If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that today was a crap day. I did something I swore I’d never do any left church before it even started because I just couldn’t deal with my kids bad behavior on my own. I had already dealt with whining about getting changed out of one set of t-shirt and gym pants into another (a set that had not been slept it), complaining about being bored before we even got into the building, flopping around banging into stuff and a toddler doing laps around the pew before even twenty people had gotten into the church. So I picked up our Mass bag (you know that magical bag filled with quiet goodies meant to save us all) and hauled the kids out of the building, past all those kids who, you know, behave at church, into our minivan and home.
We’re not in an easy phase – both my husband and I work weekends (I work full weekends every other week and my husband works every Sunday). Our options to get to church as a family are limited (all Masses on Saturday night happen in a single hour window) and my options on Sunday, which I have to do myself if we miss Saturday, are similarly limited even with a Newman Center. There is no way to divide and conquer without someone missing Mass at the moment – no Mass I can get to before Ben leaves for work Sunday morning and no Mass I can get to Sunday evening after he gets home. We can’t have someone go to an early Saturday evening and someone to a late Saturday evening because they all overlap. It’s really frustrating.
All the “good mother” blogs say we need to take the kids, it’s important, that they’ll be religiously stunted without the Mass. Children belong in the Church! We don’t mind the noise! Please come cry and breastfeed and slam kneelers down on our feet because we love the little children just like Jesus!
Great. Fine. Here, you take them. I’d like to be able to pray and listen and have Mass feel more like something I’m doing because I want to rather than I have to.
But you know what? I’m kind of over it. The struggle is making the church a miserable experience of my kids and me – no one is getting much and we’re all frustrated and near tears at the end. I don’t want to force this so much that my kids run from it as soon as they are able. I want us to go regularly, but I also want my kids to see me going because I want to, to see my love of going…. but right now I think all they see is me scowling and snapping my fingers and counting to three. I’d rather go on my own and let them stay at home constantly and have them know I’m going to do something I love, knowing that when they’re old enough they too can be a part of it than keep with this the way it is. I’d rather Mass be something special they get to do a few times a year until the age of reason that excites them than this weekly dread that brings tears and frustration.
I also want my kids to have a appreciate and deep love for the fine arts, theatre and opera…. but that doesn’t mean I take them weekly two hour long concerts and just shrug off the fact that no one can hear anything over their feet thudding on the seats in front of them and overly loud whispers of “IS THIS OVER YET!?” (no, it’s been five minutes…. just 115 more to go!)
There has to be a happy medium. There need to be better options in our Parishes so we actually have Mass times that don’t all overlap. We need less stigma about nursery programs and we need dialogue about whether childcare for children under the age of reason is a valid exemption. Just today I frantically texted a BFF with frustration steaming out of my ears “Is this exemption list something that was created when most families had nannies, servants or live in relative and multiple options for Sunday Mass because churches had more priests? When you could send the servant to 5 a.m. Mass so there was someone to watch the little heathens while you went at 10?” She, who is much more orthodox than I, pointed out that the “grave reasons” are similar in language to the talk around abstaining in NFP – where as I thought it was a more set it stone list (illness, caregiving of the ill, work, life risk, etc.) so maybe I’m being too scrupulous?(never thought I’d see that day!) Maybe we need the higher ups to talk more about obligations when most families don’t work Monday/Friday schedules or have to do 12 hour shift work or have non-supportive spouses or no waitstaff to thrust our bundles of joy on.
My day eventually got better – my kids calmed down, my son learned a big lesson, he spent the entire day trying to help me, they even found and did one of the Oriental Trading Company crafts I had set aside for Pentecost of their own volition. We made brownies. The baby napped and we watched hours of My Little Pony. The day got better, but I still don’t know what’s going to happen next Sunday when I’m again on my own trying to fulfill my obligation while wrangling these two. I’m not trying to encourage laziness or bad excuses or trying to weasel my way out of an obligation, but maybe I can share this and start a dialogue.
Thanks to everyone who has already given a lot of support and love over IG. It’s really helped today.