Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mass with Small Children

There are days when the only kind of mass I want to go to is a mass grave, so I can throw myself in. Or more honestly, a Panera with a good book. On a rainy (but not too cold) day with no children and a whole couch all to myself.

Panera's Caramel Latte. 
You wicked, wicked drink.

Yet I feel compelled to attend daily mass during the week. Why do I bring my children to church???

As my previous attempt to allow the children to babysit each other failed miserably (just kidding!!!!), I've got to drag the little ones along with me. I was recently complimented by another mom who also has the poor taste to bring her small children to mass, who said that I seem so calm at church and that Lenny seems so well behaved.


These are interesting words, because they leave the sentence unfinished. I seem calm, Lenny seems behaved, but...

Let's just run through a weekday mass. First of all we are already running late because Father Troy usually starts mass 5 minutes past the hour, so I thought it would be OK for Lenny to stop and check out some bird poop on the sidewalk that he was insanely desperate to commit to memory but, as luck would have it, Father Chuck is doing mass today and he is never late. Awesome.

We rush into the bathroom and I try to wash the poop off Lenny's hands because he accidentally on purpose dug some up with his fingernail and then was honestly shocked that it got on him. And the more I rush him, the louder and more obstinate he gets about doing it all by himself.

I realize that I desperately have to pee but I've forgotten the baby carrier for Carolina so I decide against trying to get my pants down with one hand with the chance that Lenny would bust the stall door open while I am in a bit of a delicate situation. Resign myself to offer up palpitating bladder for the reparation of my sins.

We walk briskly into the main church. Briskly here is a euphemism for me running after Lenny who has bolted away from me and I am trying to look super casual, like I got this, don't worry folks. By the time we get to our seats, the first reading is about the begin, and Lenny slams the kneeler down in the dead silence as we wait for the lector to begin. (Enter rubbernecking parishioners, stage left.) This happens after a 2 minute battle where I put my foot up and try to stop it from slamming down, Lenny sees what I am doing and lets go of the kneeler, I move my foot away, and he goes back to trying to put it down without my intervention. A few cycles of this and the second I look away he wins. Then to rub it in my face he uses his foot to knock down the kneeler behind us, too. Thankfully no one got their feet crushed. This time.

As I sit and try to get into the zone, Lenny begins motioning like a wild animal for his books and his chewy tube. I can't possibly get them out fast enough so he starts whimpering and howling like a hungry cat. These things distract him quietly for maybe three minutes and then he begins blowing into the chewy tube like a flute and banging on his books like a little Jesus-themed drum set. The wind whistling through his chewy tube isn't satisfactorily flute-like, so he starts quietly saying "hooo, hooo, hoo" and progressively gets louder until I put all entertainment items back into my bag. This results in some flailing gymnastics moves and I go ahead and lay Carolina down on the floor so that I can hold Lenny still for a few minutes. Commence whisper-yelling about how to behave in church and Lenny behaves again for literally a quarter of a second.

Next on the agenda is messing with Carolina. This takes up several minutes, during which he "gently" pinches and squishes her. She can't decide whether she enjoys it... then decides that no, no she does not. A bit of fussing ensues and I pick him up again. I might just mention that trying to hold him still gives everyone the impression that he is having some sort of seizure. Let me assure you, he is not.

Chewing the rubber stoppers on the kneelers comes next. He has melted down onto the floor and has removed the little rubber rings that cover the edges of the kneelers to keep them from slamming into the wood when you put them up. I waffle back and forth between being a strong disciplinarian and not allowing this, and trying to pretend that he is not my child. When I notice that he has gotten it into his head to chuck one toward the priest, I thank the Lord that it's time for communion, because he loves to go up and get blessed and it will be my chance to hide the rubber stoppers in my diaper bag. Hopefully I'll remember to put them back before we leave.

Who am I kidding, I have like 30 of those things in my bag right now.

And then I realize that I wasn't paying attention during the consecration. Time to mentally debate whether I should get communion or not. I vote yes. I seriously need a boost of Jesus to get through the rest of my day. So we walk up and Lenny is desperately trying to wrench his arm out of my grasp. I am trying to give off the super-calm-mom vibe but I'm not sure if it's working since the 100 year old man behind me has asked if I want his help holding Lenny still. As I'm receiving communion Lenny pulls away from me and tries to crawl up the steps toward the altar. I quickly grab him and avoid eye contact with all the other people on my way back to our seats. Apparently my grip is too strong because he is saying, "ow, Mama, owww, you're hurting me, owww." And Carolina's all, "Smile and wave. Just smile and wave." For the record I am definitely not hurting him.

The grand finale is him telling me "It's all done!" and running toward the door while I am still grabbing my things. And then he genuflects and does a backwards sign of the cross and says, "Amen."

So, yeah, sometimes I wonder if he is getting anything out of this. But then I remember that he receives the abundant grace of God from being in His presence. And I remember that the Lord said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Hopefully I am teaching him to love the mass. At least when he is older he will remember how I always took him and how much I loved the mass and loved God.

And honestly, it's not that bad. Heck, when other people compliment me on the behavior of my children during mass, they've got to know that they're going to Hell if they lie. (And I can only assume, by the fact that they are in church at all, that they want to avoid Hell.) If they can tell me that they love to see my little ones at mass, and that I'm doing a great job, and how Lenny is a such good boy, and all of this with a straight face, there must be some truth to it.

Why do I bring my children to church? Because we are the body of Christ. I am. You are. My children are. And He calls us all to worship.

I am aware that the sleeping pic has nothing to do with anything.

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