Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Children Behaving Badly: Traditional Ways to Act Up at Mass

I'm not going to pile-on here about cell phone games and loud and/or garish toys at Mass.  I know there are serious issues about what people think is acceptable in church.  When I picked up the Red Bull can that I found under the pew in front of me at Mass, the amount of lipstick on the rim told me there had been a wedding the day before.  I don't want to add to the list of misbehavior and sacrilege.

This is a celebration of youthful exuberance that is a time honored source of consternation to parents, and discrete smiles from those whose children are too old to do it anymore.

1.  The first family I want to tell you about has 5 boys and one girl.  The oldest can't be more than 7.  None of the children have made their first communion.  The parents make sure the girl wears a dress and the boys wear suits and ties.  The parents of this swarming mass of youthful energy are calm, devout, and do not pander to the children with toys during Mass.  Still, you can regularly witness one brother turning a bulletin into a telescope or megaphone so his brother can hear him whisper, "I'm watching you."  I know I did this with my 11 siblings growing up.

2.  A toddler has just learned to take her offering up to the priest by herself.  The parents wait, beaming with pride for her return up the aisle.  She comes walking solemnly back towards their pew.  She smiles, and pauses.  Then she makes a mad dash for the door, parents chasing her with chagrin.

3.  Once again, children are walking up to make offerings to the priest at offertory.   The family that is bringing up the gifts have told their children to dress-up for Mass.  For their three-year-old daughter, this means accessories.  She proudly walks ahead of her family with her pink sparkly dress, purple sparkly mary-janes, matching handbag, hat and sunglasses.  She looks like a movie-star incognito.  The parents smile sheepishly, but the congregation is in love.

4.  A toddler is being held by a parent during the Eucharistic Prayer.  The parent is kneeling, the toddler is balanced on the back of the pew in front of the kneeling parent.  In the first scenario, the toddler, using all of the strength of high-pressure vise grips, holds the parent's face in her hands and starts kissing the parent's face.  When the parent tries to stop the child, the child becomes boneless and flops into the pews in front.  Crying ensues, but the congregation is torn between sympathy for the parent and child.

5.  The contagious sibling poking-fest.

6.  After getting caught by the parents as the one instigating the sibling poking-fest,  the children engage in the ancient meditative chant of, "Mom, he's touching me."  This chant is frequently performed as a round.

7.  Contagious laughter of no discernible cause.

8.  Contagious snorts, coughs and bathroom trips caused by laughter of no discernible cause.

9.  Toddler and pre-school aged children have scoped out the soft-hearted-adults-for-whom-they-can-do-no-wrong.  These children will make faces at said adults, talk to them about their plans for the day, show off new items of apparel, and generally be too cute to be denied.

10.  A young girl or boy is making her/his first communion.  The younger brothers and sisters spend the Mass trying to sit closest to this impressive family member.  They crawl over each other, squishing themselves into a bare inch of space, just to be able to share the moment with their older sibling.

These behaviors were a problem when my son did them, or when I did them as a child.  Now, I'm part of the loving congregation that finds God and the Joy of his many gifts made real to me by these simple pleasures.  I hope you won't mind if I make a face and poke your child back.  

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

Thanks. Nice to know my kids are "normal". :)