I once read that a father can undo a world of damage done during the day with a good last few minutes at bedtime. As a dad who makes more than his fair share of mistakes, I jumped on this like a get out of jail free card from Monopoly. In addition to using the Jedi mind trick on the kids making them forget bad daddy from earlier (this isn't the daddy that yelled at you), we have some genuinely interesting conversations about God and life.
Tonight I was laying with Nika. Nika recently decided her mother and I do not need a full night's sleep and that the only way for my precious 4 year-old to deal with her “bad dreams” is to wake us up and either sleep in our bed or enlist one of us to return to hers with her.
She shared how she needs someone because she is scared when she wakes up and sees things in the night. We make her feel safe. I asked her, “Do you know who watches you every night while you sleep?” She shook her head no. “God watches you, and your brother and sister and all of us and keeps us safe.”
She looked a little confused and asked, “I thought he slept at night like all of us.”
“No, honey. God is not like us. He does not sleep and nothing is hidden from him. He never stops watching you.”
She thought about this for a moment. “What about Jesus? Does he sleep?”
“Well he did when he was here, but now that he has gone back to the Father he is like the Father and always aware. He is God and he never stops watching.”
She chewed on that and I started to run my next answer about the Trinity as it looked like we were headed that way. She threw me a curve ball.
“What about Mary?” She just smiled at me with the expectant look and gleam in her eyes that said handle that smart guy.
A few non words leaked out of my mouth as I mulled over how to approach this question. I am a Protestant that has many Catholic friends and if my daughter was already fostering an appreciation for Mary I didn't want to undermine that. At the same time, I didn't want her to get confused about Mary's role and place in the Christian belief system. Preparing myself for a deep and carefully navigated discussion with my daughter I took a deep breath and said, “Mary huh?”
Without missing a beat she replied, “Yes. Mary. With the lamb. The little lamb. Does she sleep?”
She giggled and laughed at how funny she is. I just let out a sigh of relief and assured her that neither Mary nor her lamb were watching her while she slept.