Monday, January 19, 2009

Attending Church

This post is part 2 of the "Church" series. If you missed part 1, it can be found at:

I will preface this post by saying that I believe the bonds of love and attachment between parents and their children gives us a glimpse of the love God has for us.

While my children are occasionally able to sit fairly quietly and still at church for about 45 minutes, what follows below is more typical of how things usually play out. It is during these trying moments that I think "when they mail you your child's birth certificate, they should also include a note that excuses you from attending church for a period of no less than 4 years. This note can be renewed for an another 4 years beginning with the birth of the next child." But fortunately those moments do (eventually) pass.

When we last left Busy-Dad-E and his entourage, we were walking into church 1 minute late. I neglected to mention that it started raining as we pulled into the church parking lot, which casts a spell that immediately makes all umbrellas in the car invisible and/or disappear (or "up-in-here" as Big Brother sometimes says).

As we enter the congregation, a little wet, with slightly soggy toaster waffles in hand (why is it that kids won't eat at home, but when they get to church it's like a buffet?), we manage to squeeze into some seats in the back. As I trample across a few people to get to our seats, carrying a baby and diaper bag, I can't help but think "you're soon going to wish that you had just scooted in and given us the aisle seats."

We finally sit down, now probably 5 minutes after church is scheduled to start, except that we've forgotten that in "church time," this means that the service is about one-third over (seriously, did they start 15 minutes early?). Right on cue, Big Brother has to go potty. YES, WE MADE HIM GO POTTY BEFORE WE LEFT THE HOUSE. IT DOESN'T MATTER. THE SAME SPELL THAT MAKES THE UMBRELLAS DISAPPEAR MAKES HIS KIDNEY FUNCTION HYPERACTIVE, METHINKS. We trample back over the toes of the people sitting at the end of our row, and make it to the potty in good time.

Big brother proceeds to ask, very loudly, what the person in the stall next to ours is doing. "He's going potty." I say. "What's he going potty for?" replies Big Brother. "Because he has to go potty, too, just like you." "Is he going pee-pee, or poo-poo?" Big Brother queries, without taking a breath. "Shh" I say quietly, feeling my face turn beat-red. "Dad-E, do big boys stand up to go pee-pee, and sit down to go poo-poo?" "That's right, buddy," I affirm. You get the idea. It takes a few more minutes, but we manage to finish, flush, and even wash our hands. The questions have not stopped.

We walk out of the bathroom, only to be greeted by Busy-Mom-E and little brother. "What happened?" I ask. Busy-Mom-E replies, "Little brother started screaming for you the moment you walked out." Somehow, I'm not surprised. By now, we're getting close to the half-way point of the service. Fortunately, they are just getting ready to send the 3 to 5 year-olds out for their Children's Liturgy, so we sneak back in. We're excited that Big Brother now looks forward to going to "Special Church."

Big Brother wants Dad-E to walk him to "Special Church" today. The only problem is that he does not want Dad-E to leave him there. Rather than deal with a melt-down (because I want him to attend the liturgy), I "cave" and stay with him. Fortunately, we're at a point where he participates with the other children, and I can sit and "hide" in the corner. (Soon, instead of hiding, I might actually "up-in-here" and see what happens.) The down side of attending the Children's Liturgy is that I miss the readings and homily. The up-side is that I get affirmation that my children are "normal." Much of the children's liturgy is taken up by the teacher addressing "distractions"--the child who has to go potty, the child who needs a tissue, the child who is physically unable to sit, the child who wants to tell everyone she's going to the movies after church, and the child who wants to stick their finger in the candle. I can't help but chuckle when the story about the prophet Samuel's mother, Hannah, almost turns into a discussion about Hannah Montana.

Special Church is now over. We rejoin Mom-E and Little Brother in our seats, except that we're in the aisle now. Apparently, we stepped over those people enough times that they got the hint and moved elsewhere. At this point, church is about two-thirds over. We sit quietly for a period not exceeding five minutes, and then something happens. It's happened so many times, I completely forget what it was. Usual suspects are either Big Brother has to go potty again or Little Brother gets restless and starts screaming.

And so we head out into the vestibule. Invariably, the "other parent and child" who were still in church also go to the vestibule because the separation anxiety is too great. You see, our church is in a transitory phase, and services are currently held in what will eventually be the Parish Life Center (i.e., there is no "Cry room.") I think they should have stadium seating in the vestibule, with reserved spots for Busy-Dad-E and family, because we often spend more time in the vestibule than we do with the actual congregation.

But instead of seats, there's only wide-open space, and tables where they're already setting up the juice and doughnuts for after the service. This officially constitutes a playground for children. Before I can say "stop," Big Brother has already turned the vestibule into a running track. Little Brother takes off after him. Mom-E and Dad-E, now amateur rodeo cowboys, manage to use our lassos to "hog-tie" the boys. We ignore Big Brother's pleas for juice and a doughnut (yeah, let's give him some MORE sugar, good idea), and head back in for communion.

Today is a "good day" (relatively-speaking), in that we can return to our seats after communion, rather than making a return-visit to the vestibule. A few minutes later, the recession begins, and we're gathering up our stuff. Only a few more obstacles to overcome. For some unknown reason, our church thinks it's fun to put the rack to return the hymnals as far away as possible from the doors to the congregation, and in a location that is "up stream" from the direction of foot traffic leaving the church. Once this is done, we must navigate our way around the tribe of people who thought it would be a splendid idea to stand and chat just outside the entrance doors, pretty much blocking anyone else from leaving.

A little tired, we head for the car. I open up the weekly bulletin, hoping that someone has randomly inserted one of those "4-year Church Excuse Notes." I mean, my heart was in the right place, but you can see how much time I had to sit uninterrupted and focus on the service. You might be thinking, "don't they have child care at your church? Why not leave the boys there?" Maybe Busy-Mom-E and I like to make it more difficult for ourselves, maybe we're afraid to leave them with a relative stranger, or maybe we figure that our children will never learn how to sit quietly and pay attention unless we give them opportunities to do so.

Oh well, we'll try again next week.

As always, I'd love to hear from you--your thoughts, stories, and good fatherhood blogs! If you like what you read, let me know, and let you friends know, too! Be sure to "tune in" on Wednesday, for a new post, "Date Night".

Until then,

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  1. Seriously, what were those people thinking when they didn't give you guys the aisle seats? They obviously don't have children, or it has been way too long since their children were young. I really enjoyed this entertaining story!!!!

  2. I have not been to church since my daughter was born. Our church does not have a "cry room" either. If it did, we would go. But what is the point of going if you spend the whole time not paying attention? So, we enacted the 4 year excuse we got in the mail with the birth certificate.