My children have free will. It is a beautiful gift from God.
Sometimes, however, their free will is on full display at mass and it makes things just a little bit stressful for me.
Last Sunday had to be one of our worst days at mass ever.
We were visiting my parents for my birthday, so we attended their parish. This is the parish that I grew up in. For some reason, I just wasn’t at home there this day. I saw many of the same parishioners that were there when I was a child, and for some reason I got it into my head that we needed to be good examples. That our children had to be well-behaved. After all, their behavior wouldn’t just be a reflection on me, but on my parents.
I walked into the silent church and cringed when my son asked, quite loudly, to be able to bless himself with the holy water. I hushed him and lifted him up so he could reach the font. Then my son said he didn’t want to go to this church, he wanted our church. He didn’t understand why we were attending a different church and ruining his routine. I should have prepared him for that, but I forgot how things like that can upset you when you’re three.
So already, I’m on edge, and he’s upset. This does not bode well.
Then, the mass begins and the priest brings out incense. My mother, who has asthma, has to leave. Bug doesn’t understand why Maimeo is leaving. He wants to go where Maimeo went. He begins to whine and I can tell he’s getting ready to throw a tantrum.
We get to the readings, and I don’t even hear them. I’m holding him and doing the little bounce thing, “shh-shh-shhhhh”ing him, rocking back and forth.
It gets so bad I have to take him out of the pew.
He’s so disruptive that I need to remove him in order to be able to redirect him. We walk downstairs and go to the bathroom. We come back upstairs and stand in the narthex, waiting for an appropriate time to return to our seats. I worry that with his current mood, that time will never come. He discovers, while we’re there, that he has missed the collection.
“I want to put in the money!!!” he whines.
Of course. That’s his job at mass, and he looks forward to it. I feel like I am failing as a mother.
I ask for grace. I pray.
And then I remember.
We’re here, and offering ourselves to Christ. I may not be able to hear the readings, I may miss the homily, and I may be spending more time distracted than not, but I’m here. And Christ takes us where we are. He gives us himself even when we aren’t at our best.
Even when it seems like nothing is going right at mass, the Eucharist is there. Christ is with us. So really, how can anything be wrong? My son didn’t need to change, my outlook did.
So, mamas, when your children act like children at mass, take a breath, give yourself a little grace, and remember: you’re bringing your children to Christ. That’s what He has commanded us to do.
Also remember: you’re doing a great job, and He loves you.