By Amy S.
We have affectionately nicknamed our daughter the Holy Roller. In recent months, I began praying with Olivia at dinner time and bed time. I started because when we ate dinner at my parents' house, Olivia would chat all the way through the prayer. I worried my parents would think we were raising a little atheist. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
My husband and I are not openly religious. But I consider myself to be spiritual and have always valued the role of religion and spirituality in my life. Truthfully, I wasn't sure what my husband would think of the new prayer addition. But even he seemed to embrace it.
Olivia loved it and eagerly claps her hands together in the prayer fold for every meal. Now she reminds us to pray if we forget. And she's taken to saying a lot of the prayers herself. Most of our prayers are "thank you" prayers and "please be with..." prayers. Olivia has prayed thanks for friends, dinner and something I couldn't quite make out. It's been a good exercise in gratitude for all of us.
Earlier this summer, Olivia attended Vacation Bible School for a week with our daycare provider. One evening she broke out into a rendition of "Deep and Wide," an old Bible song that is etched into my mind. Every summer of my childhood, we'd visit my now 105-year-old Grandmother and she'd putter around the house singing "Deep and Wide." I feel like Olivia channels my Grandmother's wavering but steadfast voice every time she breaks out into a random chorus of the song.
This summer I also began taking Olivia to my church regularly. One Sunday I got her from the nursery after church and walked her into the sanctuary, where we sat down on a pew and watched people visiting after the service. Olivia was entranced as I explained to her that this was where I came to "listen" every Sunday.
I've heard other people say their 2-year-olds would sit through church services, but I've always assumed Olivia would have none of that. After all, this is the child who won't sit still for a 25-minute Elmo video. But I decided to give it a try. So, Olivia now sits with me for the first part of church each Sunday.
It still surprises me to see her so content to quietly observe the rituals. I've continued to bring her back to the sanctuary after church, too. We sit and take it all in -- the smell of the old wood, the breeze from the ceiling fans (it's a very old church with no air conditioning), the smell of perfume and bodies lingering together, the warmth of the faces around us. My almost-3-year-old has done more to heal the flesh wounds left by my disappointments in organized religion than all of my time spent trying to understand it. Imagine that.
How do you celebrate your religious and spiritual life as a family?
Amy S. is a 32-year-old married, working mom to Olivia, almost three. She lives in Virginia.