In fair disclosure (fair to the kids at least), they tend to behave okay in church. I've seen MUCH worse and, for their age, I'm rarely disappointed in them. We sometimes have to lean forward to remind them to pay attention or we have to sit them up if they become infatuated, say, with a hymnal instead of what is going on at the altar, but for the most part, all is well. The first half of Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, is usually the part where we have an issue (if we have one) because it is when the readings take place. They love putting their little envelopes in the collection, and they are usually saints among us during the Eucharistic prayers and Communiion. The Liturgy of the Eucharist usually makes me think I'm raising a priest and a nun.
Today? Not so much.
Yes, my son is the one who had a mini-pee accident (when I no longer carry clothes for them because they are pretty good like that!) but, for the most part, was fine. Yes, it was my daughter- my usually prim daughter who LOVES church- that decided she was competeing with the Lectors, Deacon, and Monsignor. I gave her warning after warning and, on the third one, told her that the next time, we were leaving. She must have thought I was joking. We had just put our envelopes in the collection basket (we sit in the front, so the announcements were still going on) and she decided to smart off again... as loud as she could... and that was it. She refused to put on her coat, so I grabbed hers and mine, then picked her up (in a very uncool way, I'm sure) and, in front of the entire church and with her screaming "NO!!!! I WANT TO STAY IN CHURCH!!! DADDY!!!!" walked her out of the building and to our car. She sobbed and screamed about missing Jesus and wanting to go back, and really, I felt kind of bad... for about 2 seconds, when I realized the reason I was in the car and missing the second half of Mass was because she wasn't behaving.
She begged and pleaded to go back and, several times, I really wanted to... But, three chances is three chances. I explained that she'd had chances to behave (even though she promised, this time, she would really behave) and didn't, so sadly, we weren't going back. More crying. (Bobby was fine; Peter said he participated in the prayers and was perfectly fine, so yay for 1 kid!)
As Mass was ending, I explained to Maya that we would be putting on our coats but not going back to church. Instead, we were going to stand outside and apologize to Msgr. when he came out to greet people. She seemed to understand. "I wasn't nice so I say I'm sorry."
"That's right. You were disrespectful in church, and disrespectful to Msrg. T- while he was trying to talk. Next time will be better, right?"
"Next time will be better. Sorry, Mama."
"Okay, Jesus loves you still."
To this, she was smiling (thank Goodness- I dont want her to think Jesus is pissed at her.) So, I got her out of the car and we walked over to where the pastor was and I lifted her up so she could be eye level.
"I'm sorry." Says Maya, giving his outstretched hand a high five (because, clearly, he is captivated by those curls too! Even when she's crazy!).
He looked confused at me. "Really?"
I smiled, embarrassed. "Maya's sorry that she was disrespectful during Mass. She promises to be better next week."
He chuckled, explained it happens all the time, and not to worry. I apologized again, and we let him get back to greeting the rest of the parish. Maya high fived our other priest as we waited for Peter and Bobby, and then we went back to the car.
It dawned on me, that the oor priests proabbly do have to put up with way worse, even though I was mortified. When I was a kid, the fear of God was in church. I didnt want my mom to look at me funny, let alone have to tell me to behave. I wasnt a great kid, but church was church. I was continually waiting to be struck down.
Hence the problem, maybe.
I was scared of church, and, as time went on, I hated it. Not because of my parents or anything, but because the theology was harsh and God was always angry and mean and Jesus probably secretly hated me, seeing as I was the reason He was tortured and hung on a tree with nails. The church I grew up in, which was a very hardcore, concervative Protestant mixture of Southern Baptist and Holiness. We were all damned and, most likely, going to hell, so pray a lot and hope for the best. I remember being told, when the pastor's wife saw me (in the HOT summer) in a pair of shorts (and they were modest- my mom didnt allow any hoochie wear) and with short hair (freshly shorn in the back yard courtesy of my mom's skill as a mom/barber/stylist), that I was going to hell because I had short hair and was showing my legs. So, in reality, there were a lot of things that led me to my hatred of church-going in my youth, but we can agree that I was miserable. When my paternal grandma died when I was 10 and we didn't go to that church anymore (or any church, actually), I was grateful.
At 16, I became Catholic and was introduced to a different theology, and it's the theology that Peter and I have built our home around: that God is a God of love, that Jesus loves humanity and is your friend (not someone who is waiting for you to slip up so He can toss you in hell), that the Church is a place where you can feel the Divine's Love and find that love reflected in your parish family. I'm happy that my kids want to go to church, that they ask to go. That they are excited to get dressed up and go. I love that they know what Adoration is, and that (Maya especially) will ask to go "visit Jesus". I love that they pass by the icons and statues and say "Hi Mama Mary", "Hi Papa Joseph", "Hi Baby Jesus", "Hi etc.", that they believe the saints and angels are a part of our family and not something far fetched and far away. That they know their prayers and pray them when they want to pray, not because we tell them they have to. When their preschool teacher tells me that they stop and go to the classroom altar and pray on their own, my heart overflows.
I want that love for them. I want them to be happy and feel at peace there. And, if not in our Church of choice, I hope that they will one day find their place of peace with the Great Spirit, wherever that leads them.
For today, I'm grateful and thankful that they seem to have found it with us, and that we are together as a family. And, after today, I hope that the behavior goes back to normal! I miss my well behaved churchgoers!