Sunday, July 15, 2012

Holy Terror: Adventures With Children At Mass

I finally did it. I got dressed before 11am and wrangled BOTH children to Sunday Mass. I was feeling so proud of myself for being a responsible, God-fearing adult. I was feeling equally proud of the fact that I was going to be filling my children up with some spirituality, even if only through osmosis.

But I was MOST proud of the fact that I put on REAL pants! And they were CLEAN! And I even went as far as to wear heels for the first time in months.

I am a pants-wearing human, Exhibit 1:

P.S. Nowadays, at least where I live, it is totally acceptable to wear jeans to church (this was forbidden in my home growing up). Plus God said, "Come as you are," right? So technically, it's totally fine if I show up in tattered flannel pajama shorts and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt. But don't worry pew-mates, I wouldn't do that to you. Even after this and this, I still have a teeny bit of dignity left.

So, we leave the house at 10:56, park our car, and seat ourselves just in time for 11am mass (yay for living within 2 miles from church!). I hand Jacob his coloring book and markers and settle in for the opening hyms. Somehow, Jacob manages to make the most quiet children's activity into a parade of obnoxious sounds.

He flips the pages in his book over and over and back and forth, emitting a sound like a paper waterfall, until he finds the perfect picture. Then he rustles through his entire bag of markers, clanging the plastic bodies together. He selects a color and POPS off the lids. He SNAPS it back on, then POPS it off again. Then he begins to dictate his coloring.

"Spiderman's face can be green. No yellow! His webs are BLUE!"

"Jacob, SHHHHH!" Pretty sure my shushing is just as loud as he is.

As soon as the First Reading begins, I start to hear a whimper coming from the floor. It sounds a little something like this, "I'm hungry! I'm so hungry!" I look around and don't see Jacob. "What the?" Then I see a hand emerge from under the pew.

"Jacob, get up NOW" I whisper-yell to him.

"But mommy, I'm SO HUNGRY." He whisper-yells back as he gets up off the floor.

"You can have a donut after church if you behave."

"But I just CAN'T wait. I'm so, so hungry!" He throws his body back onto the floor and covers his face in a dramatic, oscar winning performance.

"You just had breafast."

"But I'm growing big. I'm still hungry!"

I try to ignore him, hoping that the dramatics will stop. They don't. Afraid of attracting stares and distracting those around us, I pick up the 150 pound baby carrier, grab Jacob by the hand and drag him down the center aisle into the hallway. After a 5 minute discussion with Jacob, I decide that this is a battle I am not willing to endure. I should have brought snacks anyway, what was I thinking? Oh yeah, I was thinking about my REAL pants. My CLEAN, real pants. I begin to feel less proud of myself.

I grab my wallet and my children and we walk out of the church. Hear that? We WALK OUT OF CHURCH. What kind of mom interrupts her family's worship to walk three blocks down the street to the corner mini mart for emergency Goldfish crackers? I'll tell you, a DESPERATE mom. On the way back, clinging tightly to his bag of crackers, Jacob looks up at me sweetly and says, "I promise to be good in Jesus' house." A toothless woman waiting at a bus stop looks at us and says, "Aw your children are so adorable." I resist the urge to offer them to her in exchange for a piece of gum, or whatever else she might have in her purse, maybe a beer?

By the time we get back to our seats, the Priest is already giving the homily. I don't want to waltz back into church carrying new bags of crackers stamped "Mini Mart" on them. So we use Ryan to smuggle them in:

Shame-faced, we walk back to our seats. Well I was shame-faced. Jacob was grinning from ear to ear and crunching on a handful of cheesy goodness, having just won the "I'm hungry" battle.

I sink back into the pew, hoping no one noticed our lengthy absence and hoping desperately that Jacob will now sit quietly and eat his crackers for the rest of the service. But no such luck. I KID YOU NOT. Only two minutes later, Jacob tells me he has to go pee. Seriously?! Rude! Why didn't I see this coming?

We stumble BACK down the center aisle catching everyone's gazes. Trying to force a smile, I let Jacob do his thing. We return to our seats for the Offering of the Gifts. Finally, things start to go well for the first time. Ryan falls asleep and Jacob is quiet. A little TOO quiet. That's when I hear the people behind us start to chuckle. I look over and see Jacob applying bright orange marker to his face like it was lipstick. Here is the picture I snapped right after mass, most of the markings, including the ones he made on his cheeks had faded by then:

Eventually, it's time to proceed up to the front of the church for Communion. I'm holding a sleeping Ryan with one hand and trying to guide Jacob in front of me with the other. He has problems walking in a straight line. He stops at each row and, with his finger, traces the large cross carved into the sides of each pew. I prod him and he marches forward with such vigor that his head rams straight into the butt of the man in front of him. I try not to giggle as I reign him back. This cycle continues until we reach the front of the church.

When we get back to our seats, I sit with my head lowered and join the rest of the Parish in quiet reflection. I put one hand on Jacob's shoulder thinking that he can't get into too much trouble if I keep him nearby. I enjoy the peaceful quiet for a moment before I hear a loud voice next to me bellow...

"Dun, dun dun...ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST!...And another one's gone, another one's..."

"Jacob!" I shush him sternly. I can hear the rustle of jackets and heads as they turn toward us.


I grip my free hand forcefully over his mouth until he stops his horrendous croning. UGH. My cheeks feel hot as sweat forms at my hairline. I swear everyone in the room is looking at us. My quiet reflection turns into a desperate prayer:

Dear Jesus,

Please don't let us get kicked out of church. Please help me make it out of here alive! Also keep me from doing any bodily harm to my son....Oh, and please forgive me for the erotic Spiderman dreams. Thank you.

Love, Christy.

Someone from above heard me and for the last five minutes of mass, my children were perfect angels. As we exit the church, we meet person after person who tells me how adorable and precious Ryan is. Then they smile at Jacob, and tell me that he is such a handsome, good boy. Wait, I'm confused. Were we just in the same church?

After church, I make a pit stop for donuts. Not because Jacob was a good boy. But because I desperately need some chocolate...and it's only 12:25pm.

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