We found a church in our city that has weekday mass every Thursday at 7pm. With Camera Guy’s new office so close to home, and our new found routine, we decided to add in evening mass with the munchkins once a week. We were excited to have the opportunity to go together. We’ve longed for the chance to attend daily mass as a family unit. Happy Easter to us to have found this available only a few blocks away!
And so on Thursday, everything was running on track. Camera Guy waltzed through the door & sat down to eat a precisely prepared dinner with the rest of us. Everything was eaten, cleaned, put away and wiped down with some time to spare before heading out. But given our anticipation for this glorious event, we decided to leave early.
As we’ve learned in the past, it is never good to arrive to mass early with the kids. The duration of mass is their limit. 2 minutes over, and we’ve got madness to deal with. 5 minutes early, and we’re just asking to soak up their “good time” before everything even begins.
But we knew it was a daily mass and that it would be about a half hour, which is usually the time frame for the kids “good time”. So with a skip in our step, we bounded into church laden with snacks (for back up) and some toys (just in case) and two full bellied, well rested toddlers. This was their “best” time of day. The expectations for their behavior were set fairly high.
Walking in, we observed about five elderly women saying the rosary. Which was lovely. But I don’t think they found Chubs quite so lovely as he soon figured out what an “echo” was and began practicing the sound of the letter “B” at a loud and obnoxious volume. The church was big, and practically empty so the reverb of the echo was truly astounding.
Mass hadn’t begun yet so we weren’t worried.
The bell rang and mass started. Chubs began squirming and groaning on cue. I placed him down where he started to empty out my purse, unleashing various feminine products and makeup on the pew. Blushing, I re-stuffed my bag and threw him back on my hip. He wrinkled his chubby forehead at me and decided it was time to continue his “Ricola” audition by testing the echo dynamics of the building once again. This time trying to over compensate for the lector who was reading the first reading.
I tossed a look over the Camera Guy who shook his head while he fended off Princess who was struggling to scale his legs.
This was so strange. They were never this difficult in church. And when they were they could at least hold out until after communion. But still, I held out hope that it would get better. Isn’t it funny how easy it is to convince ourselves of something completely absurd?
By the Gospel, we set them up with their toys. Which for some idiotic reason were not quiet ones we normally bring, but plastic ones that made a ridiculously loud bang as they were dropped on the floor. And they were dropped on the floor about a dozen times (add in the echo and try to picture us turning red) until we hastily yanked every one of them away and stuffed them into the ever bulging purse.
Camera Guy was sweating and attempting to hold both kids on his lap. Chubs squirmed away and came over to me where he started looking through the grates on the pew separators to our left.
Yes, the pews were all separated in half with those wooden half walls. So that you could only enter and exit from one way. Normally the wooden half walls went all the way to the ground. But ours only went about a foot. Then there was open space for say, a small toddler to crawl through. Which of course Chubs figured out so quickly I didn’t have a chance to grab his fat ankle as he slithered away and popped up on the other side of our pew.
I’ve never felt that scared-nervous-out-of-control feeling like I felt then. He had this creepy wild grin on his face as we stared at each other. He knew I was freaking out and I couldn’t say anything because it was the consecration, and that I also could not get to him because a half wall was preventing me from reaching him.
He shamelessly looked all around him singing his little “B” sound song to see who else was observing his escape. A victory cheer I’m sure. But as he turned his head the other way, I bent over the half wall as quickly as I could and grabbed him back.
Caught off guard, he protested by going entirely limp in my arms so that he almost fell out, causing me to loose my footing and do this Irish jig to hoist him & myself onto better balance.
By now my hair was beginning to fall loose from my bun and into my face, which only added to the frazzled show our family was. My lips were pursed and my thoughts were everywhere but on communion. Camera Guy was stunned by the performance and quickly plugged up both kids (as Princess was laughing at how naughty her brother was) with some cookies.
