A few weeks ago, we all happened to be up and eating breakfast on a Sunday by 6:30 AM, because no one sleeps on weekends here.
Just on school days.
Because of that, we decided to skip the usual 9:30 AM Mass and go at 7:30 AM because why not? We were already up.
I’m not sure what happened to my husband, but now every Sunday he springs up out of bed like a zombie and tells everyone we have to get ready for church.
Nothing puts excitement into a morning like getting ready in nine minutes.
Sure, 7:30 mass is shorter than 9:30. By a good half hour. Sure, there are fewer people, so we can cruise in right behind the procession and find a seat anywhere. But because there are fewer people, it’s quieter. We are no longer in the company of other families with loud four-year-olds. We are now with the baby crowd because everyone knows they didn’t sleep.
Since it’s the baby crowd, our four-year-old looks incredibly misbehaved because, for all intents and purposes, he is misbehaving on an incredibly large scale. He is not great at Mass. It’s like a baby gazelle being tossed into the lion den at the zoo. What can it do? The lion is free to do as it pleases, and at the very most the gazelle will try to outrun it and dodge every opportunity at falling victim.
That’s my husband and me.
We’re the baby gazelles.
Because he’s four and we’re at the baby Mass, two things are facts:
- He can’t blend in with other kids misbehaving who are his age, thus making us the only family disrupting the entire Mass.
- It’s not cute. When a one-year-old squeals, it’s cute. When he cries, “Awww he must be tired.” When our son squeals, it’s loud and disruptive. When he sings “Jingle bells, butt my smells, Robert laid an egg,” it’s not cute. At all.
Also, those are not even close to the right words to that song.
Sure, it’s funny. But we are playing the part of strict parents who will not tolerate this kind of behavior by shushing him and sternly telling him that’s not okay so that he can sing it four octaves louder. It’s not okay to make loud dump truck noises during the homily. People. Are. Praying.
He doesn’t care.
We can cup a hand over his mouth, and have, but he only protests louder after licking the insides of our palms — well played, child. Well played.
Then when you remove your hand he shouts, “Why did you do that? Because you’re frustrated with me?”
Sometimes we see parents smile and snicker. The ones who have teenagers and remember those days with nostalgia because they aren’t where we are in life anymore and time heals all wounds. Sometimes we see older people shake their heads and get angry and remember those days when their kids never misbehaved because they parented better than we do.
Like the baby gazelle, I’m just killing time until it’s over. The Mass. The morning. This era of Pre-K independence.
Sure, I could take him out of Mass, but that just teaches him if he acts up he gets to leave. I could leave him home with a sitter, but that defeats the point of him understanding that this happens every week and he’s not getting out of this. We could divide Mass so one of us goes with the older kids one day and someone else goes alone the other day. But, that means we can’t go as a family.
Somewhere in the Bible Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.” If Jesus was physically there at the Mass — outside of being a consecrated host of unleaved bread — I would tell my son to go sit with Him. If He can turn water into wine and create and all-you-can-eat buffet from loaves of bread and two fish, I’d say He’s got to be one magnificent sitter and possibly the only one to get my son to sit still, be quiet, and get the words to Jingle Bells, Batman Smells correct.