The beginning

This is my first paid essay–first paid anything for my writing. It turned out to be the beginning of my future column. This appeared in the Green Bay Catholic Compass. I was 27.

Take ‘em or leave ‘em
April 1978

Remember the last time you were reverently seated in church and a wee toddling imp was seated in near proximity. This situation can create mixed emotions.

The children may range from a little angel with a Cheshire cat grin, to a devil bent on destruction. The witnesses very as greatly. One observer will struggle against laughter and a sober expression. Another will have discussed imprinted on his face. This person cannot wait for the service conclusion in order to lecture the parent and child rearing.

Where is the toddlers place in church? The proud parent of two, I’ve asked myself this question many times.

The last time our gang struggled through mass, I apologized for the disturbance. I try to listen to father’s assurance as I brushed my tousled hair from my eyes with one hand while pulling one child away from his holy water bath with the other.

Father may not mind a chorus of crying babies accompanying his Sunday sermon; in fact, he may enjoy his congregation abounding with the patter of tiny feet. But has he ever had the privilege of quieting this course or chasing a toddling toddler down the aisle? Let us think about the weary parents.

There is a time when all children have to go to church. The child’s baptism is the start. As the water touches the infant’s head, some say, they loudly proclaim the greatness of the Lord. The trouble is that they continue the same proclamation for the next four or five years.

I know many churches have special cubbyholes called cry rooms. These designated corners are only glass cages for the little ones and their keepers

Cry rooms have drawbacks, too. Some parents consider soundproofing a go ahead to let their offspring run wild. Only the room’s occupants see the little boy as he crawls under pew after pew, while his mother angelically faces the altar, undisturbed. The mother may be unaffected by his actions, but others are trying to calm their own children in preparation to join the adult congregation. Their weeks of work can be destroyed in one short hour.

Of course, the offending child could be left at home. This means husband-and-wife have to take shifts at church and babysitting. This diminishes the joy of the service. God is joy. Joy is doubled when it is shared with a loved one.

I wish to salute the heroic parents that braved the frontier and take their babies to church. They gallantly fight one battle after another starting at home. Getting the regiment ready for Sunday inspection takes perfect timing. If the parent commander elects to dress first, they risk bombardment by the enemy. The enemy’s weapons are most sophisticated. One unwanted mouthful of cereal can make a direct hit at a range of 100 feet.

If the enemy is attacked first and put through the tortures of wearing their new Sunday outfit, the child will self-destruct before your eyes.

A stockpile of supplies has to be checked, catalogued, and packed in preparation for a long siege. The bottle and cookie, the rattle and bonnet, the mop and pail have to be all packed just right. These weapons have to be ready at a moment’s notice. Frantic fingers cannot fumble or the war is lost.

Physical tortures inflicted upon the parent are innumerable and told tingling. The last CIA man to babysit his two-year-old son revealed top-secret information before help came to rescue him.

First, comes the barrage of flying missiles. An empty bottle her old with rage can have great bruising power. A parent can smother screams of pain from torture inflicted by tiny hands. The systematic plucking of single hairs can have a balding effect. The more humane child grabs they hair by the handful starting at the nape of the neck.
Of course, the little soldier need not suffer horrendous tortures to reveal their top secrets. With very little coaxing they can repeat in a loud, clear voice, family phrases of speech.

And remember the toilet training, they cute proclamation used in home is no longer suitable for the large audience.

After reviewing all past family secrets, this child seeks compensation. He is ready to destroy and devour any and all liturgical pamphlets available.

The child’s attack on the parent isn’t enough. Friends and neighbors are ready with a second front. Flying scowls, backward glances, and cleared throats are hurled at the parent.

Have pity on these courageous parents. They deserve a special commendation above and beyond the call of duty. Look at their condition all rumpled, tattered, and bleary-eyed. Do they look like the enemy, no, only the defeated.

Remember the battle casualties, the brave, and the Hon. Their reward will come some day. One day they will be ceremonially approached, kissed on both cheeks, and awarded the WELL DONE. Your child was an angel today.
I just hope that this day comes before I am old and gray.