Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sundays on Call

One of my least favorite parts of residency for T are Sundays like today, when he is on call.  It is good that hospitals never close--because emergencies do not just happen 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.  He is definitely needed there today, even after operating late into the night last night, because people are hurt and need surgery.  I am proud of him and his work today.  But it is hard to go through a long work week and miss out on a weekend together, especially the rest of the Sabbath.

Ironically, the hardest part for me about Sundays without T is going to church.  I wish it was the restful, re-centering, rejuvenating time that it once was for me--that I feel it should be.  But, as a lone parental dispatch with my two angels in tow, it is usually a rather frenzied experience.  I try to come prepared:  books, toys, crayons, paper, snack-cups, sippy cups.  What more could one need to occupy two sweet, angelic children?  My preparation usually buys me time until the third reading.....maybe to the homily if we arrived late.

Inevitably at that point the kids start tussling over something.  Not-so-angelic screaming from one or both children ensues.  When my ill-fated efforts to quiet them results in louder protests, the guiltier of the two perpetrators gets tucked under my arm and is removed from the pew.  Because I can only fit out of a pew with one screaming child slung over my hip, the other child is often left behind.  Until I realize that the calming is going to take longer than anticipated.  At which point I am forced to return to the pew with the first child to retrieve the second.  More protests and screaming (they now know I mean business) as I try to gracefully re-remove myself and now both children from the echoing sanctuary.  At this point, if I am really lucky, the priest has already paused and mentioned some unrehearsed comment about how "children are so precious to the Lord," or "they must not like my message either."  Yes, we really are that loud.

Then comes the dilemma of re-entry.  When to do it?  How to do it?  Can I trust my cherubs to stick this out long enough to make it worthwhile to go sit back down?  Because the only thing worse than dragging us out twice already is having to do it again.  Does it matter that I haven't heard but three sentences of the service?

Usually we just clandestinely join in the communion line to take our turn to "go say thank-you to Jesus."  Then back to the pew to retrieve our belongings.  Completely contrary to the point of going to church, I leave Mass more haggard than when I arrived.

I know there are people out there--wiser in years and with many more children--who must have wisdom to share with me on how to survive church, outnumbered with children.    What is the answer?  Nursery?  Better snacks?  Give up and go home (I would really rather not to do that)?  Hire Elmo to sit with us every Sunday?  In all seriousness, I could use some advice.  If you have some to share, please send it my way---the blessings of Happily Ever Johnson land will be upon you.

So, say a prayer for me in church today.  And for T too.  We will both be hard at work.


Anonymous said...

Ah Yes..I do remember these days. Church with children! You asked for "advice" so here it is! First, the person who is the most disturbed by your children's behavior is probably you. There could be an old lady sitting nearby who is comforted and delighted with the memory of her own life when her children were young and also the knowledge that the kids are going home with you! I love kids in church. In such a chaotic world, they need to learn and practice how to sit quietly and just be present. They don't need to listen to the sermon or anything (this is the time develop the imagination and daydream- ask them, what did you think about in church today?), but they can say the Lord's prayer and exchange the peace. (OK- E-bear will be there soon enough) And they contribute so much just be being there. Still, they are children, they will be distracted, they will explore, they will be vocal. The more calm and focused on worship you are, the more they will be. For some kids, the nursery is a blast and it will give you a chance to worship in peace, knowing that your children are being cared for by someone who has a heart for that ministry and has been well trained. V loved the nursery, Max refused to go. I told him you don't have to pay attention, you just must allow people around you a peaceful and quiet time- including me. I'm not suggesting that it always works out peacefully- sometimes it doesn't. But don't get discouraged, the kids will learn the routine and down the road it will become a memory of a very special time each week, when you all just sat together with God, resting, drawing strength, feeling the love. Finally, remember what Jesus had to say to those disciples who wanted to shoo the kids away.
You're doing a great job, B!

Queen B said...

Bette, such great words of encouragement. I love the part about explaining (especially to G-Bear) about allowing others to be peaceful and quiet, even if you don't want to pay attention. Thanks for reminding me that we contribute much, just by being there. Love you, B

SnoWhite said...

We don't have kiddos yet, but we go to a church where there are 500 kids there during any given weekend service. Most of our friends with kids use the nursery. They have the kids in the service for the singing at the beginning and end, and let them play in the nursery during the message. I know masses are arranged differently, but that's what I can offer.

We don't mind having kids in church either -- and right now, for the month of July, only the babies/toddler rooms are open, the rest of the kids are in the services as the kids ministry staff get a breather :)

B-Mama said...

Hi B, I know I already answered this question over email, but after reading your post, I wanted to respond more!! :) One thing that REALLY helped us was removing all snacks, sippys, toys, etc. and bringing only two Mass books every week. I thought removing those items would have the opposite effect, but instead, it has put the focus on the service and what's happening there (and made all of us less crazy with stuff!).

One of the books we bring is called "We go to Mass" and we have M find where we are in the mass and follow along. I also try to explain what is happening at various parts of the mass--the consecration, etc. And we point out the words in the hymnal while we sing (like we do when we read from a book) so that the boys can practice reading skills and feel like they are participating.

Like I said before, try out the nursery, but then try taking away all of the clutter, sitting toward the front, and seeing what happens. You might be joyfully surprised. Prayers and good luck! You are NOT ALONE!! :)