We parents sometimes get caught up in the fact that our kids are these adorable little versions of us who blow our minds daily with their growth and discoveries, but I think it's also just as important to remember our job is to raise adults who thrive and don't live in our basement.
We are, after all, raising future adults who can hold their own and look beyond their own self-inflated bubble of existence. Part of accomplishing this for me means taking my kids to church.
I'll be the first to admit it--religion makes my head spin and fascinates me at the same time. I love that some people can say with full-throttle conviction what their beliefs are. I am not one of those lucky ones.
I go to church, but it doesn't mean I've got this puzzle all figured out. My faith waivers and my wondering and confusion at the enormity of it all pushes me in and out of the faith pool on a daily basis, but this uncomfortable challenge is something I invite in and want my kids to experience as well.
Life and this world in general is such a mystery to me, but I refuse to step away from the conversation just because it feels enormous. I stay at the table that is church with my brow furrowed most Sundays, intrigued by the beautiful, terrifying puzzle of it all.
My kids ask me questions about things we learn at church, and most times I don't have the answers. It's important to me to be real with them and not pretend to have all the answers. I tell them God and religion are such a huge delicious pool of mystery and wonder that I bet we don't even have the words to truly describe it all.
So, I guess in a way, I take my kids to church to challenge them because it's good for them to shake hands with the fact that we don't have all the answers, and life calls us to humbly sit back and be at peace with that.
Why not challenge their little self-absorbed minds with big thinking?
Why not instill them with the conviction that they are part of something truly miraculous and amazing and not just a Pop-Tart-eating, fart-joke-telling universe they're interested in?
Yes, I drag them to church, but I don't force-feed beliefs to them. Rather, I expose them to faith and will let them decide for themselves when they're older.
If they choose to be atheists one day, it will be only after being humble enough to hear all other arguments and making room for them.
I take my kids to church because I see teenage kids who are so stuck in their own heads that they have no connection to their spirit or anything bigger than themselves, and that self-imposed prison scares the hell out of me.
I want my kids to have the vulnerability to pray or meditate and ask for help. I want them to feel control over their emotions and a connection to nature and empathy for humanity and social justice.
There is no guarantee church will deliver this, but it's a good start for me, along with long walks in nature, letting them be bored, and not letting them be constantly entertained and catered to. It's one variable in the bigger picture of creating solid adults.
Let me tell you, my kids fuss and fight when I tell them we're going to church. They're normal young kids who would rather stay home and watch TV, but my focus is on the non-turd adults I wish for them to be one day, so I stay on this unpopular path with them.
When they're teens and struggling with adjusting to life, I want them to pray.
When they're adults and struggling with bills, marriage and jobs, I want them to pray.
When I'm gone and only in their hearts, I want them to talk to me and not feel foolish about it.
I have a tall order of what I want going to church to do for my kids. Maybe none of it will come to fruition, but it doesn't mean I won't try.
Recently at church, I saw my kids looking at the floor, their hands folded in prayer, and as I bowed my head, I only pretended to pray. How could I pray when such beauty was right before me? I stared at these little creatures who seemed to actually be picking up a little bit of what I was offering to them, as much as they resist it.
I doubt they were actually praying, but they were at least comfortable enough to go through the motions. It meant they were obeying. It meant they were respecting, and this mama likes those things.
The reality is, when I ask my kids what they pray for, they say they pray for more stuffed animals or that their dead dog is happy, but I'll take it. Maybe one day those prayers will start blurring the lines of their own bubbles and start spreading out onto the world beyond themselves.
We keep our prayer simple at night: "Dear God, thank you for today." It's a quick reminder to be grateful for this mind-boggling mystery that we can't easily solve. Maybe humility will sneak into their skins if I keep at it.
There is no guarantee they won't be teenagers who get lost in their own heads or that they'll even have any sort of faith one day.
In fact, there are no guarantees in life, but I have to have faith that gathering as a family at church, bowing our heads together and saying, "Peace be with you" to strangers around us can only lead to more good things than bad.