I forced myself to let the anxious thoughts go about what all those women in church were thinking right then. Since of course we sat our selves in front of all of them so the kids could have a better view of the altar. Sitting in the front pew in a sparsely occupied church of old ladies and a very old priest is pretty much begging to be on the chopping block. Our eagerness for daily mass had completely clouded our decision making skills. I could almost hear the ladies talking after mass,
“Well I never! Toys in church! And then cookies for all that bad behavior! What is this world coming to?”
“I just want to receive communion!” I whimpered inwardly, suffocated by my thoughts.
The cookies worked. It held them over till the very end of mass, for which I breathed a sigh of relief and began to gather our stuff.
No sooner did the priest say “Go In Peace” did we turn for our exit, and did he transition into novena prayers. Of which there were about 7. Every one knelt down leaving us standing with toys in our fists and bulging out of our pockets. we were front and center so with “uh oh” eyes, we gave into the peer pressure and quickly dropped to our knees. All while clutching desperately the kids who were just promised freedom.
A lady tapped us on the shoulders and handed us the prayer booklet. I blinked about 50 times and said sheepishly, “ohhhhh. thank you” with a stunned and worried look.
How kind. Now we really couldn’t leave.
“Shoot. This is not going to be good…”
Then, the most shocking moment of our parental lives happened.
Well, yes this completely pales in comparison to our dinner guest episode, but given it being Church and old ladies, it was pretty mortifying.
You see, in the instant we dropped to kneel, Chubs scooted under the pew and popped up in front of us. Out of our reach.
My eyes widened and I quickly looked at Camera Guy for help. Chubs started swaying and singing the “B” sound again as his smile grew bigger and bigger, taunting us.
His theme song that night was definitely “How do you like me now” and I’m sure that’s what he was thinking in his little baby head as he bobbed up and down with that arrogant grin.
Camera Guy’s gaze held steady, I sensed he was feeling to let him stay in the pew in front of us, he wouldn’t go farther. So I turned back to my booklet of prayers and then, Princess popped up in front of us. And then before I had a chance to breathe again, Chubs went under the half wall, popped up and ducked again and came up in a pew 3 rows in front of us and on the other side of the wall. He let out a squeal of delight. It echoed cruelly.
The theme song in all our heads grew painfully loud.
It was like a terrifying live version of whack-a-mole.
I pretty much almost wet myself and started to cry at the same time. Camera Guy had completely stopped praying the prayers and was just hanging his mouth open.
We had a “duhhh” moment and before we could think “OMG” they both ran out of the pew into the main aisle and bolted for the exit.
With thunderous, loud, toddler patter on the floor.
In front of all those old ladies who were peering over their glasses at the prayer books.
Camera Guy actually ran in church. It was possibly the first time as an adult he has ever done that. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that he took the dose of humble pie for this one.
He booked it out the pew and as he caught both kids full force, I placed down my prayerbook and scurried out behind them, completely dodging all glances from our disgraced audience.
As we sunk back into the station wagon, Camera Guy reprimanded
“Church is not a playground!”
“It’s not a playground, Dad?”
Meanwhile in the front seat I grappled with the scenario that just took place
“I just… how… how did he get away from us? How did that just happen?”
Camera Guy was pursing his lips and furrowing his eyebrows, it was obvious he was trying to squeeze his face shut to prevent a laugh from escaping.
Shocked I popped my eyes open and asked, “What on earth? That was horrible! Now you think its funny?”
“It’s just that… you didn’t see them running up the aisle. It was the funniest thing.”
He checked the rearview mirror to make sure the kids were zoned out.
“After all that struggle to get away, and then to escape, you’d think Chubs would just run up to the door and be done. But he ran up the aisle to the gifts table and stopped. He looked at it, then decided to crawl on his belly under it, get back up and continue running up the aisle. There was like a 2 foot distance on both sides of the table, but he wanted to go through it!”
My jaw dropped. My son made his own obstacle course in church.
Camera Guy started laughing.
“Whyyyyyy” I moaned and put my head in my hands, “So much for ever showing my face at that church again.”
We resolved to attend daily mass at a not so hyper-active time of day. In the end, I find comfort thinking that I probably have way more old ladies praying for me than I ever did. And Lord knows, we can use all the prayers we can get.
Better luck next time.