Remember back when I was talking about bad experiences with certain people in church and their attitude toward children during Mass? Well, one of those "Church Ladies" is doing it again.
Since it's been a while, let me try to explain what we have been doing in regards to getting George to behave during Mass. First of all, we have been centering our daily routines around God. Every meal we begin with Grace, "God Our Father" sung to the tune of Frère Jacques. Our bedtime routine ends with the Lord's Prayer, a specific family prayer, and Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. After each prayer he exclaims loudly "NAMEN!" Before prayers we read a children's bible board book and he points to all of the pictures for me to name. Now he knows who Jesus is, and will even say "Jeee-us" when I point to the crucifix that hangs on his wall.
Suffice it to say that I am doing my darndest to get my kid church-oriented. Keep in mind, however, that he is a toddler. He has the attention span of a gnat. We are no longer keeping him in the nursery during the first part of the service, instead I take him to the Children's Liturgy where the parish children go to hear a kid-oriented sermon and are given the ability to participate in discussion. Generally, the liturgy is for 3+, but I feel that if he just stays in the nursery he will begin to think that church is just another place to play.
This last Sunday, I was shocked and amazed. George sat in the small pew with two other preschoolers quietly during most of the Children's Liturgy. After about a month of going, he is starting to get the idea that he is expected to be still and quiet for the most part, although certainly no one will chastise him for wriggling a bit. I thought to myself "Great! My efforts are paying off and George is beginning to understand how important this is!"
Then we went back to the church for the Holy Eucharist. For the most part, he stayed in our pew, playing with a pencil and drawing on a visitor's card. Every time the congregation would respond with "Amen" he would call out "NAMEN!" for the next five seconds or so, much to the obvious delight of the parishioners sitting around us. Who wouldn't enjoy seeing a 2 year old praise God? When our turn came to go up for communion my independent little boy decided he didn't want any "help" and, as he often does, he squealed in protest when I picked him up and carried him to the communion rail. A couple of minor protests that are easily squelched, and a couple of loud "DADDY!"s when he would see Sean (serving as an acolyte).
I was pretty pleased with his behavior because it is a huge step up from how he used to be during church. He follows along to the best of his ability and even sings his heart out during the hymns, not that he's singing what everyone else is singing, but I am constantly seeing grins from others when he does it.
My sweet little boy is praising the Lord, and my heart leaps with joy when he does. I know then that I am doing something right.
Then it happened. I was sitting in the pew waiting for the crowd to clear out after the service and talking with a few friends when the "Church Lady" came by and interrupted us. Quite loudly she "informed" me that she didn't want to hear my kid screaming and hollering during church and that's why there's a 'cry room'. Mind you, the altar candles had not yet been extinguished and there was a throng of people in line behind her, well within earshot. I tried to explain that George is just making a joyful noise for God and singing along with the hymns. She continued to condescendingly berate me for not removing my child from the sanctuary the instant he makes a noise. I was growing visibly upset and feeling quite embarrassed when someone asked me what was wrong. This "Church Lady" turned to them and said "Oh, she's just getting mad because I told her she needs to keep her kid quiet during church."
The whole time, the friends I had been talking to sat there with open mouths completely dumbfounded by her words. I honestly think everyone nearby was too shocked to say anything. I tried every technique I could think of to calm myself and nothing worked. I finally lost it and told her that this was the service that most of the young children of the parish attended and if she didn't like the noise children make then she was more than welcome to attend another service time. Probably not the best response, but I couldn't even think straight and was nearly sick to my stomach I was so upset.
After a while, my hurt and embarrassment turned to anger. What right did this woman have? If I sat in the cry room (which has no working speakers anymore) every time George made a noise, I might as well not come to church. This is the attitude that keeps young people away from the church. I have never seen her act this way to ANY other parents of young children (some of whom are a bit more rambunctious than George). That old bat just hates me and my family!
Then after much more thought, prayer, and an afternoon spent mowing the lawn (yard work is a good time for thinking and talking to God!), I came to the conclusion that this "Church Lady" must have been having a really rough day. I know she has had some bad health problems in the last year, and she probably needs God's grace more than I do right now.
Now I am including her in my (and George's) prayers these next couple of weeks. If you get a chance, please pray for her too. Call her "J" if you need a name.