Dear Sweet Seminarian Maggie and I were seated next to at the wedding last month, I’m sorry about the crazy she brought to the table. I’m sorry when y’all sat down she was using her fork and knife to drum on her plate, it was loud, but not as loud as the 450 guests at that wedding. She was trying to bring order to her little world by making noise she could hear herself. I’m sorry she kept throwing her napkin and spoon and fork in your lap before I took everything away from her, she likes to throw things, it’s funny to her. I’m sorry if you got wet when she started sticking her spoon in her water cup and flinging it around before I noticed. I’m sorry that she mooned you for the entrances of the wedding party and bride and groom, we were excited to get a glimpse of daddy who was in the wedding and we hadn’t seen all day. I didn’t noticed she had unhooked her diaper when she was in the highchair (what can I say, toddlers like to be naked and mine is very sneaky), I’m sorry you had a baby bottom in your face, I really really am. I’m sorry it may have been a little crazy to ask you to scoot your chair over so I could squeeze her down on the floor and put a diaper back on her, although at that point you were probably relieved that I was covering said baby bottom. I’m sorry you were forced to move your water, silverware, wine and anything else you didn’t want her to be grabbing to one side of your plate. I’m sorry we couldn’t keep any of the food on our side of the table or she would have been helping herself. As I thought about getting a little stressed and upset about the crazy all I could do was smile to myself and think, “Welcome to family life.” You really were lovely and helpful if a bit overwhelmed at my daughter and I had a wonderful time chatting with you in-spite of the whirlwind sitting between us. Thank you for the adult conversation, thank you for putting up with the crazy and when you are a priest in a parish and you see a frazzled overwhelmed mommy with lots of small children I hope you will reach out to her like you did me and think, “Welcome to family life” to yourself.
Dear sweet college boy who we sat next to at Mass today, thank you for your patience sitting next to us. The chapel was packed, it was about 100 degrees, and it was baby girl’s nap time. Thank you for being understanding with her fidgetiness. Thank you for understanding that toddlers make noise, some other students around us shifted to try to “politely” see who was moving hymnals around during the homily, I appreciate that it didn’t phase you (or you didn’t let on if it did). Thank you for understanding that because of the cramped quarters she decided you were her best friend and was leaning on you for a good portion of the Mass. Thank you for understanding that the sign of peace is her favorite time of Mass (besides the processional which she realized means we get to go “Bye bye car)” and extending your hand and giving her a solemn ‘peace be with you,’ it meant the world to her. As I struggled through Mass with her and was very thankful for your patience and overwhelmed at being in the hot college chapel I smiled to myself and thought, “Welcome to family life”
You see, I went to school at that college and went to Mass everyday in that chapel. I had an idea of what family life would be like for me. I knew how well behaved my children would be at Mass. I would be able to bring them to Mass in that college chapel that is silent as a tomb during Mass in-spite of being crowded and they would fit right in. I would be organized, put together, my children would never have dirty faces, messy hair, fingernails that needed to be cut, diapers so full they are ready to explode. No, no, my family life would be neat, tidy and clean. Organized and amazing. And then I had a child. My family life isn’t nearly as messy or crazy as the family life of those with more children. Two weeks ago at our parish Mass she was particularly noisy. I stood during the Consecration to leave with her, in the silence of that Holy Time of the Mass she perked up and yelled at the top of her lungs while waving to father on the altar, “Bye Bye, see you later!” Not what I had envisioned. And yet, I hope one day my family life will be noisier, messier, and crazier. Family life is all of those things, and it is beautiful and brings more joy in it’s messiness than I ever could have imagined sitting in that chapel 8 years ago.
As I sit here reflecting on my old conceptions with laundry in the basement that needs to be done, toys scattered all over the living room, lunch dishes in the sink, rice and beans from a toddler pouring game all over the living room floor all I can do is smile to myself and say, “Welcome to Family Life.”