Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kids & church: A match made in…somewhere

Note: This column appears in the 4/30 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/1 issue of the Peoria Times

I’d like to take this time to extend my deepest apologies for every eye roll tossed in the direction of any parent whose kids were not behaving quite perfectly in church.

Now, granted, many of these eye rolls were completely and totally justified. I mean, hey -– at what point are you going to remove your crying child from the premises? After the homily is over? Before the next Mass begins? And your other kid has been staring at me for the past twenty minutes. I am out of funny faces and this entire situation has become awkward. Also, Poly-O string cheese in church? Really? Is that necessary?

What I am apologizing for is any annoyance I may have felt for any child not sitting completely still, with his or her hands held together in prayer, pensively contemplating the true meaning behind the Sacraments. I say this because –- I think you can see where this is going –- I am now on the other side. The wild side.

I can speak to this now because I am a foster parent with two full Masses under my belt, one of them being Easter Mass, which, if you survive attending with a two-year old and four-month old, you attain automatic induction into Heaven, as deemed by the Vatican in 1968.

I am not joking in the least when I say that, as a foster parent, my biggest concern was bringing the kid(s) to church. My wife and I decided long ago that as foster parents we would bring any child or children in our care to church each week, because we feel like that is important, to say the least. Since foster kids tend to exhibit a bit more extreme behavior than other kids, we knew this was a risk, albeit one we were willing to take.

Thankfully, we’ve been blessed with two great kiddos. Nevertheless, that doesn’t relieve the stress of approaching those church doors, because, as they say in parenting land (Salt Lake City, Utah), kids will be kids. It’s quite a paradox, too. Because while young children cannot possibly be expected to sit still and understand what is happening, it must also be stressed that church is not a playground where you eat Cheerios and play Transformers for an hour. That is called “going to the bank.”

For us so far, the process has been this: The four-month-old sleeps soundly until the exact moment that Mass begins. Whichever one of us is in charge of the four-month old immediately moves the child out of church, and typically ends up missing the entire Mass thanks to feeding and diaper changes. The other person then watches the two-year old like a hawk for the duration of the Mass. This past Saturday evening I found myself coloring in a Dora & Diego coloring book during the sacramental blessing. Not my proudest moment, though I hope that God understands.

I know I understand. So here’s an honest “I feel for you” to all the parents who bring their kids to church each week because it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s enough to make you ask if it’s even worth it. I was thinking that the other night when I noticed that our two-year old foster child had placed a Dora doll on the bed, and was down on both knees praying for the doll.

So yeah. It’s worth it.

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