Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Church of the Holy Toddler of Terror

Church is at 1:00.  I have a toddler.  Combining these two things is basically like taking a jar of highly unstable anti-matter out for a game of kickball and hoping it won't break open and destroy the known universe.

LDS (Mormon) congregations are divided by geographical boundaries, and are assigned a meeting time that rotates yearly.  In our meetinghouse, one year you have meetings at 9:00, the next at 11:00, and the next at 1:00.  In our case, due to our large size (which necessitates the use of every single classroom in the building), we are stuck on a permanent hell-cycle of 1:00 church for the foreseeable future. 


Okay, I love church.  I really do.  It's where I need to be every Sunday, and it's where my kids need to be -- even the one who has to miss his nap.  I have no doubts about this, which is why I go.  The blessings of church attendance are real, and the gospel is true, even if you don't get to hear a word that is said.  But have you been to church with a toddler in the middle of his regular nap time?  Because it's about the only thing that makes me consider taking up drinking.

Every week is mostly the same.  The only thing that really varies is how much Excedrin I need after the meetings are over.  Every once in awhile I find myself hearing one sentence of what must be a really good lesson and thinking, "Wow, no one is bothering me.... INCOMING!" and then I have to duck as my toddler tries to whack me in the head with his sippy cup.

Last Sunday I pulled a book out of The Church Bag (what goes in The Church Bag stays in The Church Bag until the following Sunday), opened it, and my oldest son looked at it quizzically and then slowly peeled back what appeared to be a perfectly preserved specimen of a fruit snack from the cenozoic era.  Approximate quiet time afforded by said book:  30 seconds.

Each week is a variation on how long The Church Bag can ensure quietness.  You pull out another book or quiet toy, but the toddler rejects it by throwing it at the person in front of him.  You apologize.  Then three seconds later you apologize for the fact that he just pulled that person's hair. He tries to escape down the aisle and you block his exit only to have him crumble to the ground and shriek like he is being devoured by piranhas.  You hand him a piece of cheese to shut him up, but remember too late that breaking a whole food item into pieces causes the food to undergo a chemical change that makes it taste like cat pee.  Your toddler reacts accordingly.  Your other kids pick this moment to renew their fight over who gets to sit on Mom's lap.

Just before the passing of the sacrament, your toddler develops a strange sensation behind his eyelids that causes him to whine and claw at his eyeballs like someone filled them with flesh-eating sand.  He wipes a combo of snot and graham cracker crumbs up the entire length of your navy blue sleeve.  Gah, why did you wear navy blue?  That's a rookie mistake.  He squawks like a dying parrot.  Your husband takes him out in the hall.  Your other kids dive onto your now-vacant lap like it's the gold medal in an Olympic sport.

Your husband returns ten minutes later with a sleeping toddler drooling down the arm of his suit coat.  You think, "I should really get that suit coat dry cleaned."  You touch it up with a wipie instead.  Your toddler snoozes till the closing hymn and then wakes up with a disease I like to call Angry Waking Syndrome.

You hand him a toy, he yells.  You hand him some food, he tries to slap it out of your hand.  You open a book, he throws it.  You take him out in the hall and he falls to the floor and wails.  Even if a miracle occurs and he decides he's happy, he's happy at too loud of a level.  Minus the short sleeping period on Dad's shoulder, you repeat this scenario for the next two hours.  You consider it a win if nobody hauls you out in a straitjacket by the end.  You mark another survival X on your calendar -- THREE MORE MONTHS TILL HE IS OLD ENOUGH FOR NURSERY CLASS.

It's hard.  And it's flat-out awful sometimes.  I mean, the highlight of my meetings this past Sunday was when Jonathan gagged himself on a piece of cheese stick and I had to run him out of Relief Society just in time to catch the first heave of his stomach in my hands as he threw up all over the floor.  Bless those beautiful ladies who came running out after me and used their powers of helpfulness to grab my diaper bag and paper towels, offer support, and help me CLEAN VOMIT OUT OF THE CARPET.  (I think this act alone assures someone a place in the Celestial Kingdom.  Bless you, Kim!)  But I'll keep going.  And I'll keep doing it.  Because church on Sunday is where I need to be.

Straitjacket and all.