesn’t matter what I want — I know you will do your own thing and I will support you no matter what.

You seem to be turning into a very passionate person and I hope that continues. Never give up on the things you love.

Your artwork is beautiful, and it has made our home and lives beautiful as well.





Dear daughter,

If someone can’t produce conclusive evidence, whatever it is they are trying to convince you of isn’t true. 

Evidence is everything.

This is my biggest problem with religion — they can’t back up anything they claim. They control people’s lives with their teachings yet there isn’t a single piece of evidence proving that what they preach is true.

If religion did produce conclusive evidence, I would become a believer.

This doesn’t just go for religion. Question the things around you. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people are led by falsehoods. 

This decision-making process is a simple concept. It’s a black and white issue. You either have evidence or you don’t and I will adjust my thinking accordingly. 

If you are presented with new evidence, don’t be afraid to change your opinion. That’s what skeptics and critical thinkers do.

You’re smart — protect yourself and defend the truth.