The Church of Play
Allow me to let you in on the drama that unfolds when you take a child Heidi’s age to church. She is two years old now and at her age, she can talk – boy, can she talk! She is however still new to socialisation and cannot be left with unfamiliar faces without her making a fuss.
The deal with our church is that children go to Sunday School where they sing and are taught to pray while bonding with other children. The rest of us grown ups attend mass in the main church.
I have tried for three Sundays now to get Heidi to go for Sunday School classes with her sister, and all three times, I have failed miserably! The first time I tried being firm and even though she cried, I listened to the Sunday School teacher when she said “She’ll be fine, they all start out like that” I therefore left her wailing in her arms and turned to walk away. She screamed and cried as if the world was coming to an end. “Go on” The teacher insisted and like Johnnie Walker, I kept walking.
Since I wasn’t sure if she will quieten down, I sat next to the exit of the main church just in case I would have to make a hasty retreat to go back and get her. I waited; two seconds passed, she was still screaming. 5…10. I kept my cool. “She will be fine, Hailey is in there with her ” I consoled myself “Kids go through this all the time” 15 seconds ….20 seconds….half a minute…Don’t children’s lungs get tired?!
For a minute there I thought she went quiet, only for the crying to resume. The other congregants were hearing nothing, everyone was busy listening to the sermon. I played along for five long minutes and when she persisted I decided that was it! I had to get my daughter back. The teacher labelled me with one look – “Wuss!” I shrugged my shoulders “I tried?” Heidi was handed to me and we went with her to the main church; her sulking with a ‘how-dare-you!’ look, me feeling defeated.
Nonetheless, Sunday School is a very good idea mainly because children really get to learn about the whole idea behind going to church and because as a parent, if your little angel is with you in church, your attention is divided. Many are the times I have gone to church and came out feeling like I just went there to chase my kid around as she plays.
Heidi perceives going to church as going for a playdate. She will sample out other children and when she sees a kid that she likes, she goes in for a kill. A smile, a touch of hands, then “Sasa?” If the other kid smiles and answers back, or even just smiles, BAM! Playtiiiime! They will chase each other around shouting with not a care in the world. I will be beside myself with frustration trying to concentrate, to pray, to listen, and to spare the other congregants the not-so-holy noise, all in vain!
This particular Sunday, I tried to give Sunday school a shot once again and even before we reached the class, she was in tears. We had to leave Hailey and head with her to the main church. AGAIN! I however decided to sit in a pew devoid of children. “Eradicate peer pressure”, I thought to my smart self.
She behaved for a while. When she wanted to say something, she whispered in my ears (she’s so into ear-whispering at the moment). When I carried her while standing, she pushed strands of my plaited hair back and rested her head on my shoulder. Soon, her forefinger was inside her mouth. See, Heidi sucks her forefinger and when her finger finds her way to her mouth, you know she wants some quiet time and doesn’t want to be bothered. That is how she falls asleep every night; finger in mouth.
Seeing her like that, I sighed with relief because I knew she was in check. “Look at the person seated next to you, is it your husband, your wife, your girlfriend, boyfriend? Some of you came with your spouses. But right now, you are not seated next to each other. Some barely talk to each other because you have become strangers to each other…”, the priest was saying. I was really feeling the sermon and wouldn’t have been surprised if someone from the congregation yelled “Preach Father, Preach!”
I took the chance to look at the people seated next to me on each side. To my right was a lady, to my left a gentleman. For the next couple of minutes, I kept apologizing to the lady to my right because Heidi kept stepping on her as she swung her leg back and forth. She was very understanding and told me not to worry about it.
After the sermon, we started singing, and Heidi came alive. “Mum…mum…MUM!” she yelled when I tried to ignore her. Thankfully, her shouting was drowned by the singing. I however realized that ignoring her was not a good idea and I quickly responded in a low tone willing her to follow suit. Then she goes “SA-SA?!” in a loud voice just when the song had come to an end and pin drop silence engulfed the church. Seriously baby girl?
This coming sunday, it is Sunday School for Heidi or Sunday School for Heidi so help me God!