Going anywhere with kids is like playing a twisted game of Russian Roulette. When you pull the trigger and leave the house you could end up with a scenario of a gentle adrenaline letdown with an anticlimactic outing or you could experience the unfortunate proverbial bullet.
Church is one of those destinations that seems to trigger the bullets. A scenario where large groups of people gather and there are expectations for appropriate behavior easily lends itself to becoming problematic. A recent attempt at attending church with my crew came with a hail of bullets.
The first bullet, I made this attempt alone. My husband was busy doing man stuff but my kids had their hearts set on church. Donuts and Sunday school are strong motivating factors for my kiddos… and me. Honestly an hour of sitting in church by myself with a hot cup of coffee sounded pretty amazing. So here I am getting the crew ready and out the door. Of course this process is hectic with a 6-year old, 4-year old, and a toddler but this particular morning it felt like the obstacles were abundant and the socks simply could not stay on the damn feet. In true parenting fashion, we were running late.
The second bullet, the drive. I should have taken the drive to church as a sign from God to turn the hell around. The toddler was a screaming demon and was spewing gibberish that sounded like she had suddenly acquired the ability to speak in tongues. The horror started to relent once we pulled into the church parking lot. All of my kids were suddenly giddy with excitement, thank God.
The third bullet, the nursery was full. Now the metaphors for this are endless but the whole “no room at the inn” storyline keeps playing in my head. The toddler nursery was filled to rugrat capacity and my tot was unable to join the crew. Try explaining this development to a not quite 2-year old who can see all the other kids and toys but is not allowed to go beyond the gate. Hellfire has no fiery like a jilted toddler. She screamed, she tantrumed, and she looked at me as if I was the worst human being to have ever been born. Fun times.
The fourth bullet, the Sunday school drop off. The stress of the nursery situation was not lost on my sensitive 4-year old. By the time we got to the preschool room she was over it. Her eyes welled with tears. I was a cheerleader mom and did all I could to help her with the transition. The teacher took over and I walked away with her huge brown eyes desperately calling out to me. Fighting tears myself, I hauled my toddler down the hall.
The fifth bullet, the attempt at attending the service. I entered the chapel toddler in hand. I chose to sit in the back for obvious reasons. I had purse snacks so I naively thought I had a chance at success. Nope. Huge nope. We didn’t make it through the opening prayer before my toddler melted into a loud puddle at my feet. Fruit snacks had been launched at undeserving parishioners and the acoustics amplified the shrieks. I gathered my kid and started to exit. People around me made statements of encouragement but their eyes said, “Please take that screaming mess far, far away.” I muttered “God help me” and the usher said, “Amen”.
The sixth bullet, killing time. I spent the next 40-minutes calming my kid and making unsuccessful attempts to re-enter the service. I eventually gave up, went through the communion line (you know, for the much needed shot of wine), and resolved myself to sitting in the commons area waiting for Sunday school to end so I could collect my kids and exit. This period of time was full of being approached by well intentioned people offering extremely unsolicited advice. For example, it turns out that if I was a better mother my toddler would have the ability to sit quietly through a full service… you know like their kids did in 1926. I am pretty sure that I earned extra God points for not slapping an old lady in church.
Now that I was critically wounded and in need of medical attention (of the chocolate variety) it was finally time to make my exit. I gathered the rest of my wounded and headed to the door. Only feet from the exit I was blocked by a sweet little lady who had just entered the church and had not witnessed the shitshow I had just orchestrated. She smiled and commented on how beautiful my family was. I thanked her but continued my escape. She said, “Thank you for bringing them, come again!” I could accept this comment as encouraging. That I had just rocked the mom thing and that my kids will grow to remember and appreciate the effort. But in reality I had to stifle hysterical, psychotic laughter.
Once the kids were loaded up I crawled into the front seat and took a breath. I realized I was sweating and looked disheveled. There was a stain on my chest that could either had been donut frosting or poop. All I could picture was God looking down and laughing at the chaos. I fully believe we provided some serious heavenly entertainment.
Regardless of religious affiliation I strongly believe this situation easily translates to multiple parenting experiences. Public appearances are unpredictable, just like kids. Stepping out of the house is a gamble and you never know if you’ll come out ahead or if you’ll end up sweaty in a minivan.