I love the water. I think I passed that onto my daughter, as I've started noticing that she's obsessed with water, too. As a religious person, one of my favorite parts of any Sunday service is when a person is baptized. I love seeing the water, and I think there's something powerful and holy and cleansing about it, especially in religious context. Of course, I also love what that religious act signifies, and when I'm watching those special Sunday services, especially when they involve children, I can't help but wonder what a baby thinks when they're getting baptized.
Baptism is a personal choice on the part of the parents and/or the individual (depending on your denomination). In my denomination, an infant can be baptized regardless of age and even though they lack the ability to fully understand what is going on, because God's love is a two-way street. My denomination teachers that He gives us His love and accepts us as we are and, in turn, we choose to love God and accept Him. Now, we don't have to understand why He loves us and accepts us, yet, because my domination teaches that His love is unconditional. We can learn the exact reasons why (and usually continue to learn why regardless of our age) as we grow older and grow in our faith and start experiencing our lives. We can do our part as we get older and understand better what choosing to love God and accept Him, actually means.
For this reason, and because of our personal faiths, my fiancé and I chose to baptize our infant daughter when she was 5 months old. I'm absolutely sure she had no idea what was really going on and had no idea of the importance or significance of the event. As she learns and grows and evolves and continues to develop, I am excited to one day have that conversation with her and explain to her what her baptism means. Until that day comes, I am left wondering what she thought when she was being baptized and, well, here are just a few things I think (and hope) she was thinking:
"Why Am I So Dressed Up?"
If you're religious, you're probably well aware that baptism outfits are a little more, um, "outgoing" than the average church-going outfit, or even for an extremely formal day out. In my daughter's case, I can only imagine she was thinking the following when I was getting her ready for that special church service.
"So, usually my parents let me crawl around in my diaper and a onesie. Now they're putting me in this bloomer-like thing covering my diaper and a long, fancy dress that my mom keeps trying to straighten out so it doesn't bunch up and get all wrinkly. They even have shoes and a hat on me! Boy, do I want these things off! They're too hot and itchy. Why can't I just wear my usual comfy clothes?"
"Hi Grandma! Hi Grandpa! I Know You Guys!"
Oh, the excitement of seeing family (regardless of how long it has been)! After all, babies don't really have any sense of time. For all they know, it could be two minutes or two years in between visits, right? I can only imagine how excited my daughter was to see her grandparents, probably because her grandparents were oh-so excited to see her.
"Let Me Down! I Want To Explore!"
Now, if your child is anything like my daughter, all they want to do is explore. Not be held (unless it's nap time) or cuddled or asked to sit nicely in your arms in front of an entire congregation. Nope, they just want to explore. Sorry to say, the service hasn't even started yet, little one. So no, I have to hold you. Still.
"Why Are So Many People Looking At Me?"
Regardless of the number of people in your church, there will most likely be more people present than are usually involved in your kid's day-to-day routine. Some will be younger, some will be older, but they will all be staring the same thing: your baby. That has to be somewhat uncomfortable. I mean, I was pretty uncomfortable going up in front of all those people to hold my baby while she was baptized, and I knew who the majority of those people were.
"Who Is This Strange Person Holding Me?"
When the service begins and it is time for the pastor to hold your baby, things may not go according to "plan." Sometimes a baby doesn't mind (and is even asleep) and seems oblivious to the change. Other times, well, the transition to new and unfamiliar arms upsets the baby.
"Hold On, It's Not Bath Time!"
Regardless of the type of baptism you choose to do with your infant, water is always involved. What else do babies associate water with? Bath time. "I can't get a bath in front of all these people! Silly parents. Even if you wanted to give me a bath now, you left all my clothes on! Silly silly silly. I finally outsmarted you."
"Um, Hello? What Is Going On"
When the water doesn't stop coming, your baby may be wondering what is happening. To us, it's nothing to worry about because we know exactly what is going on. To your baby, however, everything is new and they're in a new place with new people where something like a bath is happening but with clothes and in front of a lot of people. It must be strange.
"So, Can I Play In This Water Now?"
In my daughter's case, we chose to do an aspersion baptism, meaning that we chose to sprinkle water over her head. In other cases, like immersion, where the baby is dunked in water, the baptism experience can seem like nothing more than a public invitation to play in a fancy pool. Can't say I blame you, baby.
"OK, Can We Stop? It's Cold In Here!"
Some services with baptisms outside may not have this issue, but if it's in colder months or a day with higher winds, your child is sure to be thinking the same as my daughter. Her baptism was inside with the air conditioning on (in the south, in the summer, that is of crucial) so it was pretty cold. Sorry, kid.
"That's A Weird Type Of Talking. Or Is It Singing?"
When it is time for the congregation to respond to the pastor's questions directed at them, in my denomination at least, it almost sounds like a chant. After all, some of these church members have been reciting these phrases all their life and for every one of the baptisms they have seen. When a baby is used to being talked to like, well, they're a baby, the chanting and singing must be odd.