Sunday, April 20, 2008

Offer it up.

My dear friend B's mom has used the expression "offer it up" for years. Having a bad day? Canker sore bothering you? Nothing to wear to the school dance? Acne breakout? Lost your tennis match? Well, offer it up. I had never really heard the expression until I met B in high school, and I admit that it has always amused me. I do believe in prayer and try to share concerns and burdens as well as gratitude on a daily basis. Certainly, I'm in favor of making offerings of time, money, compassion, kindness, and etc. to others in need. I hope the hubby and I can instill the importance of such offerings to our children.

So far though . . . it appears we're not off to a great start. Attending mass with the bub is not always (or ever?) a spiritual experience.* I spend my time rooting through my purse for items that might amuse him: lip balm, small mirrors, Thomas the Tank Engine, cars, stickers, and crayons. I am also in charge of doling out the snacks--fruit snacks, suckers, Ludens cherry cough drops (they are non-medicinal), Goldfish, whatever I can scrape up. My husband has the more difficult duty. When bub climbs under the pew (sometimes under multiple pews) and then pops up to surprise another family, the hubby goes to retrieve him. The hubby is usually the one who runs interference as the bub attempts to "borrow" the items that the toddlers sitting in front of and behind us are playing with (you know, the kids whose parents are smarter and more prepared than we are). For whatever reason, I don't ever have the right stuff with me. Our church has an elevator in the back, and for a long time, my husband and I spent mass alternating who would take turns riding down to the church basement on the elevator. I'm talking seven or eight rides for the bub during one mass. We have made progress recently though, so much so that the bub now gets an elevator ride at the end of mass as a reward for "good" (defined loosely) behavior.

The past two weeks, my husband has given the bub a dollar bill to put into the collection basket.** Besides affirming the importance of offering it up, the idea is to get the bub all pumped up to put the money in the basket and to hope that with the anticipation and donation process, we will have gotten through approximately two minutes of mass in relative peace. Last week, the basket reached the bub and all smiles and eagerness, we encouraged him to put it into the basket. His response was to clutch the bill tightly and say (loudly): "No, I need it." There was no prying it out of his hands. This week, we tried again, with less success and an even more pathetic excuse: "No, I hold it." This morning's refusal was so articulate and loud that it garnered laughter from those sitting around us. So much for offering it up.

For the record though, both weeks he has put the dollar in the poor box on the way out of church. It could be a deliberate decision, perhaps he is wary of the institutional church and prefers to support Chicago's poor. I respect that. I suspect it is that the poor box has a crank that you can turn and then watch your money magically disappear (indeed, after a baptism a few months ago, the bub put lots of money in the poor box--all of our friends in attendance kept giving him more coins to toss in because it clearly made him so happy--but then got carried away, and sliced his finger when it got in the way of the crank . . . offering even his flesh to the poor, NTB). Anyway, we'll try again with the donation next week.

Until then, if anyone has any advice for keeping a toddler occupied in church, send it our way. I suspect though that we'll just have to offer it up until the bub is old enough for something like CCD or Sunday School.

*in the interest of disclosure, I should add that we don't make it to mass as a family every week
**our donation is via direct deposit--the dollar is symbolic not evidence of parsimony


Actchy said...

I find this is adorable, and not only because one of my favorite stories of my husband's youth revolves around an on-going dispute between him and his parents on bringing his "guys" (read: action figures) to church. I believe the struggle lasted until he was about 14.

Alas, I have no advice, but I will say I bet those snacks are helpful. I have vivid memories of being older than the Bub but ravenously hungry in Mass, and bemoaning, sotto voce, my near-expiration to my Mom. She would only proffer a mint Life Saver, half covered in purse fuzz. If there is anything that makes you (a) not full and (b) borderline nauseated on an empty stomach, it's a mint Life Saver. I would've been better served to decline, but was never able to do so.

MEP said...

I can totally picture your husband as a little boy, all smiles, asking if he can bring "his guys" to church. I bet he and the "guys" had a lots of fun!

My grandma went to church with us and was usually good for half a stick of gum during mass. As I got older, one of my mass tactics was to get permission for one lengthy trip to the restroom and drinking fountain per mass.

msh said...

absolutely hilarious.
my only advice is to find a church that has a nursery! eli loved "going to church" which, to him, meant nothing but going to play with all the cool toys. now "going to church" means sunday school, which also amuses him quite well. only problem with this is that when he actually has to go to church (i.e. no sunday school on easter! can you believe that?!?!?), he has absolutely no idea how to behave himself. so i bring plenty of snacks.

CJR said...

It is my understanding that all three of the Hoefling children pray silently throughout Mass, often in Latin. You should ask Jen what she does.

I was more bub-styled myself as a young church-goer (actually, he is following my style). Having been allowed to go to the bathroom by myself once during Mass, and not wanting to distract anyone on my return, lest they be betrayed to some impiety, I bear-crawled back to the pew under cover of my winter coat. I don't remember doing it, but my mother does. She remembers a lot of things I don't.


MEP said...

msh -- perhaps when we move to the burbs, we can find a church with a cry room/nursery and Sunday School. Until then, snacks it will be!

cjr -- I would love to sit down with your mom someday and hear stories of your childhood. I love picturing you bear walking through church while under your coat. Certainly, we hope the bub continues to follow your lead, what with you being the sort of upstanding citizen chosen to answer phones at the Easter Seals telethon on television.

T-Baby said...

MEP - Be careful what you ask for, you may actually get a mini-Bulldog which might make for some tough days. I would love to have a top-notch attorney for a son though.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that the hubby does have much tougher duty at church especially after the "surprise" pop up from under the pews. Made me laugh out loud just picturing it. I have no answer. Some peoples kids seem to sit and look at books quietly. I can't recall that our family was that Norman Rockwell picture. I will admit that 2 is probably the worst age, very mobile and loud but not easily bribed for extended periods of time. m

LAP said...

In addition to snacks and board books (I take the ones that come as a 4 pack in a box since putting them in and taking them out seem to be an enjoyable activity for them), I always use the tactic of sitting next to another family with kids that I think might be entertaining. For instance, an 8 year old girl who wants to make smiley faces...perfect. Or, perhaps a family of four where no one will be annoyed if we kick the back of their pew, and even if they turn around, they'll just give an empathetic smile.

Anonymous said...

This was hilarious. I literally couldn't stop laughing. My kids are a little squirmy but overall the snacks and coloring books hold us off through church. B THANKS for the "offer it up" mention!

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