Editor’s Note: Meaghan originally published this post last week over on her blog Strangers But Once. I’m sharing it with all of you because I know you’ve been there. You’ve endured the miscommunication with a partner, the dashed hopes on holidays, and the recognition that even though worshiping with children is hard, it’s also very holy. Faithfully, Allison
Welp, I turned into a priest-mom-Easter-morning-psycho.
I mean, Christ is Risen, right? Might as well go crazy on your family.
I’m not sure if I could even specifically name when we (I) went off the rails, but I think it had something to do with bad communication leading up to the morning. There were things I didn’t say to my family and maybe should have, like “Jonathan I want you to fill the Easter eggs BUT DON’T HIDE THEM BECAUSE I LOVE THAT PART.” Instead I said, “Fill the Easter eggs.” And I’m married to a guy who’s helpful. And I didn’t get home from my Easter Vigil until 11pm – so he hid the eggs. Nice guy, right?
Ooh I was mad.
Then on Easter morning my family and I went to church together (my particular priest gig at Church of the Beloved allows me to attend church with them closer to home on Sunday mornings). But at no time leading up to this event did I say to my family, “Oh hey, even though I started my own church just so I could be super sure no one had to dress up for church every Sunday, this is the ONE day where I want us to look fancy and might even attempt a cute family picture. So dress nice.”
Instead, what did I say? Exactly nothing. I just yelled to everyone 20 minutes before leave-time that they had 20 minutes to get ready.
Then I spent 17 of those minutes in a battle of wills with my son Sam.
My mother-in-law had gotten him a cute Easter outfit. Here he is the day he got it, when he was totally stoked to put it on:
I mean, right???
But then Easter rolls around and it all falls apart. We can’t find the pants, but I am able to locate the shirt and we get some pants that sort of match and Sam seems to be tracking but then suddenly…..record scratch. He is NOT having it. No way, no how. He doesn’t want to dress fancy. He wants his shorts. There is weeping and gnashing of teeth from both of us.
I pulled out every trick in my book (I don’t have that many tricks). I told him everyone else in the family was dressing up. I tried shaming him by saying that all the other people at church would be dressed nice and he would wish he had dressed nice too. I told him he could only participate in the Easter Egg hunt after church if he was dressed nicely.
He. Would. Not. Budge.
Furious, I stormed away from him. He put on his shorts and t-shirt. Here he is: mismatched socks, one fake tattoo, two unnecessary bandaids, and a sticker of a hot dog that you can’t see on the front of his shirt.
Things did not get better when the rest of the family came outside to get in the car to leave and really no one had dressed all that nicely. Emily and I had dressed up, but that was only because she’s small and I forced her into her dress while she cried and screamed.
By the time we started driving to church I couldn’t even speak to anyone. I just sat there, steam rising off my head, fuming about how my family had dashed all of my hopes for Easter morning. As often happens when I reach this level of mad, my sane self was actually hovering outside of me, looking at me, confused. Sane Meaghan was talking to me and saying things like, “Why are you so upset about this? You don’t even like dressing up for church!” And, “This battle isn’t worth fighting, you want your kids to like going to church, not resent you because you force them to dress a certain way.” And finally, “If you wanted everyone to dress up you probably should have mentioned that.”
But I didn’t care about sane Meaghan, and I was not going to listen to or be her. I was going to be FURIOUS. The end.
We pulled up at church and headed indoors, me still giving the steely silent treatment to my loved ones. Because I’m an adult, I made sure they knew I was mad at them by making a big display of saying hello to and hugging a good friend when I ran into her in the parking lot. See, I’ll rejoice with some people. Just not you people.
We found our seats and Sam jumped to the seat beside me. Great.
The priest stood before the congregation to welcome everyone to Easter, and she offered several helpful pieces of information so that everyone could settle in. Interestingly she did not say that only children who had worn fancy clothes could participate in the Easter Egg Hunt.
At the close of her announcements, she explained that she wanted to offer one more word of welcome to those present. She began reading a truly lovely invitation, which made clear that everyone was welcome here, regardless of their beliefs or experience. As she read this invitation, a small child on the other side of the room unleashed a hearty cry of displeasure. Without missing a beat, the rector rolled the cry right into her invitation, “whether you are unhappy about being here, or if you are happy about being here….”
Right after she uttered the words, Sam turned to me with a grin that stretched from ear to ear and announced brightly,
“I’m happy to be here Mama!”
Nothing jolts you out of an Easter morning snit quite like your joyfully resilient 4-year-old, who despite all your best efforts to suppress and control him, is still going to delight in sitting in church next to your grumpy self. Especially when he will say as much – loud enough for the people sitting around you to hear.
Well played, Sam. Well played.
Things got better after that. The church service was lovely, and the corners of my mouth were able to turn up into a smile again, and the Easter Egg hunt was a flurry of excitement and joy. There was lots of chocolate and laughing and fellowship.
We didn’t get a family picture, and that was ok.
The thing I’m coming to realize about going to church with my family is that it’s hard. Sometimes it’s hard because of my own doing (like Easter) and other times it’s just hard because having little kids is hard, and life is busy, and getting somewhere together as a family and at least attempting to sit still for a portion of an hour is hard.
I’m also coming to realize that going to church together as a family is holy. That even though it’s hard, and even though pajamas and couches are compelling, and even though we’re already running in a million directions all the time – there is always at least a moment when we are in church when the Divine breaks through in a way I just don’t always get if I’m home in my pajamas. There is a moment, each Sunday we make it there, where I see my children or myself or my God in a new way. And no matter how much of a total mess it is to get out the door and get ourselves into the building, it is worth it to be there, because God breaths new life through music and community and silence and noise and prayer and Easter Egg hunts and little boys in mismatched socks and unnecessary bandaids.