“I’m so sorry we were such a distraction during church!”
“I’m sorry she kept touching your shirt!”
“I’m sorry she threw puffs at you!”
“I’m sorry she (literally) growled at you!”
Every weekend we take our five kids to church, and every single time it plays out roughly the same way.
No matter what mass we decide to go to, or how early we start getting dressed, even if I laid out every article of clothing for every child the night before, even if everyone is showered and clean, no matter what the circumstance is, we will be running late.
Someone will have taken off a shoe and lost it, another will have spilled juice down the front of her dress, and another will have grown an entire size since last week and need to pick out a new outfit altogether. I will rush to do the hair of four additional people aside from myself and throw my makeup bag in my purse so I can buy myself ten minutes and do it in the car.
We will gather all the missing pieces, clean the messes and head to the suburban, where one of us will realize the baby has pooped up her back and all over her dress. Back into the house to change her outfit and then into her seat in the car.
We snap at the kids because they are bickering as usual and not getting buckled.
We feel guilty for snapping at the kids.
I rush to put makeup on during the 10 minute drive. I tell myself, “hey at least the kids look put together, even if I look a mess!”
We pull into the parking lot a minute shy of mass starting. We unload all five kids and whisper yell “run run run!” as we truck ourselves across the parking lot. We open the doors to the church in time to see approximately zero seats available in the entire building.
At that moment, it feels like every single person has turned around to look at this hot mess express that has just rolled in.
We are a circus. And we are in church.
I catch a few people that just instinctually look because they heard the door open, but most of the rest are looking at and counting my children.
I get it, five girls all ten and under can be quite the sight to see.
My face is burning and hot, and it already feels like I have beads of sweat on my forehead.
My husband and I scan the church, looking for a spot where we can squeeze all seven of us in.
I feel inconsiderate and ridiculous.
We finally make our way in and sit down.
My two year immediately gets down off the pew and collects all of the hymnals in her arms. I attempt to distract her with a little snack and her baby doll. It works long enough for her to shovel a bag of gummies into her mouth, and then she moves on to playing with the kneeler.
Now the baby is trying to get down, and one of my other kids needs to potty. The other two are shoving elbows into each other’s sides and the two year old is whining to leave. We are about 15 minutes into mass by this point. I’ve noticed several people turn around and look at what on earth is causing all the noise.
It’s us. And it’s usually at this point where thoughts of “why do we even try?” come into my mind.
I get up and take her to the back of the church to calm her down (we are not fans of the cry room).
Going to church with a bunch of kids feels like being the Mother of Actual Dragons.
But every weekend, we go anyway. We know what we want out of it, and we know what we want our kids to get out of it.
And so, we wrestle the dragons.
Every Sunday (or Saturday vigil), I spend time apologizing to the people around us. Maybe it’s unnecessary. Maybe I shouldn’t apologize. But almost every time, I’m met with a warm, understanding smile.
A lot of the time, there is a woman behind me who was once the mama to little ones. More than once, I’ve had one of those mamas wrap her arms around me and tell me that my babies are beautiful, and comment on how well behaved they were.
Well behaved? Have we been watching the same children? This is mass (haha) chaos.
Then they send me off with words of encouragement: “It will get better. Just keep coming to church! We love the sound of little voices! It’s like little angels in the room!”
I believe them when they say it will get better. I have a nine and a ten year old who are
generally fine during the hour we are there.
A few weeks ago, I went to mass with just the two of them while daddy stayed home with the sick little ones. I was able to listen and really pay attention. (Instead of praying, literally, that the message would reach me by osmosis, because my attention is normally on keeping one of my
feral children from throwing a boot across the church, which actually happened once). My face wasn’t throbbing red with embarrassment, instead, I just got to be one of the congregation.
Within a few minutes of mass starting, a little boy next to us began screeching. His mom quickly started digging in her bag for something to give him to quiet him down. I saw her get flustered and look around as he cried louder. As her face flushed, she got up and rushed to the back of the church with her baby. I felt bad for her, because I get it. That is usually me. That is my life.
When she came back, I made sure to give her that knowing smile, the one that says all Hunger Games like, that I get it, he’s not disturbing anyone, and she’s doing great.
So if you end up at the same mass as us this weekend, I apologize in advance.
I’m sorry that my two year old will probably think your hair is beautiful and touch it every thirty seconds.
I’m sorry that I will probably have to leave the pew three times to change a wet, then a dirty diaper, and then to bring another daughter to the potty.
You might miss part of the Reading, because my kids are so loud, but please know, my husband and I are really trying.
We are trying to keep our kids happy and quiet and still.
But I know the chances of that actually happening are small, so please, if you don’t mind, just give us some grace. It’s not that I think you’ll judge me. I actually ignore the side-eyes that the “holier than thou” pass my way. I’m just hyper aware of the disturbance my babies cause. I know those around me want to listen and are in church for a reason.
I know these little dragons of mine are wild, but we are doing our best to train them up the way they should go.