A mommy-mortifying moment

I have been collecting my stories into a project I'm recently obsessed with, and I came across this one in one of my many binders of notes. It made me laugh, so I wanted to share. Ah, the joys of motherhood! Enjoy!

By the way, E was only one year old at this time, and she was too young for Sunday School. Our church doesn't have a nursery (there's usually only one child that young at a time in our tiny church), so she sat upstairs with me and Chad during the services.

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Date of story: June 4, 2006
Date of photo: May 5, 2006 (So picture these two little munchkins, ages 1 and barely 4, as you read the following story.)

It was bound to happen sometime, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Nevertheless, when you suddenly realize that your kids are causing a commotion and there’s no turning back, it takes every ounce of will power you’ve got to keep from crawling under a table (or, in my case, a pew).

It was a Sunday morning, the first Sunday of the summer Sunday School season, and the SS teachers were running late. So, G came with me and E to sit in church. I knew this would be a challenge — a single parent (Chad was golfing), trying to keep two little kids quiet for an hour and 15 minutes of church. Yeah, right. At least we were at the back of the church where we could escape easily, as it was a sure bet we would need to.

From the start, G was picking on E. He’d make her laugh, then make her cry, then make her whine. Then he’d whine. He yelled at her during a prayer, then shouted at me, “She hit me!” Things were not going well, and by about 15 minutes into the service, I decided I’d had enough.

I turned around to hand my offering envelope to the nice couple behind me, and I asked them to put it in the offering plate for me. “We’re leaving,” I said. The man pointed to the front of the church, trying to tell me something. I turned back around, only to find that E had escaped and was running down the side aisle, squealing in delight. G was close behind her, knowing she shouldn’t be headed that way, saying quietly, “Mommy…!”

I jumped up, got G out of the way, and reached for E just as she darted in front of the front pew, headed straight toward the guest preacher, the Rev. Jay Pierce, from Food for the Poor. I apologized to him and to the congregation, and he says, mid-sermon, “It’s OK, I understand; I have 10 grandchildren. You weren’t going to catch her anyway.” (Thankfully, we heard a few quiet giggles from the crowd. Still, that’s not enough to keep me from wanting to crawl under something.)

I gathered E in my arms, turned around and headed back to the pew. I picked up the diaper bag and my purse from our pew, took G by the hand and said to them both, “We’re leaving.”

“Oh no, you’re not leaving with those kids. Sit back down,” says Fr. Pierce, from the front of the church. Whoa. Deciding it was useless to try to leave now, I sat back down and prayed the sermon would finish quickly and my kids would be quiet.

No luck.

It didn’t take two minutes for G and E to make more of a ruckus. It was still too early to leave without the congregation noticing, so I did my best to keep them quiet. The next thing I know, Fr. Pierce is walking down the aisle, still delivering his sermon, and headed right toward us. He gets to our pew, steps inside, and reaches for E. “Would you be happier with me?” he asks.

Surprisingly, she got quiet and went with him willingly. He showed her his stole (part of the garments Episcopal priests wear), and she stared at him quietly and contently. He continued with his sermon, and she shared her time looking at him and at me. The congregation smiled in general and probably enjoyed this little distraction. I, on the other hand, could not have been more embarrassed. Fr. Pierce held E for the rest of his sermon, maybe 10 minutes, and she was perfect for him. G sat in the pew asking me why he was holding her, and I was too embarrassed to answer him.

We left during communion, while most people were busy and wouldn’t notice if we slipped out. I decided we would give the people who were there a couple of weeks to forget about us, so it was the first weekend in July before we returned.

Father John (our normal priest), who seemed to be enjoying the tirade at the time, e-mailed me a few weeks later with this response (after I had told him we had been avoiding church as a result of the escapade):

“About E and Fr. Pierce, the guy from Food for the Poor……..the congregation thought that piece of business, and how well it worked in with his theme, was sent from heaven, just like little E. The joy your little princess brought to those people couldn’t have come from anyone else or have been so delightful, save from her alone. Long ago, I learned that when children call attention to themselves or speak up in church, it is just their medium of worship. The sound of the voices of children in church is, for me, the engine that keeps the old girl afloat. Don’t ever be embarrassed by that form of worship. It is the only voice the little ones have.”

Thank God for Father John!

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Have a happy Thanksgiving!

2 thoughts on “A mommy-mortifying moment”

  1. Corie, I love that story…actually I still have goosebumps after reading it. I especially love that quote “the sound of the voices of children in church is the engine that keeps the girl afloat”. Awesome. That really hit home with me. We’ve tried and tried for 2 mos to get Ashley to make it through a church servie and I am always mortified when she even makes a sound (even a tiny grunt, which is her normal way of communicating :))…but I think what you said is true…kids, even babies, have their own forms of worship…and we shouldn’t try to muffle that voice. I will remember that next time I am embarrassed beyond belief by my loud kids in church 🙂 What a great memory, Cor, and what an incredible way for your pastor to handle it. I love insight like that…sometimes we moms lose sight of stuff like that since we’re in the moment of the craziness of our family…
    Love ya’ and miss ya!

  2. Corie, I remember you telling me this story when it happened. But I didn’t remember the part where Father John emailed you–how sweet! I can relate to mortally embarassing church moments, too. Like during silent prayer and your youngest daughter says, “I wanna go home now!” really loud (two weeks in a row!). Gotta love those Mommy moments! 🙂

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? What do you think?

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