Church yesterday was challenging. It usually is with at least some of the kids, but they all managed to break Kevin and I down and humble us in so many ways this time.
I’ll give you the breakdown by child:
K- (my 7 year old) From the moment we sat down in our pew there was a power struggle between he and I over where he would sit. He wanted to sit on the outside seat way down and away from the rest of the family. I resisted this and ended up taking him out into the lobby for a little talk. When we seemed to be on the same page we went back in for the opening song. He then tried the same thing. This time I held my breath and let him stay put. I moved in towards the rest of the family leaving him at the very end kicking and swinging his legs back and forth. With eyes brimming with tears I attempted to sing and prayed prayed prayed, for patience. Eventually he came around, realized there was no longer a power struggle and more or less behaved for the rest of mass. His work was done….
C- (my 4 1/2 year old) Managed to get an end seat next to Kevin and was going out into the aisle a bit and playing with a small toy he had brought to Mass. It was in Kevin’s territory though so I tried to let it go, but after Kevin had took R- (my 2 1/2 year old son) out because he was misbehaving and then C started loudly announcing that he did not want to be there with me. Eventually I took him out to find Kevin and left V and K in the pew. Honestly I can’t even remember how many times R and C left. When I came back in it was just K and V and I, I thought OK I will try to focus and meet God a bit, the distant screams of an out of control C still wafted up from the not far enough away foyer.
Onto V- (who is my 9 year old son) he was having none of church. It was as if his muscles had lost all of their tone, he could hardly stand or kneel and sitting was a slouch too. If you have ever been to a Catholic Mass, well there is a lot of standing, kneeling, and sitting, it is par for the course. He said none of the prayers and didn’t even try looking at the words for the songs which he normally would sing with me or at least read along. The dark void he was in was visceral.
I prayed so hard during Mass for grace, for help. I felt this huge sense that we were failing our children and failing God. That we were not able to express to them what it is to have a relationship with God, something I sometimes find difficult for even myself, but is so integral and important in my life. If when they are adults, they choose to walk away, ok, that is their choice, but I want to know that I have given my all to share God with them.
Interspersed with these thoughts were consequences for their current behavior: time outs when we got home, neck wringing, etc. but I kept coming back to prayer, what would really help them, please Jesus help me here!
By time for Communion Kevin had made his way to the back of the church with a still pretty unhappy C, I really wanted Kevin to be able to receive communion, so I scooted out and met up with him and told him he could go up and I would wait with C till he got back. C wasn’t too happy to have me there and was making a bit of a ruckus. I knew I only had a few seconds to get Communion for myself after Kevin, so I quickly pointed to Kevin showing C that he was coming back and scooted up the aisle as the last person to receive and to my horror C came half way up the aisle crying after me, I just kept going and prayed, luckily he stopped and went back with Kevin.
Then with tears in my eyes and a gentle look on the face of the woman who offered me Communion, I received it. Walking back to my seat obviously overcome with emotion, I felt so humble, showing my weakness in front of so many people. Ahhhh!
I managed to sing the closing hymn with Kevin. Mass had ended. A man in his 60’s who had been sitting a few rows up from us, leaned in and said “Don’t ever stop bringing those kids to Mass, no matter what anyone says. My kids are all grown up now, but I had 5 kids in 6 years, I know what it’s like. Seeing you today, I miss those days”. I put my hand on his arm and again with tears nearly bursting out of me I said “Thank you”.
I can’t tell you how much those words of encouragement from that man meant to us. It is so hard bringing four young kids to Catholic mass, where they sit with you the whole time and all the people without kids can sit quietly and listen, but you. I know that we invoked judgment and irritation from some, but from this man, the love of God was brought to us.
After Mass, Kevin was revived; the words from that kind man had changed his mood. We decided that we would go to Dunkin’ Donuts, which we never do, and get a dozen donuts, bring them home and then after we had had some family prayer time (that we had not managed to get at mass) everyone could share donuts together. (I got a Coffee Coolata which was a super treat and Kevin got a coffee.)
In the car while Kevin was in the store V was still being a pill, so I tried to distract him with a song. We were listening to a Christian music station and a song came on with the refrain “I don’t wanna gain the world and lose my soul”, V loves music and sings in the chorus at his school, so I asked him if he could tell what the words to the chorus were. Once he figured it out I asked him what he thought it meant. The other boys had opinions too and we had a good talk about our souls and how all the stuff in the world will not fill them up. Then Kevin came out with the donuts.
Once home we all sat by the woodstove together and Kevin led us for about a half hour in a wonderful discussion about what the main ideas were at Mass today. Everyone participated, even V’s heart warmed, and we ended with saying some prayers silently and together. Where earlier I had felt we had totally failed in opening our children’s eyes to God in their lives, now I felt completely the opposite. Such amazing grace and warmth spread throughout us all.
A theme that came up in Mass and at home was the idea that hard times are just as important as happy. It is a theme the boys are familiar with as it is in a poem we often say as a prayer before dinner. It is written on a set of plates given to me from one of my best friends (we use them as some of our everyday dishes). It is a poem by Maya Angelou and it goes:
Praise bright blue skies
And dark rain clouds
Lift happy voices
Upon the morning air
Murmur sweet words softly
In the evening breeze
Be present in all things
And thankful for all things
And amazingly I am thankful for that crazy morning at church. It gave us an opportunity for connection with someone we didn’t know, it tested our faith and perseverance, and led us to see God just a little more clearly in our lives.
Love to all,