Clean outfits, full souls, refreshing community.
Before kids, that is.
Sunday mass with kids has become my own personal nightmare.
Eric and I used to put our heads together as the sweet, naive engaged couple in the second pew, and comment on how darling the little child in front of us was, and how our kids were going to learn how to sit quietly like that. No toys, and ESPECIALLY no snacks. I mean, what do people think this is, a cafeteria?
Oh, how little I knew back then.
Then you have a baby, and you give yourself heaps of credit, thinking you’ve conquered all the worlds problems because you have brought a child into the world AND he slept through the entire Mass. Didn’t even have to nurse him with that annoying cover that has a tendency to flash the crowd. Piece of cake.
As time goes on, and the little cherub becomes more aware that he is in an environment where noise is not appreciated and mommy is not going to sing softly on demand, there starts to be a bit of a mutiny. A soft, squishy, easily consoled mutiny with a little walking in the vestibule, a quick nursing session in the cry room and then back to the pew. Successes, all of them.
Then, there comes a time in every child’s life that he learns to use the lower half of his body to do more than kick aimlessly. And guess where the little angel wants to practice.
Again, not a big deal at first. Sure, little tyke, stand here and hold onto the pew, isn’t that great? And now back into my arms, and look, everything is fine.
Then sometime between 10 and 18 months, it’s all over. There is no holding, there is no “shh-ing”, there. Is. No. Reasoning.
There are only snacks, and climbing up to sit on the pew, and back down, and up and down, and whispered hushes of “yes, yes that’s Jesus, can you whisper?” “Don’t pull the hair of that lady in front of us”, “Here do you want a snack? An allowance? A car? Please, anything just stop screaming.”
And then after a time, you give up on the pew altogether. You shuffle in late, straight for the cry room, embarrassed that you can’t make it on time with your ONE child, while the Abraham family managed to be on time with their 7 well-behaved kids. Show-offs.
Surely, this is a safe-haven, a place where all the little hyped up children can run and scream and steal each other’s water cups and no one will make too much of a fuss. Wrong. There are always 4-7 people who either don’t belong in the cry room at all or have such well-behaved children that they are putting the rest of the cry room kids to shame.
Please, for the love of God, Cheryl, can you just take your 5-year-old who’s translating the Mass into Latin to the front pew of the church where he belongs? My child needs to smash some crackers on your seat.
And forget about Mass being the traditional hour-long event. Inevitably, on the day your child is at his hair-pulling, cup stealing worst, someone is being baptized, someone is giving a talk about a mission trip, or there are just 6 extra songs for no reason.
Really, it’s a great strategy. Yes, yes, I’ll donate to your lemonade-stand-pancake-breakfast-talent show to benefit the kindergarten if you just please, PLEASE, let me go home.
As the opening notes of the final song begin, you resignedly retrieve your child from the inside of the garbage can where he was investigating dirty diapers with inordinate interest, give a battle-weary nod to the other parents, and head to the car.
Yes, the Sacraments are real and necessary, and it’s a blessing and privilege to go to Mass as a family, but as you sink into the seat of the car, and close your eyes, you’re just thanking God that you survived another week.
In the car seat in the back of the car, the little scoundrel is chirping cheerfully to himself. “Jesssssusssss! Yes! Jessusssssss…..church”, and probably laughing to himself as he considers with pride all the germs he exchanged and snacks he consumed before lunch. What a great morning, he thinks to himself as his mentally fried and physically exhausted parents drive him home. Can’t wait to do it again next week.