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Before I had children I knew I could attend mass and really listen to what was going on, really let God's word into my head and meditate on what the message was for me. I could hold a hymn book and sing, I could kneel in reverent prayer and I could close my eyes for more than ten seconds if I wanted. After we had our first daughter it all changed. Fairly slowly at first, we didn't see it happening. The person holding the sleeping infant would choose to sit instead of kneel. Soon after, whoever had the wriggly baby let the other one hold the hymn book for them to see. A few months later, the parent holding the toddler on the bench so she wouldn't fall would only be able to keep eyes on the priest for snatches of around five seconds. And now, whichever one of us is trying to quietly entertain our two year old chatterbox is sharing glances with whichever one of us is playing 'peekaboo' with our six-month old.
It used to worry me slightly. There were occasions when I was all too aware that we were the loudest family in the church and wondered what people were thinking, but not anymore. Believe it or not, in spite of the random dashes up the aisles when our little girl runs off, or our vain attempts to quieten our crying baby when she's getting close to nap time, I actually look forward to going to mass as a family. And on a Sunday morning, knowing that we are heading towards church with our girls in their pretty dresses, pushing prams and enjoying the walk together, it makes me feel excited. Yes, we don't always hear every word of the priests' homily, we don't always get to join in with everything if both our hands are full of wriggling children and yes, sometimes we spend more time looking in the direction of them than at the altar. However, Jesus loves these little girls even more than we do and He wants them to be there, as He does the two of us. One day they will be able to sit for longer periods of time and one day they will understand what 'shhh' means when mummy or daddy says it. But for now, I am happy when I know my baby is blowing raspberries at the parishioner in the bench behind and making them laugh, she is spreading joy without even realising it. I am happy when my little girl asks to 'sing it again' when the organ stops playing, even though her songs aren't always what everyone else is singing. I am happy when she says 'amen' at the top of her voice, or points to Jesus and gladly announces to the church that she knows who He is. And I am happy when we are each holding one of our precious gifts as well as each others hands and when we pray together as a family in the presence of God. Our vocation is parenthood, our job is to teach our children about Jesus and I am proud, no matter how noisy or fussy or giddy they are, to go to our church and celebrate together. We love each other and God loves us. Why would I not be excited about that?
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