As the mother of a teenager, she’s described me in many unexpected ways, from “stalker mom” for checking her social media sites and cell phone, to “out of it” for believing the remakes of my favorite 80s songs are not nearly as great as the originals. I can usually handle it, and most of the time, I try not to take her stinging remarks personally.
So then why when she described me as “so religious,” did it cause me to take a serious pause? Why did I think about it for days and days after our conversation that followed?
Is it because not so many years ago, if someone would’ve told me, I would be viewed as religious, I would’ve laughed out loud in disbelief?
Is it because the word, “religious”, holds negative connotations in today’s society, like “intolerant,” “rigid,” “naïve” and “non-intelligent (stupid)?”
Is it because I actually felt okay with my oldest daughter asking me about being “so religious?” Is it because my teen sees me as “religious” in a curious way, not in the frustrated way she calls me “uncool?”
Weeks later, I still can’t fully answer the questions, but I came to a conclusion: If my teen sees me as religious, it’s a good thing. It means I’m role modeling my Catholic faith, enough for her to ask me questions about it.
And hopefully, it may be enough for her to keep her own faith alive when she leaves home, and she’s not with her “so religious, stalker mom” on a daily basis.
Here’s how the conversation occurred one evening after family dinner. We were making small talk about one her friends that decided to sit with another group that day at lunch.
Then suddenly, “Mom, why are you so religious?” The questions come more quickly, unexpectedly, giving me no time to ponder a savvy response. The questions get tougher, as my two daughters get older.
As I shared earlier, my teen asked the question thoughtfully, not accusingly. She asked me out of pure curiosity.
My first, automatic response: “Because I love God, and I know He loves me.”
Her quick response in turn: “But, I love God. I just don’t know about some of this religious stuff.” She then looked at me a bit hesitant to go on. I purposely didn’t fill the silence. “I mean, I like going to Mass and everything,” she added with assurance.
Wanting to be encouraging, I replied carefully, “Well, if you love God, and you like going to Mass, you’re doing really well on your spiritual path. You’re young and you have a lot to learn yet. When I was your age, I questioned my faith too. It’s normal. Besides, going to Mass is the greatest prayer you can give to God.”
She nodded in agreement, looking relieved. I felt I could’ve talked to her more but then it would’ve turned into a “mom lecture.”
In hindsight, I started considering more thoughtfully that some aspects of our Catholic faith can feel frightening and intimidating to our children – and to adults. As children grow into teens, they begin to consider how their faith fits into their future plans.
I’m learning that the most important thing I can do for my girls, is to practice and to grow in the Church myself, even when I feel frightened and intimidated by my faith and my life. I strive to do this, and it’s not easy. This must be how I earned the “so religious” title when I didn’t try out for it.
My daughters know that I’ll attend weekday Masses whenever I can with my work schedule. I share with them that it gives me strength and peace for my busy days. They see the rosary in my vehicle, and I tell them I can pray the five decades on the way to my daughter’s high school.
Although they’ve seen me recently starting to read during Liturgy of the Word and distribute Holy Communion at Masses, it’s more often the little things like the consistency of prayers before meals – even when their friends are over – and blessings at bedtime that make a bigger impression on my daughters.
As a Mom, there is only so much I can do to help form my daughters in their faith life. I can’t control how God will work in their lives. Yet I’m grateful I’m here to pray for them and with them, to take them to Mass and the sacraments – and to answer their questions and to talk about the faith – unexpectedly or planned. The rest is in God’s hands.
Copyright 2013 Kim Seidel