In case you thought I’d ever run out of stories about how religious education is a tough grasp for children, I won’t.
As I’ve said before, I took care of my nephew Simon when he was a smaller person. As I’ve said before, my nephew Simon is an absolute delight, and one of my favorite people on the planet. Simon was a Why Child. You know, one of those kids who asks why about everything? It only endears him to me more, since I am a Why Adult, and also because it brings out the teacher in me.
One day, when he was four, Simon had a fever. I despise fevers. I freak out when kids get fevers. I just don’t like hot things at all. I wouldn’t let him out of my sight, so we snuggled up for a long day of book reading and Nickelodeon.
At some point, he said we should pray because Mamaw always prays when he’s sick. I’d been praying and told him so, but he wanted to pray aloud. I’m not really a pray aloud person, so I asked him to lead the prayer. He said a sweet little prayer to Baby Jesus, how Mamaw did, and we both said, “Amen.”
Then he asked me why they put the baby Jesus on the cross.
I rolled my eyes to the ceiling heavens.
“They didn’t put the baby Jesus on the cross. When he was on the cross, he was a grown man.”
Apparently, when you’re a preschooler, the span of time between candy canes and chocolate bunnies is literal and cannot be properly charted without a concept of linear time as it passes through the years. The way Simon saw it, Baby Jesus was born in a manger and then he’d only been alive for three short months before they crucified him, and that is a terrifying concept for a child.
Clearly crucifixes have an obvious advantage over crosses, here.
This Christmas to Easter concept is only complicated by Santa, who sees and hears everything and who may not bring you presents if you’re naughty. Or, according to Simon, you could be a very bad baby (Like babies with colic, I presume) and be crucified in a diaper.
I did my level best to clear up this confusion.
A few years later, Beauty Queen called me to tell me she’d seen the most hysterical movie in which grace was said to Baby Jesus.
I still can’t watch that movie without laughing and snorting my way through the prayer. I always think of Simon, with his wide brown eyes, seriously asking me, “Joey, why did they put the baby Jesus on the cross?”