I am the monkey bars.

I am the monkey bars. It doesn’t matter the Mass – early or late, long or short, loud or silent, engaging or reflective – my daughter spends nearly 46 minutes climbing on me like I am some sort of human jungle gym. It’s worse for my wife. She was the human pincushion. Sophia used to spend most of Mass poking my wife in the face, stick her hand in my wife’s mouth, and trying to rip her glasses or earrings off. I don’t know why this started or why it has stopped, but at least now it is just the climbing of Daddy mountain every Sunday.

The latest excitement occurred last night. During a pause in the Eucharistic prayer, my daughter blurts, “Is it done?!” “No honey, shhhhh, we have to go get Jesus and then pray and then its done,” we responded quietly amidst the laughter of our neighbors. Communion happens. Our pastor is quietly reflecting after just making Jesus physically present for 600 people in the Eucharist, and Sophia asks again, but even louder, “IS IT DONE?!” This outburst was loud enough for Father to turn in our direction. I’m not as embarrassed as I should be (What? It’s funny), but I’m not thrilled about it either.

Taking my kids to Mass is hard sometimes. Sometimes all I feel I get out of Mass are bruises and frustration. There were Masses Liz and I spent most of our time out in the gathering space chasing kids or quieting a baby. Some weeks it didn’t feel worth all the work, I felt like I was getting nothing out of it. Those are the weeks I have to remember that I don’t just go to Mass for me. Yes, I go to pray, hear scripture, and receive the Eucharist connecting with God in such a physical and intimate way that nothing else can match it (on earth), and that connection is for me. But I also go to Mass for others.

I bring my kids because, as hard as it is, when they are little, don’t get it, and struggle just to sit in the pew at all, I know that the practice of going to Mass takes time and I want them to get good at it. The good news is, I can see it paying off in my 6 year old daughter, Ella. Yeah there are weeks she spaces out during the homily (There are weeks I space out during the homily. There may be weeks priests space out during their homilies – I kid, I kid.) But she actually prays and responds and knowing that I am helping to cultivate some connection to Mass is a huge pay off for me.

I also bring my kids to Mass because my Church needs us. The older people need to see young families committed to the faith. Other families need to know there are others in the same boat with the same struggles. And frankly, as a youth minister, I want teens to see my family at Mass so someday, when it is hard to get to Mass, they figure out a way.
Mass has been such a gift for my family and me. I can’t imagine my life without it. For my life it is worth the sacrifice of tough schedules and irritating, irritated kids.

No judgment on my fellow young parents just trying to find 4 solid hours of sleep and an adult conversation not about diapers and how the carpet has been newly ruined. I get it, I’m with you in this. I want you to know that I am praying for you and that Mass has been worth it for my family and my marriage. Hope to see you this weekend at Mass – Jungle gym, bloodcurdling screaming, awkward questions in the silence, and all.

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