“Take Them to Church” by Monica Brietenstein
Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
This week, Monica Brietenstein puts the child-friendliness of church to the test.
For as long as I can remember, my daughter asked me to take her to church. Even when I wasn’t sure how she could know that a specific building was a church, she’d point to it and say, “I want to go there.” We’re not a particularly religious family so this always struck me as odd. Most kids Piper’s age wanted to go to Disneyworld or LEGOLAND. She just wanted to go and learn about God. How could I not grant that request? As Christmas was fast approaching I decided to take the family to church.
Did I mention that we’re not a particularly religious family? That little hiccup posed a problem: which church should we attend? By default I decided on my husband’s. And by “my husband’s” I mean to say the one he attended before he could talk and walk. Next I checked online for the time of the family-friendly service. My kids were young and I did not want to crash the solemn, adults-only service.
Fast-forward to the church.
It did not take long after our arrival to realize that this was not the family-friendly service I had anticipated. I’m not sure what happened—the Minister, or someone, must have changed the service time and forgot to update the website because I was certain about the time—or so I thought.
No big deal. We sat near the back where we hoped to be the least disruptive, and where we could easily snatch-and-dash with the kids to the cloakroom if need be. As luck would have it, we chose a pew directly in front of a jolly old fellow with a beard like snow and a belly like Jello!
“Ho-ho,” my two-year-old son squealed with delight as he bounced on my lap and pointed. “Ho-ho!”
The first couple of times Niles pointed out the obvious—that this guy looked like Santa Clause—it was too-cute and too-funny. After a few more ‘ho-hos’, and in a voice that was rising with excitement, I smiled apologetically at the man and stuck the soother in my son’s mouth. Cue the minister from stage right. That was exactly what we needed—a reason for Niles to face forward and leave Santa be!
Children are quick, and Niles soon realized this was not a live show of Dora or Caillou. He abruptly lost interest in what was happening up front and slid off my lap to play beside me in the aisle. No worries—let him play. This, after all, was why we had sat near the back. Except that a two-year-old and stationary play do not go hand-in-hand. In record time my son army-crawled the length of the aisle. It was just as Niles was readying himself to storm the pulpit that my husband snatched him up and dashed with him into the cloakroom. With that crisis averted I tuned back into the program and waited for the story about the birth of the baby Jesus.
In front of the Minister sat a plain wooden box, and she began by removing the top. As she revealed the box’s contents, she explained that each of the items had been whittled from reclaimed wood by a dear friend of hers in Europe, and then shipped to Canada just in time for tonight’s service. She positioned the figures to recreate the Nativity scene and she named them as she went: the sheep, the cow, the donkey . . .
Just then, from high above me in the church balcony, I heard Niles yell, “Daaaaawn-key!”
Really? Did my son really just do that? While the Minister took pause and the entire congregation laughed at the innocent outburst, I silently prayed that Jesus was smiling in heaven.
The remainder of the service continued without interruption from my kids. Niles was with my husband happily climbing up and down the stairs leading to the balcony, and Piper was playing on her iPad. God forgive me.
Soon, thereafter, the service came to an end. I quickly gathered up our things and joined my husband and son under the EXIT sign. The Minister stood at the door handing out blessings like candy, and thanking everyone for attending. While she shook my hand and smiled at the kids, I took note that she did not invite us to come again. Oh well. I just took that as my sign to be thankful for small mercies!
MONICA BRIETENSTEIN was a “closet-writer” of sorts until quite recently. On a hiatus from her 9-5 office job, due to a rather inconvenient bout with flesh-eating-disease, she dared to chase her dream and pursue her passion for writing. Monica is a self-proclaimed Bridget Jones Diary type of writer. She recounts happenings, moments, occurrences. And then she moves on to recount the next happening, moment, or occurrence. Monica has been published in The Globe and Mail—Facts & Arguments, and was a contributing author to the ebook The Mom Quilt. You can find Monica merrily recounting the ‘truths’ of parenthood at her blog Mommee-Truths, because Every mommy needs to laugh, even when there’s nothing to laugh about! Follow Monica on Twitter @mommeetruths and discover for yourself that truth is funnier than fiction!
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Sep 29, 2015
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