We were all at the Mellow Mushroom, a local pizza place, to celebrate the birthday of the retired man I live with–his sister, our 2 daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren, 6,4,and 4 (cousins, not twins). They put us outside on the patio. Good move.
It was a beautiful spring evening–not hot, not cold, no clouds and a light breeze. The cousins danced in an open corner to the soft-rock music coming through speakers and the adults talked and laughed.
The kids came and sat with us when the pizza came. Atticus, 4, the only boy, sat next to me. We talked a bit about how good the pizza was. He’s an introvert, kind of quiet and an observer. He plays alone for long periods of time with his legos and he likes to line up his Hot Wheels just so. We think he might grow up to be an engineer.
After eating for a while, he looked up at me and asked, “Amma, who made God?” I stared at him for a few seconds and then said, “Well, Atticus, I don’t really know.” He asked me again and I gave the same answer. By this time, his daddy across the table heard us and he said, “Atticus, God has always just been there and at some point he decided he needed plants and animals and people so he made them.” Atticus thought for a minute and then said “Maybe Jesus made God.” I said, “Well, actually, God is Jesus’s Daddy.” He ate the rest of his pizza and said no more.
Atticus went to a church-sponsored preschool the year was 3. He learned at preschool to fold his hands, bow his head and say a blessing before he eats. He usually insists we all participate. There’s not much cuter or more moving than chubby 3 or 4-year-old fingers folded in prayer. He’s been at home with his mom for the past school year. I don’t think they talk about God.
The sense of wonder that Atticus awoke in me with his question lingers. Where did that question come from? We sure weren’t talking about God on the Mellow Mushroom patio.
When my first grandchild, Adaline, was born, we all marveled at the obvious deep connection between her and her 86-year-old great-grandmother. My theory, and I’m not sure where this came from, was that babies at the beginning of life and the elderly, nearing the end of life, complete a circle when they are together. The baby remembers where she came from and the older person senses where she is going. It’s a spiritual connection that we marveled at.
I picked “Amma” as my grandmother name very carefully. Actually, I eliminated a lot of things I didn’t want to be called first. I wrote about that in one of my first blog posts (here). I called myself a spiritual elder when I explained it to my daughters. I believe God will show me how to spiritually accompany these children.
Every time I’m with my grandchildren, I feel close to God. I just figured it was because of the joy and awe I feel looking at them. Maybe, instead, it’s because they are closer to God.
When I told a friend of mine about my conversation with Atticus, she told me she had a picture in her mind of Atticus holding God’s hand and with his other, he’s holding my hand.
In that vision, I am Amma.
Some links to information I found online about research into children’s spirituality: