Yesterday was super fun. I took four of six children to church. Alone.
If I correctly recall my math lessons of yore, that is merely 66% of my brood, and it still managed to be exasperating and sweat-inducing.
I literally need to change my clothes after family outings because they make me sweat profusely.
In the case of going to church, and to the library, and to the grocery store- okay, going anywhere, that sweat is usually the physical manifestation of my inward mortification and panic.
The morning started out okay.
My sweetie and my infant let me sleep in until 9 (after feeding her of course). We’ve worked out a system, he gets Saturday morning and I get Sunday morning. We fought for Memorial day morning. He won. Again.
By the time I got myself ready for Mass, and the baby, and anyone who wasn’t quite ready to skedaddle, we were basically running our usual late. My anxiety levels PEG OUT when we are late for stuff. So basically they are always pegging out. That generally bodes well for no one.
About that time, my husband casually mentions that my son just grabbed a puke bucket for the car. Apparently, he spent an hour puking off and on the night before. Great. We’ve been fighting a mild stomach bug for a few days. Unfortunately, it’s lingering for the plagued victims. But since it’s not me, I’m just happily rolling with clean-up duty and directing nauseated family members to the nearest toilet bowl.
Change of plans
Alrighty then, Dad will stay home with the sick kid, the three-year-old, and the two-year-old. I will joyfully be taking the rest. Except, the three-year-old started crying when he found out he was on the stay-home-from-church list.
Far be it from me to deprive his sometimes naughty three-year-old soul of church time. So, now I’m up to bringing four. It’s one thing to take them places with my husband, “The Law”, it’s another to take them places by myself, “The Limp Noodle.” Inside I can feel Leaving the House Panic taking hold. On the outside, I remain cool as a cucumber, the boys can sense fear.
Rubber hits the road
We quickly loaded up the baby, pulled the stay home kids out of the van and I drove us to church. Which is where our guide really begins.
Wry Parents Guide to Getting Through 60 Minutes of Church Without Breaking Down and Begging for Mercy… From Your Children
Pro Tip #1 – Put the “fear of God” in them before you get to church.
“Boys, listen up. I am ALONE today. But GOD IS WATCHING. He knows where you live. And most importantly, I will TELL DAD if you so much as put one toe out of line.”
When you say this, make sure you use your most authoritative mom voice. Really mean it. They’ll know if you are going to wither like a jellyfish out of the water as soon as you get there.
Pro Tip #2 – Ask them at least four times – “Did you hear me? Do you UN. DER. STAND. WHAT. I’M. SAYING???”
This is critical. The first two times, you’ll get blank stares and possibly drool. The third time, someone might actually say “WHAT?”. By the fourth time, you may have actually convinced someone to listen to you.
Okay so, you’ll get to church, and they will reflexively pile out of the car. Yes, it’s possible to pile out. I’ve seen it many times.
Pro Tip #3 – When the pile of boys straightens out, ask them to stand next to the vehicle nicely, while you remove the infant and her car seat from the vehicle.
By the time you get her out and you get turned around, at least one kid is a block away in the wrong direction. One just fell down and scraped something and runs back to you with alligator tears and sobs. One is standing there nicely, but it’s a ploy.
Gather up your stamina, you still have to get into the church. Begin walking, they’ll catch up. Then they’ll pass you. Then they’ll bump into a little old man walking with a cane and you will pretend you don’t know them.
Pro Tip #4 – As you walk up the stairs into the church, be sure to look harried and sweaty. The nice usher will make eye contact, immediately feel your flustered frustration, and find the best possible spot for you and your brood.
Pro Tip #5 – ALWAYS SIT IN FRONT. This is counterintuitive. We all want to sit at the back. No one will notice that you take up a lot of space as a family. Or that your kids are all trying to sit on your lap at the same time (it’s okay to laugh, the people behind me did). Or that you really don’t have it all together today.
Sitting at the front means it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, you can’t see them, so they basically don’t exist. What you can see, and more importantly, what your kids can see, is everything going on at the altar.
Also, it makes it a lot easier for your pastor to stare down your kids when they start acting up.
Pro Tip #6 – Send them to children’s liturgy if you’ve got one. This won’t be for everyone, and we debated it for a very long time, too long really. Finally, when our twins hit pre-school, we decided it was okay to start sending them to the children’s liturgy of the word.
Guess what? I actually get something out of Mass again. It’s almost uplifting and encouraging again. I actually cried at the homily last week. Probably because I actually heard the homily last week, but mostly because the message was directed right. to. me.
The priest’s whole message was about the eternal importance of raising the next generation of moms and dads. Mama needed to hear that. It was especially edifying as a mom to many, that receives lots of disdainful stares and flat-out hostility.
The work you are doing as a parent is so incredible and has eternal ramifications. Pretty heavy stuff. Tuck that away, it will probably be the least sarcastic thing in this post.
Pro Tip #7 – If you nurse your baby exclusively, bring a nursing cover to church. Expect that she will want to be nursed. Expect that she will hate being covered, kick around, and potentially expose some side boob to unsuspecting parishioners. No one will say anything, but you’ll know it happened. You’ll know.
Around this time, you’ll actually feel the first bead of sweat trickle down your forehead.
Pro Tip #8 – Count your kids when they come back from the children’s liturgy, and be prepared when they don’t all make it. The first one straggles back. The next one comes from an entirely different direction (where did you even come from?) The littlest one is MIA. Don’t panic. It’s church. He’s somewhere. One of your kids will lean over and loudly inform you that your three-year-old is hurt, and it was probably a tick bite.
Um. Sure. He will hopefully elaborate and tell you that the teacher is taking care of him and will bring him up, but you might want to start wrapping up that nursing session, just in case he doesn’t show.
When he does show up, with the teacher, he will be fine, and there will likely be no ticks involved.
Pro Tip #9 – Separate your kids. At about this point, if any of them are standing next to each other, things are about to get seriously out of hand. There will definitely be poking. Prodding. Staring backward. Rumpling papers. Trying to crawl in your baby-filled lap. Attention span has been depleted, get ready to go to the next DEFCON level.
If you are there alone, and seriously outnumbered, feel free to use the baby seat as another adult. Then separate the two causing the most trouble and proceed to stare at them. Really make it meaningful.
Pro Tip #10 – Always know how many songs are left. At least one of them is going to ask. Every. Song. Because they know if there is only one song left, it’s almost time to go. When they ask, always inflate the number by at least two. You don’t want them getting excited that it’s almost over.
Inside, you’re getting excited that it’s almost over. The worst that has happened was a lost child, exposed boob, and breaking a sweat.
This is going great!
When they say “Thanks be to God” at the end, you’ll probably find that you say it louder and more exuberantly than the people around you.
That’s because you mean it.
Pro Tip #11 – Be Gracious. People are naturally going to come up to you and tell you what an amazing job you are doing, and what a beautiful family you have. Don’t snort, it’s not polite. Just accept the compliment and try to find all your kids. They’ve already exited pew right, and you have no clue where they are.
Always suspect that they are running up and down the aisles. Yep. Found ’em.
You really are doing a great job. Promise. It’s hard work taking kids to church!
Get in the car and breathe a deep, cleansing breath.
Job well done, mama!
So tell me, what’s your favorite part of taking your kids to church?
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