On Saturday, I did something I swore I'd never do as a mom. I hauled it out of Mass early.
It was a first communion for my nephew, and Matt had to work, so I -foolishly?- braved it alone. It was far enough away from naptime and I stuffed my kids with animal crackers before we left so hunger wouldn't be a problem. I prepped the girls ahead of time, "We are going to Anthony's church. We need to be very quiet and listen to Mommy." I brought books for them to read. When we pulled in the parking lot, I reminded them, "This is Anthony's church. You need to sit down and be very quiet. If you are good, we will go to a party and have cake."
Abigail was, as per her usual, exceptionally well-behaved at Mass, sitting quietly, and requiring no attention from me. I don't know why, but for some reason she is always on her best behavior at Mass - not in the car ride to church, not in the the parking lot walking to church, not at coffee and donuts after church - just the actual Mass.
Eleanor is well behaved if, and only if, she has the 100% undivided attention of one parent. Which I couldn't give her because of Theodore (more on that next), so she instead put her creative little mind to use finding 100 different ways to act up in church - coming soon to Amazon as a board book! She refused to face forward in her chair. She refused to keep her dress down. When that didn't garner her my attention, she stood up in her chair. She got down off the chair. She refused to read her book not at the top of her lungs. She climbed back on the chair and swayed back and forth so her necklace would clink against the slats in the chair. I compromised on battles not worth fighting (Fine, she can sit backwards in her chair. As long as she is quiet.) But Eleanor, ever the scientists, was ready to test my willingness to fight all other battles. "Eleanor, stop hitting your necklace against the chair." "I CAN'T LIKE STOP HITTING!" "Hush. Now." "I CAN'T LIKE HUSH!" There was much yelling, crying, and pathetic floor-throwing. Maybe acting is in her future.
Theodore. Oh, Theodore. He is in a scream-whine phase of epic doom. 1.5 is a really tough age to acknowledge that other people exist in time and space. Toddlers just want to walk around in the direction of their choosing, not sit quietly for an hour straight. He didn't want to sit on my lap. Or play Peek-a-boo with me. Or Abigail. Or watch the Priest. Or stand up on my lap. Or read the books I brought. Or play with my jewelry. Or things in my diaper bag. He DID want, however, to impress everyone with his ability to scream-whined the ENTIRE TIME. He was so dedicated that he didn't even fall for my old tricks. "Cat! Theodore, look, a cat!" He used to search for minutes on end. Minutes of blissful silence. Typically Matt just takes Theodore out of the sanctuary behind the glass and stands and bounces him. This always instantly silences him, he stares in awe and takes notes on the other babies' abilities to frustrate their parents. But on Saturday, there was no Matt. And while Mass was so packed that we showed up on time and had to sit outside of the sanctuary, behind the glass wall, in the extra chairs, there was no place for me to stand and bounce him without either abandoning the girls or blocking someone's view.
The sweaty, great-hair-day ruining, adrenaline you get when everyone within hearing range is shooting you dirty looks and the old couple next to you is sighing loudly was shooting through my body. "We're going," I scolded as angrily and loudly as I could in a whisper. "NOW." Eleanor, so resourceful, used this as temper-tantrum fuel. "NO, MAMA, I DON'T WANT TO GO!" I swung my diaper back over my shoulder, clutch Theodore's squirming body with my left hand and grab Eleanor's arm with my right hand and literally carried her by one arm kicking and screaming out the door. Abigail, miraculously, followed along behind me, picking up the books the other two left behind.
I made it out both sets of doors and off the curb when an usher comes running outside after me. "Ma'am! Do you need a hand?" Theodore is literally falling out of my arms, when I pause to answer her, I honestly balance on one leg and use my other knee to boost him up, because I am still dragging a limp Eleanor. Gritted teeth "No, I don't!" What is it with people? The exact moment we are all losing our shit is not the time I want to interact with a stranger. Not helpful. What would be helpful is if everyone could go about their lives and pretend we are not losing our shit. I would really like to remember this moment as me inside a vacuum with no one else affected by my screaming masses. That, and maybe someone yelling, "Your hair still looks amazing, by the way!" is all I would find helpful.
I turn away and resume lugging everyone to the car, Abigail still miraculously, thankfully, following along behind me carrying the book. She is not running, she is not throwing. The Misbehaving Baby At Mass equilibrium has been met and she is off duty. "I was just about to come over and bring you some Rosaries," the usher shouts at my retreating back. Here, Theodore, small plastic or glass beads. Don't chew on them or throw them or whip the Rosary around and hit your sisters in the face with the Crucifix. Here, Eleanor, you can borrow this for now, but we can't take the pretty jewelry home with us. Try not to scream hysterically when Mommy has to take away the pretty. And no, you can't use this to make noise against the chair either.
Just another thing to add to my list of Things I Swore I'd Never Do As A Mother. It follows closely behind get annoyed when they say "Mommy!" too many times and Don't let them eat food they dropped on the floor 2.0: When we are not at home. At least I kept up with all three baby books. I'll leave this little anecdote out.
Please, please tell me you have dragged your children out of church before Mass/service was over. Please, even if you have to make it up.