"Take Me to Church"

…said no kid ever. Especially not Nate and Sam. Ok, except earlier today when Nate started singing the Hozier song, “Take Me to Church." This is actually a good sign, too, because I’ve been worrying about his limited vocabulary and/or his hearing. His lyrics to “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” are something about a female protagonist going down the hill and fighting bad guys. I know sometimes different pre-schools, daycares, story times, or whatever have varying versions of the same song, but I can’t imagine one where a good ol’ country girl drawn by six white horses is suddenly fighting ninjas and Joker from the Batman movies.


But anyway, back to the idea of church. I’ve been parenting now for three years (and counting!), so I’m obviously an expert on…lemme think…everything. I’ve talked to lots of other moms, dads, and grandparents, and I’ve never heard anyone say that they enjoy taking their kids to church. And if they do say that, they’re delusional, lying, or high. And delusional and lying are the most likely choices there because it’s difficult to rush around on a Sunday getting yourself and your kids fed and dressed in time to go worship God, let alone squeezing in time to do some recreational drugs. I mean, I’m just trying to grab a cup of coffee, and that’s hard enough. Actually, that action is becoming increasingly tricky because Sam’s suddenly a bit of a java fiend. We’re literally fighting back and forth over the mug as I try not to let it spill, thus simultaneously scalding the baby and wasting my liquid gold. 


But I’m digressing on my digressions.


Or am I? 


Perhaps this is a re-creation of the Old Testament story in 1 Kings, chapter 3, verses 24 through 26, in which two women are fighting over custody of a baby: “The king said, ‘Get me a sword.’ So they brought a sword before the king. The king said, ‘Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.’ Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, ‘Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him.’ But the other said, ‘He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!’”


Maybe the coffee is like the child. The true owner of the coffee, the one who should consume it, is the one who is willing to preserve its life and give it up.


Eh, maybe not. Maybe I should just drink it. Sorry, Sam.


Ok, finally, back to sitting in church with little kids — because, you know, that’s what people really want to read about. That’s why there are so many best-selling novels about such a concept. Here’s some advice Dan Brown, throw some misbehaving toddlers into your medieval chapels — guaranteed page turner every time. Can’t wait for the major motion picture.


Well, we’ve tried to make going to church each week a priority. Why, you ask? Good question. Good question… hmm… why is that?


Oh yeah, because that’s how we were raised. And it’s important or something. 


What was once a peaceful, meditative hour for us as a couple, is now stressful, embarrassing and sometimes even divorce-inducing. It doesn’t help that we frequent a church that consistently goes into overtime. 


Anyway, the point is that we go. And it is painful. And clearly, God’s punishing us for something. And what He’s punishing us for, I think I have a little bit of an idea. I was a good kid. I can’t fully speak for Tighe, but I’ve heard some stories — good and bad. I always assumed having to live with me for a lifetime was God’s way of punishing Tighe; yet it doesn’t seem fair to also punish me for Tighe’s misdeeds. Although, maybe that’s what parenting is all about: punishing two parents for the sins of both. Kind of a double whammy. 


And so because Tighe once cut off a little girl’s braid in first grade (true story), I have to endure Nate banging on the radiator with his matchbox cars in the back of the sanctuary. Heads turn every time. We’re good at making friends. 


And because Tighe once kicked down a bathroom stall door in seventh grade, causing (allegedly) $700 worth of damage, I’m forced to pick smashed raisins and Cheerios up of the tile floor after each service. 


And because Tighe once hid a keg in someone else’s basement for three months, I will continue to defend Sam’s meaty little thigh from Nate’s teethmarks. And if I miss, the rest of the congregation will be treated to a melodious symphony of Sam’s shrieks, sometimes to the tune of the alleluia chorus.


And I’m not totally innocent either. One time, I broke the shower curtain while trying to do pull-ups in the bathroom I shared with my brothers, and callously blamed Tim for years. Sorry, Tim. But for this sin, Tighe was forced to chase Nate up to the altar toward the end of one particularly long service — you know one of those ones that’s starting to inch uncomfortably close to NFL kickoff time (and don’t get me started on professional football right now — God’s punishing us ALL for something there). Anyway, Tighe had to drag Nate, who was fast enough to actually make it onto the altar, up the aisle to our seats in the back of the church, his face as red as the epiphany stoles decorating the priest’s shoulders, enduring stares and a bit of applause from the congregation, probably grateful for a break in the monotony. Nate, meanwhile, was thrilled by the attention.


We’ve even tried alternatives. Churches that are friendlier towards families. Churches with a better space for small children. Churches where we don’t know anyone. So-called “crying rooms" — and this is a totally different type of punishment because, uh, what the hell?! I don’t want to listen to other people’s crying kids! 


We even tried to live-stream our old church in Baltimore during breakfast on a recent Sunday morning. We figured that option would be nice and easy — the kid’s mouths would be stuffed with Pop-Tarts and French toast, so they’d be happy; Sam would love the music; we wouldn’t have to get them dressed and out the door; they could migrate to their Legos on the floor if they start to get bored (and so could I!); all the while, Tighe and I, still in our pajamas, would be peacefully filled with the Holy Spirit as we munched on cereal and slurped down smoothies. 


We were wrong. I don’t think Tighe heard a single word of the sermon. He was busy trying to muffle Nate and Sam’s shrieks so that I could hear — which I couldn’t because he only has two hands and it takes at least seven. Nate was replying to every rhetorical question from the priest as though he were Batman, and Batman and God were preparing for battle. 


The first reading was from chapter eight in the book of Romans: “If God is with us, who will be against us?”


Nate’s reply: “Batman will!”


Hmm…not exactly what I remember learning in Sunday School.


Eventually, once they quieted down some, I got too distracted trying to prevent sticky little fingers from getting stuck in the carpet and in Wally’s fur (he’s finally at the groomer as I type this!). Side note: syrup is like glue. It doesn’t just wipe off. Instead, it draws everything to it, like a magnet. And once it hardens, hours later, you can pick it — and its trappings — off the child’s skin. It will hurt him, he will cry, and his skin will turn pink, but sometimes this is just easier.