Sunday, September 15, 2013

Church.... with children and senior citizens

Yesterday, LMC, Bennie, and I went to Mass while Husband was on call. It was going to be great.

Going to be.

We got there in the moments before Mass started and were able to sit with my cousin, Griggs. He's the last of the back pew crew. My grandfather (his uncle) used to sit with him along with my grandfather's sister, Aunt Helen. Griggs' wife isn't able to make it to church anymore. So, he sits alone. And I wanted to sit with him.

With ... my.... children.

By themselves, they would have been fine. Bennie was audible cooing for a bottle and LMC was up and down out of her seat getting the hymnal and the missal before putting one back to get a pencil or an envelope or writing a letter to Princess Celestia, hushing Bennie before asking for lipstick that she registered I was wearing. She found the lid to Bennie's bottle and placed it on her curls before closing her eyes in prayer with her prayer cap, unbeknownst that the required mantilla went out of style with Vatican II.

I managed with grace.

Bennie hopped up and down in my lap, with LMC telling her to be still in her best "quiet" voice. Griggs' eyes were closed and I wished I could close mine. Bennie did as a baby does and let her presence be known. She was not crying; just wanting to be heard.

At church, you cannot help but feel the stares of those around you. It's like when you no longer have children this age and they are shipped off, you get to become righteous and Ignatius when someone is interrupting your moments of silence. Does the cooing child and the mother trying to feed her the bottle really interrupt your conversation with God and your osmosis of the Homily and Gospel? Instead of seeing the beauty in a mother taking a chance and taking her children to church to sit with a lonely man, the stares drew the conclusion that we were a distraction.

I was okay with being a distraction- for a while. But, then I caught myself getting mad at LMC for nothing other than being a four year old and being asked to sit still for an hour. Don't get me wrong, I fully expect her to sit through church for an hour and be well-behaved, but I also understand that she is four and she isn't getting much out of these prayers and stories of the prodigal son.

Ah, Irony- the Gospel was the Prodigal Son.

That woman from the a few weeks ago- the one with the big nose she liked to look down on me with? She was there- right behind me. I could feel her breath on my neck. The overweight couple who had children I went to school with? Yep, they were staring at me, too. Gawking, really. Perhaps if more time were spent offering an encouraging smile to the young parent and less time was spent staring condescendingly, there might be more young families at church.

Ouch, okay this is getting mean.

Bottom line, my girls were not atrocious. But, I could feel myself turning into a less than stellar mother, snapping at LMC to be still so the stares would subside. After the Homily, I excused ourselves. As I was leaving, I felt a little victorious in my belief that my kids weren't that bad, or that not all ultras are out to stare down young flustered mothers. A gray haired gentleman patted me on the back, another older man winked at me, and as the usher opened the door for me, I whispered, "We'll try again next week," He chuckled and said, "Why? They were fine." Maybe it's just the women who need silence to commune with the God.

We sat out in the Narthex where I really got a taste of what unruly children look like.

I plopped Bennie on the ground and let her crawl around, leaving a streak of drool in her wake. With all this space, her coos subsided as she left her mark. LMC sat next to me and I let her squirm to her heart's content and promised her that she was not bad at church; Bennie was just noisy. Next week we would leave Bennie at home and go just the two of us.

LMC spied two much older children at a distance. They appeared to have no mother. I say that they appeared to have no mother for two reasons:

(1) They were playing tag. They were sliding across the floor and sitting on slanted stone window sills while leaning against the stained glass window. I shudder to think if they fell through.

(2) The mother was not sitting with them.

Where was the mother? She was kneeling on the ground, away from them, reciting her prayers, hands raised, eyes towards Heaven, and looking more like a zealot than anything else. And. Not. Disciplining. Her. Children. Those kids were running everywhere. And they were old enough to know better. LMC looked at me before hopping down and trying to join them. It's hard to tell her she cannot do something when she clearly sees other kids doing what she is being asked not to do.

I attend Church.
I am a mother.
I am a mother because of God.

These three facts come to a simple conclusion: Attending church should not prevent me from being a mother. Children need to learn how to behave at church, I'll be the first to stand up and scream that- but children need to be taught how to behave. Yes, setting an example is an excellent place to start. But isn't training a better place and then leading by example?

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