For the last sixteen years, we’ve had a toddler in our family’s pew every Sunday morning. Our current season is no exception. Without fail, we reach the point in the Mass, rarely as far as the Gospel, where our spitfire tot, Edith, has hit her limit being passed down the pew between siblings.
We’ve quietly counted the candles, we’ve noticed Father is wearing green today, and pointed to images of Our Lord and Lady. Suddenly, Edith determines it’s time to either attempt to bolt to the altar with shifty eyes and toothy grin or threaten a stiff-bodied tantrum. I make the long walk from the front of the nave while wrestling my curly-haired daughter in my arms as my beloved community members share a nod of solidarity.
First, we stop at the back pew where I attempt to listen to the homily, but Edith quickly remembers the air vents on the floor. She stands and giggles as her dress blows in a puff around her waist. A brief stop at every vent leads us to the hallway where she pauses to sanitize her hands at the community dispenser.
As I attempt to keep my ears tuned to Mass, Edith tromps her way toward the water fountain. She pushes the button several times and finally requests a Dixie cup from the kitchen. We fill it drip by drip so she doesn’t dump it onto the floor or dribble down her dress. After a few fills, she crumples her soggy cup and tosses it in the nearest trashcan.
She then darts to the baptismal font where she gives herself a dozen wet blessings with haphazardly adorable Signs of the Cross. I insert words like, “Let’s pray quietly. I can hear the bells! Jesus is here!”
Every week, it’s the same routine.
I waffle between pure annoyance and exhaustion at the fact that here we are again on another Sunday morning pacing the hallway making all the anticipated stops rather than participating in the Liturgy.
Then Our Lord whispers, “This is your toddler’s liturgy.” Comfort in the routine and a feeling of belonging in this sacred space prepares my daughter to eventually sit through Mass and embrace its Divine predictability. Next Sunday, when Edith’s moment of restlessness inevitably arrives, we’ll both make the familiar journey, take comfort, and find joy in the Liturgy of the Toddler.