My kids love Mr. Bean. It’s weird, I know. But, after school, while other children are watching cartoons, mine tune in to the wild antics of our favorite Brit. I used to wonder what the attraction was, but I never put too much thought into it. Mr. Bean makes me laugh, so I just rolled with the flow, giggling alongside my boys. I just assumed that my kids were little freaks, like their mother, and just had tastes that were um…er…different. However, today I got to the bottom of the matter.
Hearing the uncontrollable giggles of the boys, I walked into the living room to see them watching this:
And it hit me–they can relate to Mr. Bean. This video is eerily similar to some of our church experiences. Seriously.
We are constantly approached by people after Mass (usually little old ladies), telling us how cute the boys are, how nice it is to see children in church, how well-behaved they are during Mass. My outward response is to always smile and say “Aw, thank you so much.” On the inside, however, I’m in shock. Are we talking about the same children? Oh, you must not have seen that stunt he pulled earlier? Thank God. I better hurry up and get these kids out of here before their true colors start showing.
The Older Boy’s behavior depends on whether we attend Mass in the morning or the afternoon. In the morning, he’s usually pretty good and can pay a decent amount of attention to what is going on. The afternoon, however, is a completely different story. Usually, by this time, his medication is starting to wear off, and he cannot focus on anything. So, he fidgets, looks around, stares at people, waves to the other children, and makes googly eyes to the little girls.
The Younger Boy is another story all together. He is, shall we say, behaviorally challenged when it comes to church. Getting him to sit still would take a miracle. He flips and flops. He moans and groans. He whines and wails. Whereas The Older Boy is worried about everyone else around him in church, The Younger Boy is lost in his own little world. This would be fine, if he were a quiet daydreamer. He is not.
And, if he is not doing all of these things, The Younger Boy falls asleep. He’s too old to be sleeping in church, but at least I can concentrate when he’s comatose. So, I allow it. This comes with its own drawbacks. There have been times when he snores loudly, talks in his sleep, or bangs the back of his head on the pew.
Their behavior is distracting, frustrating, and even though I hate to admit it, sometimes funny. But mostly infuriating. I would love to have my blood pressure taken right after Mass; I bet it’s through the roof. There are times when we barely make it to the car before Mean Mommy comes out.
Doesn’t sound that bad, does it? So what if the kids fidget or make a little noise? You don’t understand. It’s constant. It’s so constant that sometimes I think I need to research demonic possession. Rather than calling an exorcist, we’ve instead decided to make up our own Church Rules. Some of these may seem odd to you, but they are all based on past experience. Check them out:
Don’t let the kids watch a movie before church. This one actually took us a few years to figure out. (Yeah, we’re a bright bunch.) When The Younger Boy was only 4, he had watched “Shrek” before Mass. Right in the middle of the service, when it was extremely quiet, he flexed his muscles and growled, “I am an OGRE!!!” Not quietly. Not whispered. Growled. Like an animal. I looked over at him, and he was so lost in his little imagination that I don’t even think he realized that he said it out loud. I could hear the laughter of the adults all around us. It was embarrassing. It was also hilarious.
More recently, the boys watched “The Karate Kid” before Mass. While kneeling down during the consecration, The Younger Boy makes his fingers walk along the pew in front of us. He was kneeling and being quiet, so I didn’t fuss. Then his finger man kicked. I should have stopped it then. I should have known better. It was only a matter of time before–you guessed it–he had 2 finger men kicking and chopping and jumping. Fingers of fury. There was so much action that Chuck Norris would have been impressed. I was not.
Bring Kleenex. This may be common sense during cold season, but in our family, it’s necessary all year. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked over at my precious gifts from God to see them “digging for gold.” Knuckle deep in their noses, they look at me with horror when I push their hands away from their faces. As embarrassing as this is, it’s worse when they’ve actually found something…their little eyes focused on the treasure hanging off of the end of their fingers. (In these moments, I truly don’t know how these disgusting little creatures actually came from my womb.) When we are not prepared and do not have Kleenex, I’ll whisper-yell “Put that in your pocket!” Gross, I know. But what other options do I have? I’m always terrified that they’ll wipe it on the pew. And, we sit too far away from the bathroom for them to quietly get a tissue. Remember the Mr. Bean video? The resemblance is uncanny.
Make them brush their teeth. Twice. Why? Because the minute they talk to each other, you’ll hear, “Ewwww. Your breath stinks!” And, if Philip is the one complaining, it doesn’t end there. “Mom, I don’t think he brushed his teeth! Gross. His mouth smells like a sewer. Get away John!” Thanks boys. Why don’t you point out to everyone else just how gross you truly are?
Go to Confession without them or you’ll need to Confess about them. Obviously, they are not in the confessional with me. But, if left unsupervised, they will wreak havoc in the church. (That demonic possession thing is starting to sound more reasonable, isn’t it?) Perfect example of a real situation:
“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It’s been x weeks since my last confession. Since then, I’ve blah, blah, blah, (You didn’t think I would divulge all that now, did you?) …and I’ve really been impatient with my children. I’ve yelled at them and I’ve gotten really angry. Like really angry. Like throw holy water on me angry.” Right then, I could hear this banging in the church, followed by giggles. Their giggles. The Ninja-Priest-Friend raises his eyebrows and looks at the door to the confessional. I look at him, sigh, and say, “Aaaaannnnnndddd, that would be my children. Need I say more?”
Let them know if their names will be in the readings before they hear them. With names like ‘Philip’ and ‘John’, we often hear the boys’ names during Mass. You’d think they’d be used to it by now, but they’re not. The Older Boy will say, “Hey, that’s me!” every time he hears his name, while The Younger Boy confidently says, “Yep, that’s my saint. He was named after me.” (I do realize I’m raising a narcissist. No need to point it out.) Recently, during his homily, the priest said that the name ‘Philip’ meant ‘lover of horses,’ to which our Philip loudly replied, “Nuh uh, I do not like horses!” Settle down son, it’s not all about you.
The only music allowed in church is Christian hymns. This should be self-explanatory. I shouldn’t even have to have a rule about music. But I do. Here’s why: when The Younger Boy was 4, I heard him singing softly under his breath. Thinking he was singing a church song, I leaned down so I could hear what he was saying. I was appalled to hear, “…boots with the fur–with the fur–the whole club was lookin’ at her, she hit the floor–she hit the floor–next thing you know, shorty got low, low, low, low.” Nice. Because Mass just wouldn’t be complete without a booty song. I’m sure God appreciates the song about “Shorty”…I hope she’s a good, Christian woman. It really warms my heart.
So, there you have it. Six rules for a happy Mass. I wish these were the only issues we had in church. I wish these were the only rules necessary for church. I wish these were isolated incidents. They’re not. Every week it’s something new. Sometimes it makes me crazy. Sometimes it makes me angry. Sometimes, I could really cry.
But, mostly, I laugh. I figure it’s just proof that God does indeed have a sense of humor.