I had thought I’d seen it all in church, but this morning took the cake.¬† I remember my mother complaining that my children were fidgety in church, but my children were nothing like the two that sat in front of us in church this morning.
My husband, his mother and I sat in the same pew that we always do.¬† Well, I say always, but actually it’s every other week.¬† We alternate taking care of his mother.¬† One week she’s with us, the next week she’s with his sister.¬† This week it was our turn, and we sat where we always sat.
I am not a faithful church goer.¬† I’ve fallen out with some of my religion, but this church — St. George’s — I like.¬† I’ve been to several churches in the towns I’ve lived in, and found many of them to be clique-ish and snobby.¬† But St. George’s is not like that.¬† We were welcomed from the first time we attended, and people seem to be very courteous to each other.¬† And on the most part, everyone, including the children, are well-behaved and do not distract from the mass.
I’ve had families with young children sit in front of us before.¬† Young babies, young toddlers — but no one has been as distracting as these two were today.¬† Most of the time we leave mass commenting on how beautiful “that baby” was, or how quiet that family with 5 children was.¬† In the 3 years there, we’ve seen quite a few children participate in mass.¬†
And I guess that’s part of the reason why I like this church.¬† When my children were their age, I was often made to feel like I didn’t belong in church.¬† Toddlers were shoo-ed away to the Cry Room, whether they were bad or not.¬† My children didn’t misbehave in church, and I wasn’t going to isolate myself in the Cry Room when the children belonged in mass.¬† I still remember when we went to the first Christmas service after my daughter was born.¬† She was just 2 months old.¬† We attended Christmas Eve mass, so that we could leave early in the morning to go to my parents.¬† We sat in the congregation with everyone else.¬† The only noise that the baby made was hunger cries that were soon quieted when she took her bottle.¬† As we walked out of church after mass, I went to shake the priests hand, wish him Merry Christmas.¬† But rather than return it in kind, his first words out of his mouth were, “Do you know that we have a cry room off to the side?”¬†
And I was turned off to church.¬† How could I attend church when my own children were not welcomed?
I did go back to mass, but not to that church.¬† I made every effort to maintain control of my children and to teach them the tradition of the mass.¬† My children may not have been perfect, but they were quiet and did not disturb anyone.¬† Yet, I was still pressured to sit in the Cry Room.¬† And I drifted away from mass.
When I re-married, I began attending church again with my husband and his mother — every other week.¬† But just us.¬† My children do not know church, and would not go, but I did not even ask them to attend with us either.¬† And so the three of us go to church together, and I marvel at how the congregation seems to welcome everyone with open arms.
And they welcomed this family, too.¬† There was no priest when they left, waiting to tell them to put their children in the cry room.
I first noticed the family for two reasons.¬† One reason was the fact that the man and the grandmother were Indian.¬† That fact stuck out because there were no other Indians who attended this church, and this was their first time in mass.¬† They sat in the pew directly in front of us.¬† They walked in, towing two little boys– who I thought at first were twins (the second reason), but after some observation, I realized they were not twins, but at least a year, maybe two years apart.¬† And when the grandmother immediately pulled the oldest boy to the outside of her, and the father pulled the youngest boy to the outside of him — immediately separated the two boys before they even sat down — I knew that mass was going to be interesting today.¬† And these boys did not fail me.
I did notice immediately that the woman, who had to be their grandmother, was very matriarchal in her actions.¬† The father was more peaceful — a Gandhi type.¬† The father would talk quietly to the boys, gently.¬† The woman would act more quickly, more orderly.¬† She paid alot of attention to the older boy, leaving the young one for the father to deal with.¬† I remember thinking that it was a shame the way she acted.¬† During the entire mass, she hardly ever addressed the younger son, not even when he was sitting next to her.¬† She ALWAYS corrected the older boy, talked to the older boy, gave the older boy things from her purse.¬† And I remember thinking how awful it must be for the younger one to grow up around that woman, feeling like he will always be second best.
The father would talk to both of them and seemed to treat both of them alike, but he was slow to act.¬† Slow, compared to the grandmother.¬† And very calm.¬† I marveled at his patience.¬† Because I’m sure that from the little snapshot of energy we saw in these two boys in church, they must be holy terrors at home.¬† And the father did not seemed stressed one bit.¬† He never raised his voice.¬† He never jerked the kids around, just gently guided them apart from each other.¬† I never saw an angry expression cross his face.¬†
And I would not have heard them at all during mass, except that I was sitting directly behind them.
These two boys looked to be maybe 5 & 6, or 6 & 7.¬† They were typical for their age, very jittery, but also very rebellious to that grandmother.¬† She pulled a no-no by favoring one child over the other.¬† And the boys realized that they were being treated differently.¬†
At one point, she gave the older child a rosary to play with, so that he’d keep quiet.¬† Well, that was like candy to the other child.¬† He wanted it, so he crossed the pew behind his father and moved next to his older brother, wanting to see the rosary.¬† Naturally, the older brother would not share.¬† The father once again was oblivious to the little disagreement that was brewing, but it soon caught the grandmother’s ear.¬† She talked to them, and gave the younger boy another rosary.¬†
After a while, the older boy was being abusive to his rosary, trying to stretch or break it.¬† He kept dropping it on the floor, and soon the grandmother took the rosary from him.¬† Well, older brother couldn’t stand that his got taken away and younger brother’s did not, so he reached over and tried to grab the rosary from his brother.¬† Well, little brother wouldn’t give it up, so they began a tug of war — sprawled out on the pew, fighting over a rosary, while his grandmother and father were standing and praying with the rest of the congregation.¬† Oblivious.¬† And hubby and I were laughing to ourselves over this site–two little devils fighting over a rosary!
The father finally noticed after about 5 or 10 minutes of prayer.¬† I believe one the boys had hit him on the leg.¬† He separated the two, calmly.¬† The grandmother saw the commotion and yanked the older boy again to the side of her, but he didn’t stay.¬† As soon as she returned to praying, he crawled behind her to sit between them, next to his father.¬† I couldn’t hear what the father had told him, but he must have denied the boy something because the boy spent the rest of the mass, quietly crying, and hugging his dad’s leg, and begging for something.
And the dad’s countenance never changed.¬† Whatever he had told the boy, the boy knew that the dad meant it.¬† But the dad did it with patience and gentleness.¬†
Did these boys distract me from the mass?¬† At times, but I have to say that I prayed more!