Author's Note: While Wally as carrying Benjamin up to communion, Ben said, "hey, Daddy that wasn't so bad."
April 05, 2009
Church, Children and Praying for Survival
Whatever religion you may practice and how ever many times you bring your child to a religious gathering each year, whether it once a year or each week, I think most parents would agree it is not an easy task to undertake. From the "getting ready" part or as it is known in some houses "convincing them to go" part to the actual attending, I sometimes find myself praying for divine intervention at some point during the church going process. However, I don't recall that I was ever a problem for my parents. Maybe they will say something different if asked but I don't think they will since I was the four year old who brought the baby Jesus to the manager at Christmas Eve mass and sat and talked to the priest about my love of God. I was also the teenager who decided to become a lector where I read the scriptures each week to the congregation. I can go on and on but needless to say I was the kid that liked/loved to go to church. I still kind of do but now I have a two year old in tow and that changes the whole experience.
On the other hand, take my brother, his behavior bears more of a resemblance to that of my two year old son Benjamin's attitude towards the church. I can remember each week it being a Battle Royale to get my brother to go to church -- the crying, screaming, stomping, threats and cage match before we got in the car (there wasn't really a cage match but it sometimes felt like it). My most vivid memory was when on Easter Sunday he decided to lock himself in the bathroom at the age of four so he wouldn't have to go. My Father, the world's most tolerant and gentle man, literally busted down the door. The next thing you knew my brother was peeing in his pants. My Mother, of course, yelled out my Dad for scaring her "baby". By the time my family hit the pew, we were all exhausted. He was not only bad getting there but in church I recall him once screaming out during Christmas Eve mass, "MOM when are we leaving for Aunt Lorraine's I want my Tub Time toy!" Yes, my brother turned it up a notch for the holidays.
Now I have a son of my own and I can relate to my Mother more than ever. I am left to wonder how she did it all these years. When my son was a baby, he sat in the carrier like an angel sent from heaven. As he got older, the problems started when he was more mobile. Not only did I need my diaper bag but I needed an arsenal of distracting supplies to keep him occupied. The problems got increasingly worse as he became verbal. One day as we sat in church, my son kept pointing towards the back of the church. It was starting to annoy me because he knew how to speak at this point. I said, "Ben use your words." He used his words alright, "OUTSIDE Mommy! OUTSIDE!" I must have heard "OUTSIDE" about a few more dozen times. My husband leaned over and said to me, "are you happy he used his words?"
Our next big mass disaster came on Christmas Eve. The church was packed to the gills and there was no where or way to really entertain Ben. The outside chant began as soon the homily started. He then started screaming and crying and there was no where to go but outside. I looked at my husband and told him to take him home and just come back to pick me up. I gave up. I just couldn't - I got the knowing faces from all the mothers surrounding me. As the church lights were dimmed and Silent Night began to play, I cried and this time not out of joy but out of exhaustion and defeat. After that, I decided to give God a break for a while.
We started to go back to church again because my parents didn't give up on teaching their kids the importance of church and neither was I! I was pleasantly surprised what a few books and snacks could do to make a kid happy. While we don't make it all the way to the end, it gets better each week. I now leave mass telling Ben what a great boy he was in church. While I know there are set backs, like this week he told me to go to church by myself with Daddy that his Grandma and Poppa would watch him, I believe that every child needs a sense of community in their lives. I'm glad my parents gave it to me and I plan, as much of a battle as it may be, to give that gift to my child. So if you find me praying really hard in mass it might not be for world peace right now but just for peace in my pew.
This is an original post for NJ Moms Blog. You can find Jennifer Kamienski praying for all sorts of things at The Kamienski Chronicles.
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