Dear Stranger at Church (well, not really. I know who you are. I know your parents. I remember when you were a young child. I used to volunteer with your mother and have spoken to your father about business. I know you. But for the harmony of our church community I will just call you 'stranger'.),
I'm sorry that my children were badly behaved at church. I am sorry that you could not 'be quietly with God'. I truly am. I didn't have such a great church experience today either. You see, my children were badly behaved. Normally when this happens they are lectured, they do penance (praying after church or apologizing to father, whatever is appropriate) and we try again next week. You see I am TEACHING my children to be followers of God. I have a broad range of children from 1 to nearly 9 years old. Some of these children understand what that means better than others. Some of them just think its cool to race matchbox cars under the pew. But one day I hope they are true followers of God and concerned about 'being with God' during Mass, as you were today. But I hope my children are not rude to a young mother doing her best with 5 children in an hour long Mass.
What you don't know, stranger, is the effort it took to get 5 children to church sort-of on time. The quest started last night around 10 pm when the first child woke up with nightmares. He had to sleep with me the rest of the night. Then the baby also had nightmares or just needed me at 12:30, 3, 5 and 7 am. Then I had to take a shower while simultaneously dressing 5 children in church appropriate clothing, explaining to them what church appropriate clothing is and sometimes even arguing with them. Then I directed the older children to clean the kitchen because the trashed look isn't in right now - it never did get clean and I ended up having to sweep the floor before we left. Then we had to get our quiet activities for church. No one understands why I won't allow balls at church. Tears.
We got to church, late, because of the aforementioned issues. The children got out of the car and for reasons I am still unclear on ran screaming across the parking lot away from the church. At the time I though they were chasing a rolling ball (which is why balls are not allowed at church), but honestly I don't know and I am too upset to find out.
Thankfully my mother and step-dad were at church. Truly. Thank You God! So now the playing field was a little more even 3:5 as opposed to 1:5 like it was all morning. Lainy Ann settles into her book and lists, Connor starts reading as well. Eleanor starts fussing. She is tired, but the only thing that is interesting is throwing my expensive cell phone or running down the aisle. Alexander and William play okay together for about 5 minutes.
The kids were noisy today. I get that. Some of them were rude and disrespectful. I am TEACHING them. Sometimes that means *I* am talking to them and explaining to them what the colors mean and the statues and certain words. Sometimes they are perfect angels in church and they get a donut afterward. Today was not that day.
Today you decided to tell me about how WE ruined your church experience today. I'm sorry. I truly am. But I want you to know how you ruined our day. The children will be punished for the rest of the day because of their behavior, yes, but also because you felt it was very important to tell me my kids were badly behaved (like somehow I did not know that). We will not be having fun today as a family and enjoying the Sabbath as it is intended. Instead we will be doing chores, having punishments doled out and I will likely fight with my husband because I am upset. I am upset, embarrassed frustrated and sad. I know if I don't take my kids to church then this won't ever happen again. But that is not what I want for my children.
I wish you understood how hard it is for me to every single Sunday get up early, dress the children and TEACH them. It would be so much easier to sit in our pajamas and watch cartoons. But we made the tough decision to raise our children in the church. It would be nice if you supported that decision as well and supported us as part of the community - AS THE HOMILY SAID TODAY - but maybe you couldn't hear that because of my noisy children.
Good luck at college when you go back next week. Enjoy a peaceful church experience at college where there are no children to bother you. I pray that no one ever makes you question your faith or your parenting choices when you take your family to church. Because I can tell you, it doesn't feel good.
Mother of 5
P.S. I felt the need to update this after my husband took the 3 boys to a second service today because of their bad behavior at the first service. Yes, we subjected more people to our horribly behaved children. Oh, but I didn't tell you how that service went. The children were children, a little noisy and some chattering as the 3 year old tried to follow along in the missal. But after that Mass a father approached my husband and said, "I too have 3 sons, so I understand how hard it is to sit through Mass with 3 boys. Your boys did an excellent job." Thank you, anonymous stranger (truly, I have no idea who the second stranger was). Thank you for reminding us that we are doing the right thing by taking our children to church every Sunday. Because the end is necessary for the mean. Yes, sometimes the kids will be disruptive, but isn't it worth it at the end if we have 5 faithful young adults?