Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cry Room Rules

On Sundays, I admit I prefer for all of us to go to mass together, whereras my husband correctly points out if we do shifts, both of us might actually get to hear the homily. It remains a source of healthy discussion, as I counter that how can we be a witness as a family if we aren’t all there? My husband points out, how can we be a witness if people observing us see essentially, a pack of crazed pious squirrels scurrying about the back of the church with two adults attempting to round them up?

Cry rooms aren’t a solution, though we go to them occasionally with the delusion that being in a sound proof room full of other understanding parents who are wrestling with their own maggoty and wormity children who decide at pristinely quiet moments in the mass to scream, will garner sympathy. They don’t because cry rooms are really made-for-tv-reality-show contests wherein the winners are those parents who find that there are other families with noisier and more wiggly children than they have. (If you stay after mass and look back in the cry room, you’ll see the winners high fiving after everyone else has cleared out).

There are however, rules to this real life scenario.

1)Those folks who bring toddlers in tow with a lifetime supply of cheerios, coloring books and their entire hotwheel collection are summarily disqualified for 1) being unctuous –yes the rest of us are jealous and mad we didn’t think of it and 2) now we look like meanies for having forbidden the naked Barbie, the turquoise plastic recorder and the superman with glowing eyes that talks and the pack of mini snickers bars from being taken out of the car.

2) Bathroom breaks are of course expected, but points are deducted if the toddler in question begins a long discussion about bodily functions prior to or following the break, double negative points if the usher is coming through at the time with the collection basket, though I suspect it improves the take for the church on those occasions.

Please note that bathroom breaks to discuss potential birthday party themes, what one wants for lunch, or to scout out the number of Boston Crème donuts left downstairs for purchase after mass, is a mandatory major point deduction.

3) Mom rules. Dad disciplines. Most adults responsible for more than one child opt for the divide and conquer method of maintaining a minimum level of good behavior.

If you use the two most likely to fight as book ends of the pew, with the boring parents actually trying to pay attention to mass in the middle, odds of being able to follow along in the missilette increase by 30%. If you use the adults as bookends to curtail spontaneous bolting down the aisle (and it’s been known to happen), fights increase as a possibility by a factor of ten.

Once you have more than three, some combination of children will have to sit together and finding the right combo is a matter of luck and dependent upon many as of yet undiscernable factors. It is for this reason, we encourage as many of our children as possible to serve at the mass, meaning their behavior will be much more public display and limiting our personal liability.

On non serving days, Mom will try to bring order by glaring and whispering sharply, “Be good, we’re in church.” Dad will squeeze the hand of the offending child and say “No donuts.” Please note, the second strategy opted for by fathers everywhere does not work for vigil or the 5:00 Sunday evening slacker mass.

4) Virtue boy and Prayer girl are fighting. If you ever want to witness the true hostility that comes naturally to brothers and sisters of similar age, take them to mass. When they kneel next to each other, check the elbows. Chances are, they’ll be boring into each other’s with such intensity that one could create diamonds out of coal if a suitable sample were placed in between the siblings two opposing joints and allowed to endure simply the Apostle’s Creed.

There will be an unspoken battle to see who can sing better…louder…softer…with fewer mistakes. There will be a race to see who can stand, sit and kneel on cue. One will sit with his hands folded, eyes fixed on the priest while the other follows along in the book. Sure, it looks like both are into the mass, but both are petitioning parents and God to smite the other less reverent, less responsive, less worthy sibling down for his/her sloppy execution of appointed physical gestures.

Parental correction to a singular person equals victory. Admittedly, as long as the war remains a cold one, most adults are willing to allow this sort of muted spy vs. spy battle go unchecked.

So if you were ever wondering why the Catholic Church in its infinite and timely wisdom has the kiss of peace, the “Lord I am not worthy to receive you,” or the “Go In Peace.” Sections of the liturgy, now you know.

These are not just reminders of our unworthiness or need to express love to one another or the words of Christ himself, these are the Church’s way of helping out the frazzled Mom and Dad in the back of the building, reminding the offspring that are the faith’s future to “knock it off.” “Play nice.” And “Be good.” ….or no donuts.

To which we, the strung out grown-ups of the clan say, “Thanks be to God.”

1 comment:

MightyMom said...


I feel soooo much better about my boys' behaviour this morning when we went for the Third Scrutiny....poor man who sat next to me got 5 year old feet in his lap...repeatedly (don't the church leaders know that noon is naptime??!!) and I heard noise from behind when the 4 year old said --LOUDLY-- "Hi Momma!" for no apparent reason....and I thumped him on the skullbone. Worst part was we had to sit with all the other Candidates and I'm gonna see all these people again on Tuesday.

I'm considering wearing a disguise.

by the way.

am forwarding to my hubby....great post!!

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