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Pint-sized Parishioner (That Time I took My Toddler to Church)

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On Sunday morning, my daughter decided to grace us with her presence at 6:45am. This is not standard procedure in our household as we usually see her around 9:00. I'm half-asleep and carrying her into our bed where I play dead for awhile, but after a few swift kicks to the gut and a honk to the nose, I am up. So it's Sunday morning, prior to 9am and I'm awake. It crosses my mind that we should go to church, a feat that I have not yet attempted since my daughter was a sleeping newborn and a decision I'm sure to regret.

She looks the part. My fun-sized fashionista insists on carrying a purse and she's a big hit with the crowd as we make our way down the aisle and into our pew. It's then that she spots the candles and hits the audience with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to You." Her performance is rewarded with laughter (and even some applause) and she revels in the attention. Here we go...

I decide to take her on a walk after realizing that I arrived way too early for church with a toddler- next time we'll roll in with the priest. She makes her rounds in the lobby-a performer on her stage. We return to our pew, just as the mass is starting and I'm delighted to run into my friend and her fellow toddler comrade. We set up an entire activity center in the pew, willing them to play together quietly. It's going well for the first few minutes, save a few minor questions being asked (loudly) but now my daughter is all over the place.

I pull out more reinforcements from the diaper bag. The Aqua Doodle brings life to our situation. The pen is water-based and only writes on the pad it comes with (unlike our crayons that write on the pew....please keep that one between us). I draw what I will humbly describe as a pretty bad-ass dog but my daughter is unimpressed. "Kitty cat" she requests. "I don't know how to draw a kitty cat," I whisper. "KITTY....CAT!" she demands so loudly that I cringe and pull a kitty cat directly out of my ass. She seems satisfied...until she wasn't.

"EAAAAT," she requests. I produce a cup of Cheerios which she offers to a fellow tiny churchgoer. When her offer is accepted, my daughter announces (with force) "NO! MINE!" and I immediately regret my snack offering. It's then that I recall all of the times I sat in church before becoming a mother. The sound of kids talking or crying during Mass never bothered me in the least. But when your kid is the one making the noise, it feels like every set of eyes in the congregation is staring into your soul.

I notice a sign directing me to the "CRY ROOM" in the back of the lobby and I feel like it's missing an "A." While my daughter is not actually crying, she is acting CRAY (where is the crAy-crAy room?!). We're almost to the end when she announces "POOP MAMA" and my face reddens. Of course she did. But it ends up being a false alarm and I feel like I need to reassure everyone in close proximity, "she didn't!!"

I stand for the final prayer and she's sitting right behind me...until she isn't. I swing around and spot her visiting with the family behind us. They must've had more appealing snacks. I smile apologetically and take her hand to bring her back home.

All in all, she did pretty damn good- better than I even expected. She's a church. She is bored. She is unstimulated and she doesn't understand why we can't run around and play. I wish I could tell you what the priest's homily was about but I was chasing down crayons, picking cheerios out of my sweater and herding a wild bronco. I realize that we should keep up with this routine so she eventually gets used to sitting quietly in church, but I can't say I'm looking forward to doing this again any time soon.

To the mommas going to church each week with their toddlers in tow...peace be with you.

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