As a new mother, something that is constantly on my mind is how to teach my daughter morals and values. She just turned three and has a strong awareness of what is going on around her. Her vocabulary is vast and continues to grow daily. I know that if I don’t start teaching her values now, I am missing out on an important opportunity.
Although I was raised Catholic and consider myself a “cultural Catholic,” I am uncomfortable with Catholic traditional prayers because of their lack of gender inclusiveness, among other things. We don’t attend church as we have not yet found a community that we feel is a good fit for our family.
Thus, I have found myself creating new prayers to recite at dinner and bed time; prayers that encompass our family values, are feminist in nature, and are simple enough that our daughter can remember and recite them on her own.
At dinner time we hold hands around the table and recite, “Thank you, God for this food; Thank you, God for our family. Amen.”
At bedtime we hold hands and recite, “Thank you, God for this wonderful day; Thank you, God for our family. We pray for peace and justice for every person around the world. Amen.”
This has been a good start for us, but I have wanted to take it a step further. I recently had the pleasure of presenting at the American Mothers National Convention and found that I learned a great deal from the other mothers who participated in the conference. One practice in particular that another mom shared with me is posting family values on the wall and reciting them each morning.
I came home from the conference eager to pursue my own take on the idea. I created a simple sign that I posted on our refrigerator:
It is a short list, but it is manageable for our young family. Before school, we recite the list together. Between this list and the dinner and bedtime prayers, we talk about our family values three times a day. I am not sure that our daughter comprehends these values yet, but I think by setting a clear tone within our family and taking time daily to talk about values we are providing a good foundation to build on.
Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is a feminist theologian, ethicist, and activist. She is the Director of the Women’s Studies in Religion Oral History Program at Claremont Graduate University, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics at Loyola Marymount University, and Co-founder and Co-director of Feminism and Religion. Gina has authored multiple articles, the forthcoming book Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence, and is a contributor to the Rock and Theology project sponsored by the Liturgical Press. Her research interests are theologically and ethically driven, involve a feminist and interdisciplinary approach, and are influenced by her activist roots and experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence. Gina can be followed on Twitter @FemTheologian and her website can be accessed at http://ginamessinadysert.com.