This past Sunday, I told my oldest child that I was thinking about going to church. I don’t go often. She asked me in a very serious voice to be sure to pray for her sister. I was surprised by this and jokingly asked her if she wanted me to pray for her sisters soul. She said, “Yeah mommy.” I asked her why, and she told me that when the girls attended a memorial service for a friend earlier in the week, she was saddened that her sister didn’t seem to know the words to the prayers that are so deeply instilled in me that I can recite them in my sleep; that she didn’t take communion; and that she didn't even seem to remember when to stand, when to kneel or how to pray.
She totally caught me off guard -- I felt like she kicked me in the stomach. Wow… Where did that come from? I didn't go to church on Sunday after all. I have spent the past couple of days reflecting on what she said. Although I am comfortable with my own spirituality and my relationship with God, I am not so comfortable with the fact that I have evidently broken my promise to my daughter’s birth mother.
Twenty two years ago when this precious baby girl was placed in my arms, I was given the most amazing gift. Her birth mother trusted me to raise her child, provide for her, protect her and love her unconditionally. She asked for just one single thing in return… That I raise her child as a Catholic.
From the day we brought her home, she was raised just as my husband and I were raised: in a good, Catholic home. One of her Uncles is a priest and he baptized her within the first month. I took her to church and she learned all of her prayers. She made her first confession and she brought me to tears when we celebrated her first communion. We recognized all of the holy days of obligation and to this day, we say grace every night before dinner. She attended a Catholic pre-school and kindergarten and I taught CCD classes. For years, her religious life was happy, consistent and never questioned.
When she started high school, she started playing basketball. Everything she did revolved around her team, her games and her friends. She loved it. It was the most important thing in the world to her. We supported her, attended her games, and encouraged her to give it her best and most of all to have fun.
As a freshman, she attended CCD classes to prepare for her confirmation which she would make the following year. No problem. When she became a sophomore, the evening CCD classes conflicted directly with her basketball schedule. Big, BIG problem. Here was a kid that ate slept and breathed basketball. She was on the varsity team and there was no question that she was doing what she loved.
I called every church in town to try and find classes that might be held on a Sunday after Mass. Nothing. Every single one only offered CCD class during the week, after dinner.
I sat down with her and told her I was sorry. She would have to speak to her coach as there was no way she was going to miss her CCD classes and not make her confirmation. She didn't argue. She knew my position. She knew about my promise. Her coach however, saw things differently. She needed to be at every practice and every game or she was off the team. Period.
And so it began… The crying, the screaming, and the begging. There was door slamming and foot stomping. There was my precious baby girl, curled-up in a ball on her bed, truly heartbroken. As adamant as I was that she attend CCD, she was adamant that I was ruining her life. It was a complete and utter disaster. Because it’s what I’ve always taught my kids they need to do, it was now my turn and we decided to compromise.
She would stop going to CCD, remain on the team, and attend adult CCD classes when she got out of high school. This was a huge compromise for me. I felt sad that she wouldn't be making her confirmation with all of the other kids her age; and guilty that I was not living up to the promise I had made to her birth mother. I believe that my promise to raise her as a Catholic, includes making sure that she receives all of the sacraments, particularly those of her childhood years. I have never kept anything from my kids. She knows her adoption story and she knows how important it was to her birth mother that she be raised Catholic.
Long story short? She played for another year, graduated a year after that and now at 22, has yet to be confirmed. So what happened? How did I fail so miserably? I should've forced her to register as soon as she graduated. I should've cried, screamed and begged until this time, she was the one who caved. I should've pulled out the guilt card and reminded her of my promise. Instead, I just let it go. I took the path of least resistance. I choose not to go to war with my then 18-year-old. I rationalized that she was raised “right,” that she was a good Catholic and she would keep her word.
I reminded myself that when I was a kid, I skipped all of my own CCD classes, hung out at the beach, was grounded for 10 months because of it, and that I didn’t make my confirmation either. I made it when I was in my twenties. When I was old enough to decide that I wanted to get married in the church and that I wanted the sacrament of marriage.
My daughter is an amazing young woman. She is beautiful not just on the outside, but on the inside as well. She is helping to raise a baby that like me, she didn’t give birth to, but that she loves unconditionally. Life is full of twists and turns. We make decisions that, at the time, seem like the very best decisions to make. We make promises that we intend to keep but later find impossible to fulfill. We beat ourselves up over all the “I should haves” and the “I could haves.” We spend an incredible amount of time on all of the “what ifs”…
I broke my promise. I know that. I get tears in my eyes just as quickly as my fingers can type the words. Her birth mother asked me to do just one single thing and I failed. My heart breaks to hear that my daughter can’t remember the words to the prayers that are so much a part of my faith and her birth mother's faith. I feel sick to my stomach that she isn’t sure when to kneel out of respect or bow her head in prayer. I am frightened that if something happens to her, she might not be right with God.
Great… Now I'm really crying. This sucks. I thought that by blogging about this I’d have an ah-ha moment. No such luck. It's just made things worse. Maybe if she went to church, any church, I’d once again use all my wonderful powers of rationalization to convince myself that I didn’t totally screw up. But she doesn’t go to church, not any church, and no amount of pretending is gonna change that.
I guess I just have to trust that God will somehow show her the way back to Him, and that if her birth mother is out there, she never finds out how horribly I dropped the ball and broke my promise. I should’ve… I could’ve... I’m sorry.
Until next time,
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