Today's post is an illustration of my Mass time this week. Any mamas out there are probably familiar with all of this to the point of it being mundane, but maybe seeing it from the perspective of someone who doesn't have babies at Mass every week will put the humor back in the situation for you.
So here is my step-by-step instructions for taking a three-year-old to Mass (or any church worship):*
Make sure you sit in a pew that has an empty pew in front of you. This will come in handy for many heart-attack moments during the service as your three-year-old excitedly runs up and down the empty seat. They are blissfully unaware that one wrong move of their little toddling feet will send their head into the pew ahead of them and the rest of them into the book holders below. Looking back this should have been foreseen but please remember that only hindsight is 20/20. Don't be too hard on yourself or worry though; as you try to correct your mistake and catch them they will think you are starting a delightful game of Tag and will squeal excitedly in the middle of the day's readings while running even faster in the opposite direction.
After you finally manage to get your three-year-old back, the only way they will stay in your pew is for you to hold them for awhile. Please be aware that they are now full of energy and so will try a number of acrobatic moves in your arms to try and get that energy out. A favorite move that I have noticed is the throwing back of the body with no prior warning so they can hang their head upside down. Your entire body will be forced forward and only by some primal instinct do your feet stay glued to the ground, thereby preventing you both from tumbling into the empty pew ahead (see Step 1). You look down to see your three-year-old with arms hanging and hair standing up straight as though they have been electrically shocked. The thought goes through your head that perhaps electric shock actually is the reason they just tried to kill you both, but please note that you will think that maybe this is a reason for them doing a lot insane things. It very rarely is the reason however.
They will have a look of pure joy on their face which will make it very difficult for you to convince them that they should look at the world right-side-up for awhile. Do not be surprised at your child's sudden ability to turn themselves into an immoveable sack of potatoes; this is a normal side effect.
Give them a water pen with its special color-changing pad during the sermon. This will keep them happy and quiet for maybe 5 minutes and you will find yourself able to actually listen to the wise words you came to hear. Please don't be too shocked, however, when you turn back to your three-year-old to see them screwing and unscrewing the lid of the marker and taking little sips as water pours all over their clothes. As you wonder to yourself if this is really a problem and therefore worth the screams involved when you try to stop them (after all, its only water), their older sibling will have noticed the situation and come to the conclusion that it is in fact life-threateningly dangerous. They grab the pen and your three-year-old commences screaming until they get the pen back. Even then, however, they will still be quite shaken up and may require some hugs. Be sympathetic as they point a finger to their sibling and bury their head in your shoulder, the only actions they can muster up to convey their feelings of betrayal.
Bring someone to Mass who thinks it is funny to see what they can get a three-year-old to do and sit right next to this person. You will have contributed to bringing two new best friends together and witness many games being invented. So what if they older lady at the end of the pew is shooting daggers at you with her eyes? The melodious sounds of a child's innocent laughter, even during the Consecration, is worth it all.
It is important to instill in children that giving money to those less fortunate is important. One way to do this is to let the children put money in the collection baskets. As your child thrillingly stares at the money in a way that lets you know they are having an experience you wish they would feel for the rest the Mass, try to prevent them from putting their mouths on the dollar bills. Another tip is to not let them feed you the dollar bills, which they will try to do as their way of bringing you into their excited moment. There will be many other occasions where a three-year-old will try to feed you; sometimes it will actually be food but even in these instances do not eat it. Their sense of accomplishment will make them so proud they will try to feed you too many bites at a time with such an insistence that you will become worried they are actually trying to kill you.
As the end of the Mass draws near, your three-year-old will have finally gotten used to the fact that they need to sit still in your lap. However, they do not see anything interesting in the rows of heads in front of them so they will turn around to face you. You may be shocked to realize that your face is, in fact, an excellent toy. Squishing cheeks and touching eyes, violent kiss storms accompanied by a surprisingly strong grip on either side of your head, and trying to feed you their fingers are all "games" you can expect to be played as they read the final announcements. Refer to step 5 for more information on three-year-olds trying to feed you things.
The Mass has ended, go in as much peace as you can.
*Note: Some of these steps are not exclusive to Mass/Church time and may include other ages of children as well
Hope your day is blessed and filled with laughter!