This past weekend, my husband was out of town. My dad had come to stay with me and my toddler, which was lovely, but my toddler has been going through some major separation anxiety and melts down if I leave the room for even a few seconds. So, as Sunday rolled around, I realised I would just have to deal with taking her to Mass on my own. (My dad is a committed anti-Catholic ex-Catholic).
Perhaps I should have prefaced this by saying that I usually go to Mass alone, leaving my toddler with my husband. I know, I know, all the Good Catholic Mums would be telling me how important it is for her spiritual formation that she gets in the habit of going weekly now. But for the moment, that’s not where I am. Seeing as I don’t get any spiritual community at home, I enjoy being able to go to Mass and soaking in being surrounded by people who share my faith, without having to wrangle a toddler.
So back to the point. This Sunday, I had to take her. As it approached, I was overwhelmed with the “it’s not fair!” feelings that often accompany solo-parenting at Mass. It’s not fair that my husband isn’t here to help me. It’s not fair that I’m single-handedly responsible for transmitting the Faith to my child(ren). It’s not fair that my husband wouldn’t care if I just decided to skip Mass altogether, ignoring my Sunday obligation. It’s not fair that if the toddler flips out before we make it to the First Reading, I’ll have to choose between disrupting the Mass, or leaving, therefore missing out on the Eucharist. And on, and on…
It occurred to me as I inwardly whined, though, that this was an opportunity to do exactly what I’m always talking about on this blog. It was a chance to choose God, to choose to set a good example for my toddler, to choose to do what a saint would do: go to Mass, with my toddler, and do my best. Pray for my husband. Pray for my toddler. Pray for my baby in utero. Pray for myself, to grow in holiness. Pray for the grace to stop complaining.
Guess what? I went to Mass, and my toddler was an angel. She sat quietly for almost the entire Mass in her stroller (with the help of an applesauce pouch). I received the Eucharist, she received a blessing. We left before the recessional, because she did start to get a bit cranky after Holy Communion. But God seemed to say to me, “See? That wasn’t so bad, was it? Your own anxieties are your worst enemy.”
What’s more, when I looked around, I noticed that there were lots of littles running around, being rambunctious, and mainly just making other parishioners smile. It’s normal; most people realise that small children can’t be expected to be calm and reverent for an entire Mass (although I know there are some people who do expect this…). There was even a mum on her own with a girl around 5 years old, a boy who was probably the same age as my toddler, and she was pregnant. I have no idea why her husband wasn’t with her, but I admired that she had brought her children alone. When she knelt during the consecration, her toddler came and knelt beside her. I realised that if I don’t bring my daughter to Mass, I can’t expect her to start imitating behaviours of reverence and devotion.
I’m not delusional; I certainly don’t expect that my toddler will behave so well every Mass. That’s OK. Even if she doesn’t, God will still be happy that I showed up, and that I brought her to see Him. I’m not promising that I’ll start taking her every week, but I’m emboldened to make an effort to take her more often.
What about you? Where are you letting your own anxieties hinder you? And what’s making you say “it’s not fair!” that may actually be a chance for holiness?