April 25, 2012
My 4-year-old daughter, Sophie, always has her share of curious questions. And being in a Jewish preschool, she has really taken on a new understanding of Judaism and God. She is starting to understand the concept of God and how we pray and ask for guidance. While I can typically handle most of Sophie's religious and philosophical questions, one recently caught me off guard.
Sophie has periodically asked why she doesn't have a brother or sister; her question is usually prompted by her friends becoming big brothers and sisters. And because we do not plan to have more children, I've told her that we like our family the way it is, with mommy, daddy and Sophie (and two dogs and two cats). This seemed to placate her and the conversation would end. That is, until recently...
Sophie and I were having some mommy-daughter time together on the couch recently, when she said to me, "Mommy I asked God for a brother or sister. When is a little sister or brother coming?"
My mouth went dry as I began wondering how in the heck I would answer this one.
And then came the clincher: "Doesn't God listen to little children?"
My immediate thought was to say right back to her, "It's not God you need to talk to about this issue, it's mom and dad." But of course, I didn't say that. I was already in deep with this one. I was not about to have that conversation as well.
I was completely caught off guard. It wasn't just that Sophie had asked about a sibling. But now she had taken it to a new level, relating her request to her understandings of God and prayers. It's a hard thing to figure out. She's a bit young to understand all the nuances of our decision, yet I don't want to imply that God is not listening to her either.
I ended up reassuring her that, of course, God listens to little children. I continued to say that even though he listens, sometimes he may not respond or answer in a way she understands. Sometimes he needs to think things over a bit. But for now, a brother or sister is probably not in God's plans.
My answer seemed to satisfy Sophie's curiosity and she quickly moved on, asking to watch television.
I couldn't help but feel sad when Sophie asked me that question. Not because of our decision to not have more children, but sad because — at 4-years-old — she was already questioning whether God was listening to her. The disappointment in her voice broke my heart. I realized that as much as possible, I need to be honest with Sophie while still encouraging her faith and curiosity. Needless to say, this was one of those moments that had quite an impact on me as a mother, and really forced me to stop and think about parenting in a whole new light.
I don't know if she's still asking God for a sibling, but she also has not brought up the issue since that day. I found it amazing that at such a young age, she seems to grasp, at least on a basic level, the idea behind prayers.