For as long as Abby has been alive (and beyond), Tom and I have said a prayer before eating. Though we each elect to do a quick, private version for breakfast and lunch, we hold hands and say it out loud together when dinner is served.
At various times, we've tried to hold Abby's hand during the process, but she's historically never been too interested. She was always too busy digging into her own food or finding other ways to occupy her fingers. For this reason, though I've always been taught that it's rude to begin eating before prayer, I haven't yet passed that particular lesson on. I suppose I could have just kept the food off of her tray until afterwards, but routine has instilled in me a desperate need to have every little thing ready for her, including all of the food that she will likely consume, before I even sit down in my own chair to take a breath.
As far as asking her to wait, I suppose I could have, but it never really occurred to me to do so. I guess I figured at some point, when she was a bit older, it would feel like the right time. The one time I doubted this decision was some months ago when we had some friends over with their daughter, who is about six months Abby's junior. I watched them as they instructed their little girl to hold out for the family prayer before reaching for her food, and was astonished when I observed her comply. However, at that point I knew that trying to alter Abby's routine when it was so well-instilled before really being able to explain to her the reasons for it would likely be a bad move. So, I've made no changes.
However, Abby is a smart and observant girl, and she's managed to pick some things up all on her own. For the past three weeks or so, she's sporadically shown an interest in holding Tom's hand, and looked sadly over at the empty space to her right, lamenting that Mima, Mei Mei, or Granda were not present to hold the lonely hand.
Tonight, she took things one step further. As Tom and I were double-checking that everything was set before holding hands, ourselves, Abby was reaching for Tom. She seemed to be trying to grab at something.
Tom turned to her. "What do you need, Sweetie?"
"Can we pray?" she asked, with great anticipation.
I noticed that she had not yet touched her food. She was waiting for us. "Of course we can!" I replied enthusiastically. The three of us took hands and began, while Abby beamed with pride at Tom and me.
It seems that once in awhile my intuition serves me well. The "right time" has come at last, and my work is already done.