I believe in the importance of public service, so I’m gonna tell you a little story about my day yesterday so that you all feel better about yourselves.
So yesterday was Sunday morning and my husband and I woke up to preform our weekly Sunday morning ritual – coming up with all the different reasons we can think of to get out of going to mass.
“We really didn’t sleep well last night.”
“The kids are a wreck.”
“We have company.”
“Everyone’s tired from school starting and I really don’t think they’re going to sit through mass without having a tantrum.”
Now don’t get me wrong. We have a faith and believe in practicing that faith. We believe in the importance of community. We believe in the power of ritual and routine and we want to pass our faith down to our children. And holy mother, I periodically need to sit on a bench and pray that I make it through another week of parenting.
But it’s really, really hard to take three kids to mass and oftentimes our excuses are fairly legitimate. So let’s just say we aren’t earning any gold stars for attendance.
Yesterday, however, amidst all the reasons that it would probably a good idea to stay at home and let the littles get all their pent-up-it’s-really-hard-to-behave-at-school-all-day tantrums out of the way in the privacy of our living room, there was one really important reason to go.
It was hospitality Sunday.
And I can wax and wane about the importance of breaking bread together with community as the foundational symbol of Christianity, and top that off with pointing out how necessary it is for our children to have positive experiences at church (aka donuts) instead of solely boring ones (despite the fact that they’ve never sat through mass in another language so what basis do they even have to complain here).
But really I just wanted free donuts so we went to mass.
So we ate breakfast and half-cleaned the kitchen and leisurely sipped our coffee until realizing that we need to leave in like thirty minutes, so we frantically ran around getting everyone dressed, and then getting the people who were already dressed into cleaner clothes, and then deciding not to ask the people who got themselves dress to change into something other than a Batman sweatshirt and rain boots because there’s only so many battles you can fight in a day. Then we packed a bag full of quiet toys and then took out the toys they insisted are quiet but really are not (you would be surprised about the amount of noise a Hot Wheel can make driving up and down a church pew, but I am not, having fought this battle many times).
And then I got everyone buckled in the car, went back into the house to get something I forgot, couldn’t remember what it was, and went back into the car, arriving during the opening song which any good Catholic can tell you does not officially count as being late.
That right there is called foreshadowing, folks.
You might think I was setting up this story by pointing out all the potential tantrums that were brewing amongst my over-tired oldest children, but no. They sat quietly through mass, cuddling on my husband’s lap. Okay, fine. One laid down underneath the chairs in the back the entire mass but I still think that counts as behaving since we got there too late for a pew and there was no kneeler in the back row of chairs for him to accidentally knock into the shins of a very old lady on an oxygen tank. This time.
Walking into mass, I remembered what I had forgotten – diapers. My emergency stock in the car was empty and there were none in the purse. But really, mass is only like an hour and she’s been a bit constipated as we feed her a steady diet of whatever-is-in-arm’s-reach-that-will-get-her-to-stop-crying. So what are the chances we really need a diaper mid-mass?
Turns out, pretty good.
Luckily a friend saw my panicked face in the church vestibule and offered to search her van for diapers. Unluckily, her kids are mostly potty trained and so she came up empty handed. Also unluckily, the fertility rate among Catholics is declining cause we’re all acting like we didn’t hear the Pope on that whole no-birth-control thing so there was no one else with diapers in sight.
So, seeing as how I haven’t heard a word of mass since my oldest was born anyway, I left and ran to Safeway, bought a pack of diapers, cleaned her up and made it back in time for communion. So it still totally counts as going to mass, as any good Catholic will also tell you.
However, it was not good enough my daughter, who decided to fully immerse herself in the whole mass experience.
My priest is a fan of long, contemplative pauses during which we can reflect and pray and enjoy a moment of silence to center ourselves before the week begins. And I would so love to do that as well, except for the fact that usually I’m dealing with children stage whispering, “IS IT OVER YET?” Or, the classic, “WHY IS EVERYONE SO QUIET?”
But, like I said, my boys were perfect angels throughout mass. My daughter, however, chose this moment of quiet contemplation to go from quietly looking out the window in the back of church to running full bore onto the altar.
I sprinted after, and in one of those moments that seemed to stretch much longer than (I hope) it actually lasted, I heard the giggles spread across the church until I’m pretty sure everyone was laughing at us.
At least we know she shares my views on women on the altar. Ahem.
After mass, at least ten people came up to me to inform me “She’s fast!” or suggest that she try out for the local Catholic college’s track team. I passed her off to my husband so I could die in peace and also attempt to monitor my older boy’s donut intake. Everyone who had not came up to me went up to him and said, “Is she the runner?” And now I have changed my ideas about Catholics socializing after mass and think maybe we should go back to ducking out after communion so we can yell at Notre Dame on the TV.
At this point, I would like to point out to everyone who thinks I am a terrible mother who has no control over my kids – you are definitively right on the latter. But Jesus also ran away from his mother at a religious ceremony, so…. I mean, I’m not comparing myself to Mary, but you are welcome to do so.
But in all honesty, it’s a rare chance that we get to wear our missteps so publicly. Hardly anyone knew about the whole running-to-Safeway-to-buy-diapers-in-the-middle-of-the-mass thing, but everyone did see the running-across-the-altar thing. It’s so easy to assume everyone else has their stuff together and diapers actually in their diaper bag. And maybe they do. I’m gonna tell myself they don’t, and the laughter was in solidarity, not in pity. Yup. That’s what I’m going to tell myself.
I probably won’t do a better job of keeping an eye on my daughter next mass. She’s the runner. She’s fast. I’m just going to pray that I can keep up, and that she keeps running after something good.