Attending Church with Little Ones*
Sunday: a day dedicated to rest.
9:15 mass was not the start of my day- not by a long shot. A single mother of two little ones begins well before sunrise, so I was definitely awake and aware by this time. I wanted my children to experience church, not so they were forced to inherit my beliefs, but to teach them a belief. In the process, they’d learn about patience, tradition, and humility (or so I thought).
Anyway, the three of us sat in the pew in our “Sunday finest” (Avery insisted on wearing a pink and blue striped spring dress, despite the frigid temperatures). We awaited the priest’s ascension down the aisle, then listened quietly as he spoke in a voice of authority; one that told the congregation that he was in charge. As he began, Father Joe seemed to be staring straight at us, and I suddenly felt like a child being reprimanded by her teacher for forgetting another homework assignment (a situation that I knew well).
9:17- the kids were restless.
I gave them the small toys I had crammed into my purse, and after a moment Hunter announced, loudly, that he was bored. Avery agreed.
By half past the hour, the smaller of the two was standing on the kneeler poking the frizzy hair of the woman in front of him, while my kindergartener was sprawled across the pew, her dress lifted above her waist. Well, at least they were quiet.
That lasted approximately 30 seconds.
I was starting to regret not taking any electronics with me, as my blood pressure continued to rise. Would the iPad have been such an inappropriate choice? Even if we sat in the back? Do they have wifi here?
Quickly, I scanned the rest of the crowd who had assembled that day, in the hopes of spying one, just one, other (hopefully) misbehaving child. Unfortunately, I turned up with nothing, as the other families must have left them at home (a smart decision, as it turns out).
It was precisely at the moment when I had completely given up hope of receiving the “Procreator Award of Excellence” when I saw her: long golden locks flowing down her back, round and ruddy cheeks, eyes full of vivacity. Maddie, Avery’s friend from her former school, sat a few rows ahead of us. The sunlight from outside streamed in through the stained glass window directly onto her, creating an eerie radiance upon her tiny head. “Look, look!” I whispered excitedly to Avery, who had now taken up residence with her brother on the floor. Covertly, I pointed toward her friend.
My daughter’s entire face lit up. “Maddie! It’s Maddie! Maddie, Maddie!” She yelled, at an inappropriate decibel. The little girl turned around, her cherubic face brightening in recognition, and gave a little wave. She then turned back toward the front and gently grasped her mother’s hand. Perfectly behaved little dear. Ugh, sickening.
By this time, as the congregation stood for the Our Father, Hunter was wrapped up in my arms. Avery tugged on my shirt, “Mo-om, is it almost o-o-o-ver?”
“Yes. Very soon, Sweetie,” I responded, hoping that I wasn’t unintentionally lying. I looked at my watch and saw that it had already been 45 minutes. How long was this shindig going to be? Hunter, who, to my relief, had stopped moving for a couple of minutes as he nestled into my shoulder, suddenly recalled where he was, and began flailing about. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around how it was possible, but he abruptly and very emphatically smashed his forehead against the back of the pew. He looked up at me with big doe eyes and was silent for a long enough period that I was able to think, “Wow, I finally caught a break. It’s really nice that he didn’t cause a…”
“WAAAAAAAAAAAH!” His piercing scream caused everyone in the church to turn around, curious as to who could have possibly lost a limb in the back of the building.
“Shh, shh, baby, it’s okay. You’re okay, shh.” I was very much aware of everyone’s eyes judging my next move, so I needed to choose carefully.
I swooped up my crying child and urged the other along, out the double doors, into the large vestibule. I looked longingly to our former seat, where our coats and my purse sat, ever so attentively. Knowing I couldn’t go back in and disrupt the mass again just now, I tried to enter a state of relaxation and tranquility, or some such stuff that my yoga instructor had preached to me, but Hunter’s loud wails brought me tumbling back into reality.
As quickly as he had started, though, Hunter stopped, and began chatting to an elderly usher about the importance of Transformers and their multifarious ability levels. We moved into what I supposed was the “quiet room,” for those who had infants being slightly fussy during the liturgy. I chatted with my kids softly, in the hopes of distracting them long enough for church to end. I heard the heavy doors open then shut again, and Maddie and her Mom completely noiselessly tiptoed into the room. Avery excitedly bounded toward her friend like a vigorous jackrabbit and screeched some uncomprehensive words of greeting. “It’s so nice to see you again,” her mother whispered politely, holding out her well-manicured fingers, then gently pulling me in for a kiss on the cheek. “It’s been far too long.” She was still using a hushed tone.
“Do you like Batman?” Hunter turned toward Maddie.
The little girl responded, “Umm, I’m more into Sophia.”
“Now Maddie, you know everyone can hear you in here. You must be quiet.” Her mom looked at me. I surmised that this was not as quiet a room as I had thought. A thousand expletives ran through my head, but I knew I shouldn’t let any settle, considering my current whereabouts.
As mass finally ended and the congregation bustled out to their cars, I walked in the opposite direction back inside the church to get our coats and get the hell out of there. I grabbed Hunter, who for whatever reason had begun crying again, and walked toward our friend the usher who was handing out the weekly church bulletin. Damned if I wasn’t going to have proof of our attendance. We walked by the priest, who responded to my hectic “thank you” with a wink. It may have been a please-get-your-children-out-of-here-and-don’t-come-back wink, but I couldn’t be certain. Avery grabbed hold of my hand with her mitten and looked up at me.
“Hey Mom, can we go get a bagel now?”
Sunday: a day of rest.