Do you take your kids to church? Did you go to church growing up? I grew up Catholic but that didn’t mean we went to church. We were those “holiday Catholics,” also known as CEOs, who went only on Christmas and Easter. Regardless, religion played a large role in my upbringing. My grandfather was a Eucharistic minister and Grand Puba of the Knight’s of Columbus. I received my first communion, was confirmed with the name “Rebecca” (oblivious to the fact that Rebecca is a traditionally a Jewish name – should have been a sign) and my first marriage was conducted by a Catholic priest. I never intentionally ate meat on a Friday during lent, though I was known to forget occasionally…but only with chicken, I swear!
At some point, however, the Catholic Church and I had an amicable break-up: they no longer wanted me (courtesy of the fact that I got divorced and had broken every commandment. Hey, don’t judge me; you probably have too. Read the fine print!) and I no longer wanted them (after prosecuting child sexual abuse for a number of years, that priest-alter boy scandal left a bad taste in my mouth…no pun intended). So I chose a more accepting religion: Unitarian Universalism. For those of you unfamiliar with the religion, it’s the type of church where we sing Kumbaya, wear rainbow pins and idolize Martin Luther King, Jr. Our children are “dedicated” as opposed to christened and we never take communion, unless you count the mini-bagels at the coffee hour after the service. There is no dogma or creed; there are no commandments to break. Instead, UUs, as we affectionately call ourselves, honor things like the democratic process and mother earth. It’s a place where divorced people aren’t shunned and the ministers are allowed to marry, even someone of the same sex should they so choose. It’s definitely not for everyone.
Aside from acceptance of all adults, the religion is also extremely kid-friendly; so much so that no one minds if your kid blurts out an answer to a rhetorical question or playfully runs up and down the aisles. UUs don’t get mad. Instead you can practically hear a collective “how adorable!” being ushered throughout the congregation. The Catholic Church, on the other, is a bit more formal than my kids are accustomed. So I was interested to see how Cole, my 5 year old, would react to a catholic ceremony when I took him to his friend Allie’s first communion. On the way to the church I tried explaining the ceremony to Cole. Big mistake. First of all, I was never a devotee and barely remember my bible lessons so I was not the best person to explain the whole blood/body of Christ thing. Second of all, have you ever tried explaining to a five year old that people eat the blood and body of Christ? No simple task. It went something like this:
Me: Communion is a way to honor Jesus Christ by drinking his blood and eating his body.
Me: Well, not really. You drink wine and eat bread.
Him: Mommy, you shouldn’t say that.
Me: Say what?
Him: Jesus Christ. It’s a bad word.
Me: No it’s not honey. Jesus is the son of God. Remember we talked about this at Christmas and Easter?
Him: Yeah… Am I going to have to drink blood? Will Allie drink blood?
Me: No, it’s not real blood. I told you – it’s wine to symbolize the blood.
Him: Allie gets to drink wine? How come I can’t drink wine?
Me: Well, she won’t drink wine; she’ll just eat the bread, which is more like a cracker.
Him: Then why did you say she’d drink blood…I mean wine?
Me: Because I’m a fucking idiot, ok? Does that make you happy? (ok, that’s not what I said…but it’s what I wanted to say.)
Him: Do I get to eat the bread?
Him: Why not?
Me: Because we’re not Catholic and you’re too young.
Next we arrived at the Church. He was in awe of its size and the beauty of the stained glass windows. This church had many of them, as well as a fresco of angels in the ceiling. He asked me who was in each window and if I saw a woman I said “Mary” and if I saw a baby or a man I said “Jesus” even though I had no clue who was pictured. Thus began the non-stop dialogue:
Mommy, people keep disappearing! (referring to the fact that people would go to the pulpit and then leave). Are there ghosts in church? Look! There goes another one!
Where are the kids? Where’s the bread? Where’s Ethan? (Allie’s older brother). Watch out Mommy, I think those angels might poop on us! Here comes Allie. Hey, why is she wearing a wedding dress? Can I see Ethan yet? You look pretty Mommy. I’m touching your boob! Where are those crackers? I’m hungry! This is sooooooo boring. Look, someone else disappeared. Mommy, I’m shooting the singer…pow, pow (with imaginary gun pointing toward the organist in the loft). My penis hurts. Are you praying? Why not? What’s everyone saying? When will they eat the bread? Can I eat the bread?
I explained to him that it was for the kids he saw earlier, the ones wearing white:
Him: But I have a white shirt? I should have worn my white shirt so I could have communion!
Me: You’re not old enough and you’re not Catholic so you still wouldn’t have been able to have communion.
Him: I want to be Catholic.
Me: If you’re catholic you have to come to a church like this every Sunday.
Him: Never mind.
Queue organ music:
Him: Ooh, mommy…this looks like it’s about to get scary.
Me: I don’t think so honey.
Him: I do. I bet someone else will disappear!
And so on…it truly did not stop until we got up and walked out the door. I was slightly horrified and embarrassed as I thought my son was a loud, entitled, non-catholic, pain in the ass. A wonderful thing happened, however, during the exchange of peace. I turned around to shake the hands of the people who heard and saw it all. Cole also shook their hands and said “Please be with you.” I held my breath waiting to get dirty looks or a snide comment about that fact that I should have put him in the crying room (do they still call it that?). Instead, people commented on how adorable and well-behaved my son had been. I was shocked. Really? Why couldn’t I see this? I was so concerned that he wasn’t sitting still, was talking too much, was saying and doing inappropriate things. Let’s face it; the kid shot the organist, touched my breast and got the peace sentiment wrong, to say the least. Did I set my expectations too high? I didn’t think so.
The bottom line: church is D-U-L-L. Expecting our kids to sit still and pay attention for an hour-long service is madness. That’s why the UUs send their kids off to religious education classes halfway through. This was just another reminder for me that kids are kids and should be treated accordingly. We can’t expect them to act like adults (this adult, by the way, had to restrain herself from taking out her iphone so she could play a game or check email…not a model of good church behavior). Instead we should celebrate their fresh view on life and vibrant sense of humor. This is often easier said than done, especially when the rest of the world is watching. In the meantime, let’s be grateful that there are people out there who won’t give you a rash of shit because your child misbehaves. The rest of them? Well, they can just go to hell. That’s where I’ll be after all.
© 2012 KIM KINZIE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPUBLICATION OR REDISTRIBUTION OF CONTENT, TEXT OR IMAGE, IN PART OR IN WHOLE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT FROM THE AUTHOR.
Tags: catholic, church, first communion, kids, ten commandments, Unitarian Universalism, UUFSD