Hannah was uncharacteristically serious when I picked her and her sister up from school last Friday. “I have to tell you something mum,” she told me. “But I have to tell you in private.”
It didn’t sound as though it was going to be a good thing. I figured she might have got into trouble for something, or there had been some playground tiff.
But it was a good thing. Surprising. And since it was private I can only say that it was a reminder to me to respect that the children have their own, very real, interior life. That God does love them, and even communicates with them if we just don’t get in the way and prejudice them against him.
We shouldn’t be surprised that children even six years old are capable of deep thought and reflection, and, yes, even intense moments of prayer and conversion.
Perhaps we forget because they can’t articulate what is going on inside of them, or the pace of our lives doesn’t often afford them the opportunities to try.
Sometimes I feel guilty that Peter and I don’t do much to help our children know and love God. Keeping up with the basics of everyday life can crowd out our time, energy and commitment to look after what should be a much higher priority.
I even often forget to pray for my own children, although I feel that should be one of my fundamental daily tasks as their mum, as important as feeding and educating them.
But then along come these moments which remind me that it isn’t all up to Peter and me, that we can trust that God has his own relationship with each of them.
Two days after my chat with Hannah I went with Naomi to Mass and on the way home she told me that she liked going to Mass and exactly why.
As she explained in simple and personal terms, not religiousy ones, I felt I was being handed a second completely unexpected and perfect present in a week.
“It makes me happy to hear you say that,” I managed to get out casually, while inside I was pumping my fist in the air, “Yay! Eureka! Thank you, God!”
Now I am not saying our girls are angels. They are normal and loud and cheeky. They can backchat their parents and drive them crazy, try to get out of doing work and eating mushrooms, and they fight with and dob on each other just like most other children I know.
I don’t even presume that they will always be this open to God and the things of God throughout the course of their lives. Perhaps in a few years they may be less open to God and more open to whomever they ‘friend’ on Facebook and Twitter or their equivalents.
But right now I am very grateful to be able to witness their blossoming spirituality. I hope I will be a lot more respectful of the children’s interior lives now, their observations and feelings and attitudes about things.
Because they are still little I can so easily treat them as cattle, herding them to the breakfast table, then to school, to activities, dinner, prayers and bed.
I need to remember that they are so precious, and have much to teach me, if I am big enough to bend down to their level and learn something.