Monday, April 19, 2010

Girls who are not my daughters, but, really, sort of are

Yesterday was Sunday. At my church we are midway into our Confirmation process. There are five confirmands this year, two boys and three girls. Over the years, the pastor has installed a Confirmation "mentoring" curriculum, where each confirmand is matched with a faithful (and hopefully appropriate) adult member of the congregation. I have been the parent of two confirmands, and the mentor of three.
I think the pastor chooses me often because he knows I am a heretic. I do not believe in the traditional Christian party line and have wrestled with both God and the devil in my own life. He tends to give me kids who are: a) not interested in organized religion, or, b) way out of the box in other ways.
My first confirmand was not interested in church at all. She was one of the most conscientios kids I ever met, thoughtful, serious and caring. She is a world-class figure skater and happens to be the only girl on the high school hockey team. I love her. She had doubts about the existence of God and found little meaning in classic religious rituals. After she was confirmed, I never saw her in church again.
My second confirmand was a delightful handful. A professional child actor, she spoke and moved with dramatic flair and gusto. Her intensity could be a fearful thing, but her heart was as pure and sweet as honey. She was distractable to a fault and when I tried to sit down with her and plow through our required curriculum, she would jump around, burst into song or just go off on an excited tangent about friends, family (crazy Italian) or pets. As I got to know her better, I was impressed with the breadth of her thinking and the depth of her heart. Her confirmation day was a joy for her and her family, and, immensely, for me.
My newest confirmand is again, altogether different. She has a reputation for being something of a 'wild child.' The only daughter of a single parent, she often does everything in her power to worry her mom to death. Now, remember, these kids are 8th graders (read 13 years old). This girl can look 18 on any given day. She is a natural beauty and carries herself with a style and confident flair that belies her age. We meet at a local pizza joint every week and see each other at church on Sundays. This one HAS to be out of the box. I begin by outlining the lesson and let the conversation then go anywhere she chooses. The abandonment by her father. The untimely death of her best friend's dad. Her relationship with her science teacher and her love of astronomy. Her french cousins. Her dog and cats. Her mom. She is growing up fast and is a quirky mix of faux-adult and sweet child. Her Facebook page can be scary to read. I am lucky to have her. So.