To the hateful woman at mass,
Today, I was a few minutes late and snuck in to the second to last pew with my nearly three-year-old son after stopping at the bathroom. He is very newly potty trained and the thought of tinkling in every toilet in the city is appealing. He was excited that he had made it to mass and saw his favorite priest on the pulpit. Naturally, for a child his age, this caused chatter and waving and even a bit of crying and complaining when he couldn’t see.
He was loud, as most small children are, but that is why I chose to stay close to the back. I try not to use the cry room or stand in the vestibule because I feel that if my children are going to behave, they actually have to be in the church to learn that lesson. Sadly, you disagreed and were incredibly outspoken and judgemental. The moment he began to squawk, you immediately started with the huffing and puffing and disparaging glances. I tried to ignore you, but in time I had enough and explained that he is just a baby. This is when you took it upon yourself to advise me that I shouldn’t have my children in the church if they cannot behave and that I should take them elsewhere.
Here’s the thing, lady, you have absolutely no idea what we were dealing with this morning. I was gone all day yesterday and never saw him. He was asleep when I left and in bed when I got home. He has had the rare opportunity to spend a lot of one on one time with me lately, that he has never had before. He was the youngest of three boys for the last three years and his world was turned upside down eight weeks ago when his baby sister was born. Luckily, I have been able to soften the blow during my maternity leave, but he still wants all of my attention all of the time. And that can be exhausting. I am also a bit more lenient with him because he is adjusting to a tremendous amount of change that you know nothing about.
Perhaps you never had a child, because I cannot imagine what they must think of your behavior if you did, and are truly ignorant to how this whole parenting thing works. Let me give you a bit of insight. Children are completely and totally 100 percent unpredictable. If Jesus Christ himself had a scheduled appearance this morning and I had prepared my children to meet him and how to act in the presence of the Lord, at best we are working with 50/50 odds in my favor. Kids are constantly talking and asking questions, and you guessed it, misbehaving. But they are also always learning. And I want my children to learn to be kind and loving and faithful and to live their lives as God wants them to. Funny, when it was time for the sign of peace, you completely ignored my mother when she tried to shake your hand, so incredibly Christ-like.
What if my child had autism, or a brain tumor, or some other kind of illness that caused him to act out? Thankfully, he is healthy, but I am certain that you would have still cast aspersions on his behavior and my parenting because for some reason you feel entitled to judge others. Sadly for you, you missed the entire message of today’s homily. Had you been paying attention to it, and not my child, you would have heard the priest preach about how important it is to treat others with kindness, love and respect. It’s about what happens here on earth, not what will happen after you die. But instead of soaking the message in and reflecting, you are likely sitting at home tonight with an ice pack on your neck from all of the head shaking.
Until next weekend my friend, when I will be back in that same church with my four children, I hope that you are able to feel good about what you did, how you acted and what message you walked away with. Remember, if you want the church to continue to grow, we must engage the youth and keep the pews filled. And I will always have my pew filled with children, fruit snacks, screaming and yelling and more love than you will ever know.