What is more practical, as a faith-filled, justice-oriented parent, than to teach my child to pray? It can’t be that hard, right? It should be one of those things that has been so embedded by my 22+ years of Catholic school education that by now, my 3 ½ year old should be able to have prayers such as the Our Father and Come, Holy Spirit roll right off his tongue… right?! Well, unfortunately this has not happened. And here’s why.
Our lives our so chaotic lately that I consider it a major success when my children have between 1 -2 baths a week. Between my husband’s full-time job (and part-time teaching), and my full-time academic program (and part-time consulting), and our two kids (ages 3 ½ and 3 months), it is all we can manage to get home, get fed and get some social/play time in before bedtime all around. By 9pm, all is quiet in our house because the morning begins again quite soon with the pair of early risers with whom we have been blessed! I’m preaching to the choir—I realize all of you busy parents out there have so many things going on. So recently, when someone asked me if I could write about how I pray with my children, at first, I panicked. “Pray what?” was my first thought? I pray for myself, my sanity and my patience about 10 times a day. I pray for the safety and health and care of my family. But the question wasn’t do I pray, it was how do I pray with my children.
Before I became completely desolate at the thought of two grown adults with Masters degrees in theology forgetting to ‘pray’ with their children, a ray of sunshine took hold! We do pray—but it is entirely different than the way I was taught as a child. And that’s not a bad thing. We stop to appreciate and notice things such as sunrises on the way to school, and sunsets when we are on our way home. Liam recently told us that “Daddy painted the sky for us!” which I reflect on as a real moment of grace and care. He also said to me, unprovoked, “Mommy, let’s keep baby Theo with us forever, ok, because we have to love him now that he’s out of your belly.” And at dinner time, we do recite one rote prayer, “Bless us O’ Lord”, but we also share what we are thankful for. And Liam, completely on his own, gives thanks to whoever was the cook for the evening, expressing gratitude (usually!) for the food we are about to eat.
These are short examples of how we have managed to carve some ‘prayer time’ in our busy lives. It is my hope to be able to begin introducing more formal rituals that are so much a part of our Catholic identity. Maybe that can be a goal for 2014! Another helpful, calming piece of encouragement comes from a favored author of mine, Anne Lamott. Her recent book is titled, “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers”. If that’s all it takes to communicate to our loving God, well then, I know Liam has those down and so we’re off to a better start than I first thought!
Carrie Nantais, M.Div., MA, currently lives in Detroit, MI with her husband, David, and two sons, Liam (age 6) and Theo (age 3). She is completing her PhD in Clinical Psychology in May, 2017. Her areas of interest include: integration of spirituality and psychology, forgiveness, trauma and resiliency and women’s health issues. When she takes care of herself, she enjoys yoga, being creative, singing loudly in the car and laughing with her family.