Julia vs. Jesus

Sunday, the first day of the week, can be the most challenging, for me. Of all the tasks of being a single mom, I never once considered attending church would become the most taxing.

About a month ago, around the age of 18 months, my darling daughter, ceased to find zip lock bags filled with gold fish crackers or kid-size containers of sliced bananas, enough to hold her attention through a complete Sunday service. The smiles and goofy looks of other attendees, seated behind us at Unity of New York, no longer held the mystery they once did. You see dear reader, Julia had found her voice. And was set on using it.

As a championship talker myself, I respect anyone making their voice heard. However, two weeks ago, when, in the midst of Paul Tenaglia’s talk, Julia chortled out a loud and long, “HEYYYY!!!!! to the delight of everyone in attendance at the service, except her mortified mother.

“Yes, there’s one of God’s amazing gifts right there in front!” the minister said.

Laughter and applause rolled down from the rear of sanctuary, the balcony, from my right and my left. And Julia applauded too. As I watched her tiny palms crash together in delight, I knew my days in the main sanctuary were numbered.

I tried taking Julia on a walk about in the back area where the books and fliers and welcome table are set up. After thirty minutes of watching her roll like a log across the carpet during the meditation, by the end of the service, I knew there was no going back. Toddler-hood had hit.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Carla, my church pal said. “ Sure baby’s talk, everyone accepts that. At least you weren’t that woman with the crying baby. Did you see they asked her to step out?”

Carla always sees the Unity side of things. Problem was, although Julia typically keeps her whaling to a minimum, I feared she’d have a sudden change of personality. After all, every time the minister asked us to “go within” Julia went without, with a yodel, a yelp, or a “HELLO!” to our nearest neighbor.

“You know, I just didn’t go out when all of you were young,” my mom said all the way from Michigan once we return home. “And when you guys became old enough for Sunday school, I sat down there with you.”

Funny, I don’t remember Mom sitting in Sunday school, but clearly remember my brothers and I housed in the basement of New Bethel Baptist Church, me with the itchy crinoline biting into the backs of my thighs, wishing I could spend the money my mom had allotted for the collection plate on candy after the service.

Since the days of having an Easter speech to memorize and Spring dresses to wear and bear in the lukewarm spring days of Michigan, the act of attending church, for me, has become vitally important.  Unity Church of New York is my spiritual and creative haven. Lead by the magnetic and frequently hilarious Paul Tenaglia, church is a weekly event I rarely miss. Aside from the sense of community, it’s the one place in New York City where if you tell a member you plan to the write the next great American novel that will break all records for down loads on The New York Times, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, combined, and they are happy to affirm that vision with you. We run a can do church.

My not attending service wasn’t an option. However, attending church wasn’t working out either— with the wee lass.

Maybe there’s hope. Last week, Julia did half the touring around she did two Sundays before.  And a lot less yodeling. Maybe because I had already given up something: my preferred seat, of eight years, down in front, first row, left hand side. I made camp in the back of the church, near the restrooms, in the Baby Ghetto, where the other parents of small, new walkers, new talkers, tiny explores set out see new lands, were held up.  I kept ear cocked to hear the word of God, picking up 50% at best.

So far Julia, Jesus and God are neck and neck.

Only fourteen more months to go until my kid can attend Sunday school. Until then, I’ll keep prayed-up, as the old folks say. After all if Jesus could turn water into wine, he can help me find a way to keep Julia entertained, at least between the hour of 11:00 and 12:30 on Sundays.

Well, it’s 10:45. Time to mount up.

4 thoughts on “Julia vs. Jesus”

  1. Ah, church as a single parent….so hard, so, so hard. Add into it that some of the time I’m actually the preacher, extra levels of crazy.

    Good luck with the next year. FWIW, these are the things that I’ve found that work (somewhat). a) sitting in the very front row. When she can see what’s going on, she’s a little more engaged. Also, just acoustically, her voice seemed to carry less from the front going backward, than from the back going forward. Last (no small thing). I felt that people could see ME less when I was in front of them. I didn’t have to endure the “turn around and stare” thing. 2) church grandmas. I have a few folks, older women, in the church where I worship and in each of the churches where I substitute as a preacher. For some reason, stuff from their purses is automatically better. She just behaves better for them. 3) Accepting that church is where they’re supposed to be, and where they ought to be accepted for who they are and what they are. We don’t gripe about the old man who breathes loudly, or the lady who burps constantly–it’s not fair to expect little ones to be silent either. 4) Jewish babysitters/mother’s helpers! Seriously, about once a month, I’d hire this lovely high school girl to come to church with us. She’d take Selam out during the fussy times, and I actually got to stay in the service. It was a once a month indulgence, but it sort of saved my mind!

    We have no Sunday School for Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday and the sunday after Easter….even though she’s 5, getting through these 3 weeks will be the Parenting Olympics.

    1. Thanks so much for writing! It seems you have way more experience in this department than I do, so I appreciate the support…Parenting Olympics indeed. Next week is, as you know, is Easter Sunday, I am quaking in my boots at the thought of chasing around a toddler in the frilly dress that Grandma sent a month ago…so I have to put to on her and snap a photo..!

      1. Wear flats and bring her. Easter morning will see the church chock-a-block with little kids high on chocolate and frills! She’s beautiful. How can you deny the church the chance to see her all dressed up?

      2. Flats are KEY…I was just telling my Mom that, that I feel a responsibility to bring my kid to church looking cute, and Eastery…I’m already planning the shot of her rolling around like a log around the place in her nice dress…

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