Today is a very important day for Maia. Today, in our Church‘s eyes, she becomes an adult.
What will happen this evening will not only be a major milestone in her life, but will also bring about bigger responsibilities for her. She will confess for the first time what are supposed to be the sins she’ll remember committing. I say “supposed to” because, honestly, I cannot help but see the baby in her. She’s tall, talks all the time, is opinionated, has very particular likes and dislikes and is old enough, in our religion’s eyes, to be held accountable for the wrong she does. She knows very well the difference between good and bad, she knows when she’s misbehaving and is aware of the things she should never do (whether her religion teaches her that or not).
At the same time, she has still that childhood innocence she had five years ago. In many ways, she is still so little. It isn’t the protective mum in me that’s speaking here. I truly feel she (and most of her friends) is still so so young to be able to fully comprehend what constitutes a sin and repentance and forgiveness. She is very nervous about the whole thing. She’s afraid she won’t understand what the priest is telling her (because of the language ‘barrier’) and keeps asking me to talk her through the whole process over and over again.
I might not think that she’s ready for this, but I waived the right to have a say in it eight years ago, when I had her baptised. I was born and raised in a very religious family. My parents were involved (and still are to a degree) in their church throughout my childhood and I went to a church school where I was taught by nuns. Contrary to what most of my friends with a similar background say, I am grateful for the upbringing I had. I was raised with strong convictions and for that I will always be grateful. I did have a child out of wedlock and do not go to church every Sunday but what I was taught is still fresh in my mind and I try to live it as best as I can. I want to raise my children in our faith but do not want to them to be brainwashed like we were. In reaction to that brainwashing, I had a crisis at the age of 18 when I stopped going to church and questioned every single belief I had held since childhood. Many months later, I sort of found myself and chose to believe. I rediscovered my own religion on my own terms and not because I was told I had to.
My friend Clare took the very brave decision of not baptising her daughter (yet). Clare’s upbringing was uncannily similar to mine as far as religion is concerned, but instead of following what is normal procedure on our islands, she chose to be honest and decided to wait until she knew that her daughter was ready for such a commitment. I admire her courage and honesty, but baptised both my daughters without even thinking about it.
On days like today I feel a mixture of anxiety and guilt at ‘making’ Maia take this next step in her spiritual journey. I can only hope that she and her sister will grow up to believe because they choose to and not because I took that decision for them.