Disclaimer: this is 100% not meant to be offensive. If Religion is a hot button for you, I highly recommend clicking away; maybe go find a nice cat video to cleanse your palate instead of letting a Midwest mom get unintentionally under your skin.
The thing is, God seems like an okay dude; and Jesus and Muhammad and all those bazillion Hindi gods and goddesses...etc, etc. But the idea of wrestling my three boys into collared shirts so we can all sit quietly got an hour or more every week is just not in any way appealing. With both parents working full time and all our children continuing to require either a nap or some 'down time' for several hours in the afternoons, I just cannot muster up the energy and enthusiasm required to drag our family to church during 50% of the *two* precious mornings we have together. Instead, we go to the Zoo, or the Science Center, or the Botanical Gardens, or the Butterfly House or to a playground. Yup. We consistently skip church, and I feel super good about that choice. Why? Because it's the right thing for me and my family and the only people's opinions who really matter on this decision are me and my spouse...and neither one of us has ever lost even a minute of sleep over it.
But I was raised Catholic; so I simply cannot imagine any realistic scenario were I could escape the crushing guilt that would come from missing Christmas or Easter Mass. Okay, that's a lie. One year, I was two weeks post-partum and I did stand my ground. I figured God wasn't so big of a prick that He would dock me any Heaven points for saying 'no thanks' to packing up my healing c-section and two toddlers to squeeze in a little Body of Christ between NICU visits and breast pumping.
But typically speaking, like every good apathetic Catholic, I dutifully mark my calendar for the two big Jesus days: his birthday and his re-birthday. We head on in and grab a seat in a pew so I can recite the Lord's Prayer and fumble my way through the new verbiage the Vatican initiated several years back with the clear intention of making infrequent mass-goers like myself feel uncomfortable.
I will admit that church-going, like many things in my life since becoming a parent, has gotten progressively -- but only very marginally -- easier over the past 2 years. Christmas this year was an exercise in patience and also just basically exercise. By the end of mass, I was covered in sweat and lightly bruised in some places. I had paced the rear of the church with the 2-year-old long enough to regret the heels and at one point was acting all at once as a make-shift jungle gym for my 2, 3, and 4-year-old; as they simultaneously crawled over, under and behind me. When wearing a dress, there is really no graceful way to manage this sort of situation without running the risk of unintentionally flashing someone (which feels especially wrong in a church).
The priest at my preferred place of worship is a man with a flare for the dramatic. So it wasn't a surprise when the lights were extinguished, darkening the lofty gothic cathedral to created a little more theater for a moving, candlelit rendition of Silent Night, immediately followed by a pure moment of crisp, spirit-stirring silence....
....cue the 2-year-old.
I won't say we caused a huge disruption, but I will say a woman seated three rows ahead of us stopped me during our rapid and clumsy exit to acknowledged our struggle.
So this morning, we did it again. We brushed off our spiffy Sunday best and headed out for our bi-annual trip to God's turf. Just to prove I am capable of adaptation, my dress was longer and my heels were shorter. As usual, there were books and snacks and various non-noise-making toys emerging from the diaper bag and rotated in at a sometimes rapid-fire pace. The boys now crawl across laps and underfoot at a slower, less urgent speed. They respond more appropriately to whispered threats and are less prone to spontaneous verbal outbursts during deliberate moments of silence. Luckily, the perish we visited today clearly cares more about filtering in and out families with fidgety children than it does about sending chills down a person's spine. There were no echoing stone ceilings or any dramatic lighting. Instead, there were canvas bags filled with crayons and books about things like 'Bible Heroes' (filled with illustrations of white men with bulging muscles).
My husband (and possibly anyone with small children who doesn't routinely lie to themselves) would likely agree that the level of stress involved in escorting young offspring to a place of worship typically eliminates the ability to walk out feeling even remotely fulfilled by a church service. If you want to admire the beauty of the China in a China shop, you don't bring a bull with you...and you certainly wouldn't bring three bulls.
Still, I sometimes long for that sense of spiritual fulfillment. These fleeting moments of longing is something I've felt for years. I even did a little light church-shopping in those few years between graduate school and getting married (that's how I found Father Spine-Tingle and his awesome gothic cathedral...which incidentally is reserved only for fancy occasions). I would love to be a tangible part of a spiritual community and to finally shed that heavy cloak of cynicism I don in the face of Religion. Maybe someday when I'm not living in the thick of these precious and fleeting early parenting years, I will find myself anxiously bounding out of bed on Sunday mornings, stoked to drag my kids to church...even on some random July morning. Until then: Jesus...? I'll see you at Christmas brah.
Excessive candy and commercialism is what this day is a really about anyways; right?