This post is inspired by a conversation with a colleague about an email thread of his family. First of all it was nice to know that families keep in touch with each other through mails and the ‘reply all’ option keeps them abreast of each other’s responses. I haven’t tried anything like this and was quite impressed. The initiating email read,

Dear All, 

Talking of prayers and praying reminds me of an experience I went through some years ago. Let me narrate that and leave it open to your interpretation….. !

When our son, Nikhilesh, was about five years old, Mita & I were teaching him to pray every evening before going to bed. We created the content together and told him that he should thank God for a good day gone by and pray for a safe day ahead. With his pace and style it used to take about a minute to complete his prayers silently.

 Few weeks later I realised his prayers were very short and over in almost three to four seconds. Puzzled, I asked Nikhil if he really ‘said’ his prayers that we had put together, because if he did, it would take him far longer than what I saw.

Without batting an eyelid, this is what he said his prayer had now become: 

“O God, same as yesterday!”

 His answer is still etched in my mind. I must have narrated this story hundreds of times in my classes for corporate executives, I must have spoken to people of all ages about it, in various parts of the country. What amazes me is that

(a)     it puts the others into a serious thought and

(b) I get a variety of interpretations and responses from them !! What’s yours ?

regds, Raja

A slew of responses followed, some of which are quoted below,

Lizoo interprets it as, “A self assured and contented child. To him God at that age is not really superior to his parents, his needs are limited and he does not need God to fulfil them (his parents can). What I admire about children is their ability to live in the present, neither do they look back and say: today is better than yesterday (so I should thank god) nor do they feel things should not get any worse (so need God on my side)”.
­
Bapi asks if Raja sat down and prayed with Nikhil as well and whether he spent a fair amount of time with him after work, before his bed time. As then goes on to say, “ I ask so, because, I have seen my work get me a little too busy than I would like, and thus am not able to spend good enough time with him in the evening. Thus, whatever little time there is between my reaching home and him falling asleep, he would rather spend it pounding and jumping on me than a full attention seeking prayer. 

I cannot really interpret on the incident, but only that you have one smart kid there with great time management skills, who feels at one with his God to take such liberties, but I agree with Lizoo Bhaujo’s comments completely.”

Jasojeet replies,

@Bapi Bhai: I had read somewhere that 5 mins tete a tete before sleep really helps…be it a joint prayer, or discussing events of the day, maybe telling your spouse or kids something they like about him/her..all things that go a long way in strengthening the bond between two people. So maybe not a prayer but even a small conversation which interests him the best should help…a quality time between dad and son. 

Bimal Mohanty, a spiritual leader in the family asks, “After Raja and Mita came to know of what Nikhil is doing, did they sit down with him a while to talk to him. I do hope they did. It is not for nothing they thought of inculcating an attitude of prayer in him. Many parents do not do that. The often said comments are “oh he is just a child and in time he will understand everything on his own. This is a mistake. You will be surprised to learn how sincere is a child’s perception of God and his ways could be. Children often understand and believe things more clearly than adults. They do not have an ego-hangup to battle. And the impression on them is much deeper especially when it comes from the parents whom they blindly adore. (viz Lizoo’s observations)

Why one prays? Why one should try to be very sincere? Why you fold your hands? Bow your head? Why one removes shoes in front of God? How your prayers help your parents and other family members who love you? How God helps? Many such small talk with the child are really investments for his future. Some day he will remember you gratefully as he will be facing the trials and tribulations of the outside world.

I still remember an incident from my childhood. After having a fight with my best friend I was narrating tearfully to my mother (Bou). “Your best friend God is still there and he loves you” she said. 

I still remember an incident from my childhood. After having a fight with my best friend I was narrating tearfully to my mother (Bou). “Your best friend God is still there and he loves you” she said. 

Peter Mohanty remembers his mother, her teachings and how she inculcated good values in the family from an early age. I found one incident particularly fascinating where he says, “One evening a mosquito flew in rested on Bou’s leg and what did it do, bit her. Out of pain and reflex action without making too much an issue Bou said Oh the Mosquito ( Massa ta ) and banged her hand on it. Never stopped her chanting and distracted from prayer. I saw, it felt and thought that was a part of the prayer ritual, I said out loud (Oh Massa ta) and banged my hand on my leg and continued exactly what Bou was doing. I noticed Bou had a chuckle and a little laugh, but never got distracted and finished her prayer. Later Bou with her conversation with Bapa, they had a big laugh and said see the little children copy you exactly.” 

Dolly Mohanty also shares valuable knowledge and says, “St. Therese (the Little Flower) that is so well known to all religions throughout the world would say we should be childlike in our attitude towards God, even when we are adults.  She also had difficulty staying awake when praying and used to fall asleep half way through even though she wanted to finish all the prayers so badly.  So she started praying and reflecting on this and asking for help from God to keep her awake, which she attained, but she also came to the conclusion that falling asleep was not so bad after all – since a child is loved by the parents always, but even more so when they are asleep, and when the parents stand in awe and love and dote even more on them then. She applied this to God that He would be loving us and doting on us even more when we are asleep in His Care. So take heart and take time to give the little ones what they are hungry for. I know I have experienced this with my volunteer work in the schools and the children are so eager to know and learn about God and they go home to share the stories with their parents and even become leaders of prayer getting the family to pray together – especially when the parents are too busy to do this.”

I’ve taken a quite a long time to finish this post but what led me to write this was that I think parents feel a lot responsible for kids to the point that they start controlling their kid’s life. To teach them good things is their responsibility but a lot of times they forget they can’t enforce it.

I might sound a little harsh for an innocent mail like this nor am I a parent. But the analysis you’ve read and all the replies to the mail have been from a mature, parents’ perspective. But what does the kid say? “I know nothing about your world, I know not the power of a prayer nor the existence of it. I know not what the word GOD means to you, to me my world is around me and God is inside me.”

The point I’m making here is that God or awareness of a godlike power comes from within. As Dolly Mohanty says, give them time. Kids are more aware than you think, help them feel rather than accept. There is a difference between teaching and enforcing. Teaching is open, it translates into learning and awareness. Enforcement does not. Don’t you think repeating a script everyday without truly understanding the meaning of it makes it redundant? Instead, what if we asked Nikhil to analyse his day and talk about what was it he liked and what were the incidences he would like to forget? Introduce him to the concept of God, of prayers, don’t give him a script to read. Let him take his time to be aware of the power inside him, don’t expect him to blindly memorise.

What you can do though is lead by example. This will make him do the same thing. He will question the act, put forth his inquisitions before you. Answer his questions, but leave it to his perceptive mind to come to a conclusion. You know, it’s something like memorizing vs understanding. Learning is about building models in your head and then validating those models. The process of learning to use information is as important as the concepts themselves. Using understanding to explain and make connections is a more useful long-term lesson than is memorization.

Do let me know what you think.