Sundays in the life of a Catholic dad
“Honey, Jesus doesn’t care about your diaper.”
I said that a number of years ago to my eldest child. Keep in mind I’m not actually proud of this. Mostly. We were leaving Mass, and she stopped in the aisle, blocking a number of elderly parishioners, and started babbling about her diaper.
This was years ago, and while she could walk at that point, she could not really talk. That has since been corrected, in spades. We now have to tell her to slow down when she starts ranting about what is and is not Punk, for example. Something about Green Day being terrible. I’m pretty sure I caught that.
The point is, like a jerk, I blurted out a snarky comment to a toddler. If I had actually listened to her incoherent chatter, I would have realized she was trying to tell me her diaper was falling off. Poor kid, if only she had a caring parent.
I didn’t want to listen to her complain at the end of Mass because I had been listening to her squeal, chirp and cry during the actual service. That, in a nutshell, is what my churchgoing experiences have been over these almost 20 years and will likely continue to be for at least the next decade. (Why yes, we do use NFP. Why do you ask?)
Funny enough, one of the big things that got me going back to church at all was having children. Having a baby is God’s way of telling you to get your act together. The hitch is, I now spend almost the entire hour not so much in pious devotion as presiding over a circus act. God. He’s a funny guy.
Once the kid hits the walking stage, it’s over for any spiritual advantage I might get out of the Mass. They hit me, run up and down the aisle, scream, cry, bite — you get the picture. We have to go in the back of the church, and not because that will quiet the baby down. No, I take the baby in back so no one will see me get outfoxed by an infant gone rogue.
By the time Mass is over and the priest tells the faithful to “Go in peace,” I am done with those kids. I want nothing to do with them, I want nothing to do with that church, I want nothing to do with anything or anybody. Peace my Aunt Fanny.
Is it supposed to be this way?
They do get older and start paying some sort of attention. That doesn’t mean they act any better. Here are a few of the directions I have to give my older children on Sundays:
“Get off the floor,” “Stop picking your nose,” “Don‘t lick the hymnal,” “Don’t lick the pew,” “Don’t lick each other,“ “Would you get your fingers out of your nose.”
That’s on a good week.
Never mind what happens when they start participating in the service. Recently, during the Lord’s Prayer, which at our church is sung by many people who should have made time for that second cup of coffee, I heard one of my daughters going in a totally different direction:
Us: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
Her: “Scooby Dooby Doo, where are you? You’ve got some work to do now.”
The girls at least try to act discreetly bad in church. They’ll sing songs to themselves or whisper insults to each other. The boys are another species. This year, when a parent was having his child baptized during a regular service, the priest asked the family, “What do you ask for this child?”
I think that’s what you’re asked. I really should know that one by now. Anyway, the answer to that question is “baptism.” My then 18-month-old boy heard that and responded by shouting, “Batman!” He likes Batman. He felt confident in sharing his like loud and proud and loud.
At some point they will eventually understand what is going on at Mass and appreciate it. We’ll continue to bring them. I mean, what else am I gonna do on Sunday?
But I refuse to concede the point. I just don’t think Jesus cares about diapers.
Damien Fisher is a journalist, father of many and connoisseur of Old Crow. Samples of his work can be found at damientfisher.wordpress.com.