I've been an atheist for 10+ years now, most of my family still thinks it's a phase. This doesn't bother me, whatever helps them sleep at night. My mom is the only person who believes it, she said "I'm not happy with it, but I would be a bad mom to try and see you for anything you are not." this made me so happy. I was about 19 when she said this, and it came after I spent a weekend babysitting my youngest cousin. That weekend was when I figured out the type of mom I wanted to be.
My youngest cousin is exactly 13 years younger than me, so when I was 19 she was 6 years old. My cousin is very bright for her age, still is (though only book wise, I would prefer to not talk about who she is now), this was the year she stopped believe in Santa Claus. She was on the young side for this, from what I've noticed, most kids are in 2nd or 3rd grade when they find out the truth about Santa, but my cousin was still in kindergarten at the time and she put the pieces together while watching TV. She asked her mom, and her mom didn't lie. I respected that. I was there and heard her ask. Of course, she became jaded about the whole Christmas ordeal, and we lost our one good leverage on getting the girl to be good for at least 3 weeks of the year.
I had agreed to come out and watch my cousin that weekend, I didn't have work or anything better to do really, I always lived spur of the moment, so I thought it would be nice to play with my cousin instead of waiting for something to turn up. I got out there shortly after my aunt got home from picking my cousin up from school, and we had a nice evening, and that was when I heard the Santa question. I kept my mouth shut and just waited while it all played out, and things went on from there. The next day, my aunt had work, so it was just me and my cousin.
She was pretty timid most of the day, kept coming up, opening her mouth, then walking away. Not normal for any kid really, but after a while, we were playing some fighting game on the PS2, she finally got up her courage to ask me.
"Do you really not believe in god?"
What a question to come from the mouth of a babe! So naturally I asked where she had heard this. Not a topic I wanted to broach with someone so young, and I really didn't think my very religious aunt would appreciate any "temptation into sin". Quite honestly, I liked the extra money. She had said she heard her mom and my grandma talking about it on the phone. Well I wasn't going to lie to the child, so I said "no, I don't believe in any god or higher being. Sorry."
I kind of expected a million and one questions about how I could be certain, but the next words out of her mouth floored me.
"Don't tell my mom, but I was wondering that if Santa's not real, then how can God be real? They were always the same to me."
Six years old, and a far more deep thought than I had heard come from anyone my own age, and at the time I hung out with very philosophical people. But how was I to broach this. It wasn't like a neighbors kid where I could say "go ask your mommy or daddy". This was my own cousin, and she came to me because she knew her mom would say the same thing she said about Santa being real and to not question it. But I wasn't going to say "because there isn't. He cannot be proven to exist." She was 6 years old and my own family. If I went about this wrong, I could cause a major family fight, which is never good.
So I simply said "That is for you to figure out for yourself. No one can tell you what to believe, because every night, you are the only one who can know in your own heart what is right for you."
She was happy with that, I was happy with that, and now, she just turned 14 years old and I have no idea what her religious stand point is. I don't really care to ask her because that is her business.
But that weekend, that is when I knew the type of mother I wanted to be. I witness my cousin, who had a very close relationship with her mother, find a question she was afraid to ask her mother (and at that age, that is hard pressed to do), then I saw my own mother, who was so accepting of my choices. My mother raised me with all the options and resources to make a sound decision on my own, and then accepted that decision when it was made, even though I never once went to her for any of my questions.
Now I have a 4 year old child, I do not tell her what to believe or who to believe. Right now she looks out the window every night waiting for Peter Pan to whisk her off to Neverland where she can play with Tinkerbell. She asked me once if Tinkerbell was real, my only answer was "What do you think?" I am not going to tell her what to or not to believe. It's not my place, even if she is my child. I will be here with any answer I can give her, and I am willing to take her anywhere she wants to go to get the answers she wants. If she grows up to be a theist, then I will show her love still, because I want to raise her to love people for who they are, not who they believe in. I want to be the mother that was there when needed.