It happens to all parents once in awhile--those fleeting moments when a parent smugly assesses the behavior of other youngsters and pronounces, "My child(ren) would never do that."
I would be lying if I said I've never thought it.
And every time I do, I always regret it because something inevitably happens to knock me on my haughty derriere.
Because God has a long memory and a sense of humor and He really wants to keep me humble. He frequently likes to use my perfect... er, totally normal and very human children to remind me my occasional superior attitudes aren't always up to snuff.
It happened to me at Mass recently--His favorite place to humiliate me lest I get to nursing any holier-than-thou type ideas.
We were at the children's church and the priest kindly invited all the little ones to gather in front of the altar to listen to the gospel and his homily. My children looked darling in their Sunday best. The girls were dressed in spring colors with matching hair bows and Patrick was wearing one of his handsome sweater vests. I watched as they filed out of the pew, looking reverent and dapper and calm. Meaghan grabbed Mary Bernadette's hand and ushered her up the aisle. My heart melted with love at the sight of them and I poked John.
"Look! They're holding hands. Isn't that sweet? They look so cute. Meaghan is such a good big sister trying to help Mary Bernadette," I whispered in hushed tones.
John nodded and smiled, straining his neck to see them, equally proud of their pious demeanor.
We watched as the three of them pushed their way through the sea of children and planted themselves directly in front of Father.
There you go, kids. Right up close. Good for you, I thought.
While they did this, I noticed a pair of siblings also making their way up the aisle. The older sibling was trying to “help” the younger sibling. The unwelcome directives from the big kid unnerved the little one, resulting in a major scuffle. The younger sibling took off up the aisle and the older one followed-- grabbing and then hitting the child out of frustration. They were noisy and a little out of control.
This is the point in the story where I may have engaged in a few exaggerated opinions of my brood while critiquing the behavior of the other set of rug rats—fatal flaw numero uno in parenting.
Once everyone was settled, Father began his homily about Jesus curing the blind man, which is when I noticed them--my two “perfect” angels discreetly pinching each other and then jerking their arms away in pain. Each round of pinch and jerk set off a torrent of giggles, a vicious and unending cycle of misbehavior for the entire congregation to see (and hear).
It was a proud parenting moment.
As he paced back and forth, Father noticed them fighting. Glancing down at them, I could see he was distracted.
Who could blame him?
The ruckus continued as their little pinching game quickly escalated to full out punches, where one child raised her hand over her head and slammed it down on her sister’s back.
Loud whimpering ensued.
I was appalled.
I considered wrangling them from the crowd, but that would have aggravated the already embarrassing situation.
So I sat there, my face flushed red with embarrassment (and anger) as I waited Father to finish speaking. It seemed like an eternity for him to wrap it up and when he did, I restrained myself from meeting them at the back of church.
I was immediately remorseful about my self-righteous attitude towards the other children who were easily outdone by my own professional boxers.
In fact, as I watched my little darlings file back down the aisle, I heard the imaginary announcer yell into the echoing microphone, “Round one goes to the Duggan’s.”
I wasn’t clapping over their win.