I decided that I needed to be a better role model and make church consistently. And, that my daughters should join me. I figured the first day of advent is a good time to start. Mike is not Catholic (or practicing at least), so it was my 7, 3, and 2 year olds and myself off to church. My girls are not the best at going, but I expected Peanut, at least, to behave. She hits church once a week at school, and she gets the routine. In self-defense, I planned to be there early enough to get the last pew. And that was the last thing that went right.
As we’re waiting in a calm, quiet church, Bug hops up on the kneeler and proceeds to shake her money maker, while loudly proclaiming she’s shaking her booty. Finally calm her down, and I kneel to pray for a second. And I pray for patience and calmness. Not sure who God gifted with those prayers, but myself and my kids were not very patient or calm.
At about this time, they start what I think to be the opening hymn, and I say “girls, it’s starting”. They finish the hymn, and the leader says “We have a problem. We are missing a priest. We’ll sing another song, and hope one shows up.” At this point I remember God has a sense of humor. Clearly, the lesson in patience was also going to take on a sense of the ridiculous. (Breathe, Erin, breathe).
Another song in, and the priest comes sprinting in. (Or a fast walk, looking dignified while trying to adjust robes and get the show on the road). An announcement is made that he is not our expected priest, but willing to pinch hit. From the back he sends a thumbs up, and we begin.
By now, both little girls are nowhere near defined by calm. More like wild cats kept trapped in a cage (or pew). Peanut is happily telling her sisters that they cannot leave the pew. They are not so happily taking the news. Bits feints left and goes right, right out the pew. I leap Bug, move Peanut and snag Bits just before she goes swimming in the baptismal fountain. (fortunately, the fountain is above her head, so I have an exra second to grab her. (Did I mention this was during the Gospel so everyone can hear her?) The indignity of getting caught causes her to chuck her pacifier. These don’t just land. Oh no, the land and roll. The usher sees me trying to figure out how to hold her and grab the pacifier under the pew, behind some boxes. The gentleman takes pity on us and crawls between boxes and under the pew for me. Bug now makes a break for it as well. I catch her by the arm, she cries as though I’ve beaten her. (I snagged her arm, that’s it, I promise, and given the volume of noise we’re making, I’m pretty sure there’s people who saw me not abuse her.) (He, he, whooo, he he whooo – deep breathing)
Bits then decides to start taking apart the diaper bag (who taught her zippers?)… Extra clothes go a-flying, and then out came Bug’s extra underwear which Bits proudly shouted out. Then, the dreaded word “snack” begins to be shouted. Yikes!!! I have no snack. But problem solved. Bits finds crackers from a previous family and begins snarf before I can leap over and around the other two who have now conspired (I’m sure of it) to prevent me from taking those out of her mouth.
After more incidents of similar vein (from arguing over Doc McStuffins and Stuffy), to vying over who has the aisle seat, to finding the pacifier that had gone over 4 pews in front of us, we get to communion. The second grader isn’t quite old enough to get communion (give us 7 months), so I ask her to sit and pray while we go up. I heft the 2 year old up, and snag the 3 year old by her collar. We begin the long slow walk up to the front for communion. Bits demands to walk. Bug is walking at her snail’s pace which happens to be mostly appropriate, but her drunken sailor walk nearly takes out a few elderly and their canes on our way through. (Tight aisles, what can I say). We return and begin to get coats and hats and scarves and mittens on. I take my eyes off Bits for a split second, and there went the bulletins that had been hanging off the back of our pew. To the mom of the little girl who was behaving, thanks. The help picking up the bulletins was almost worth the glares that seemed to say “parent them, would you?”. (I swear, I focused more on them than on the mass… Not sure if that’s good or bad.)
After an hour plus of sitting in church (late start made us a go a little over), my take away was “watch”. Watch for the coming of the Lord (or in my case, watch your daughters scatter bulletins everywhere, throw underwear, find someone else’s old food, book it down the aisle, and generally cause mayhem).
For those of you wondering why I hadn’t been taking my kids to church regularly, and thinking I was owed this experience, you are right. I was. Look for us in the back of the church again next week, but I might have reinforcements… My mother-in-law is scheduled to be here to celebrate a birthday, so one more set of hands might help…