I recently made the mistake of trying to handle a “two-man job” by myself. I won’t do that again.
My husband had to work last Saturday night. My 17-month-old daughter, Reese, and I were out and about, doing some shopping and tackling errands. At about 4:30 p.m., I decided we’d attend our church’s 5 p.m. Mass. My husband and I usually take Reese to church on Sunday mornings, often “tag-teaming it” to keep her under control. However, my husband, who works at a Catholic school, already had attended Mass that week, and I didn’t think he’d mind if we went without him just once.
Previously, our biggest problem during church service is Reese’s insistence on completely unpacking the diaper bag. She’ll sit on the floor and, one item at a time, remove diapers, wipes, toys, snacks, extra clothes, pacifiers, my wallet, phone and keys. During my solo church outing, I thought I’d outsmart my toddler by leaving the diaper bag in the car, giving her nothing to fiddle with during Mass. So, we parked and headed in — just Reese and me. I stuffed my keys and our offertory envelope in my pocket and grabbed one plastic container of Gerber Graduates organic apple puffs. OK, I needed at least one thing to bribe her with.
Reese must have been feeling particularly ornery that night, because she absolutely would not sit still or quiet down. Even though we were in the church “cry room,” I think the other occupants were getting a little fed up. She wouldn’t sit on a chair or on the floor. She wouldn’t let me hold her. She raced around the room, pausing to occasionally hurl her 25-pound frame against the door in repeated failed attempts to make an escape. She decimated a pile of books, then scooped several off the floor and dumped them in my lap, screaming, “Re boo! Re boo!” (That’s “read book” for those of you who don’t speak toddlerese.)
When I whispered to Reese that I couldn’t read to her just then but offered to point to the pictures, she yelled, “No no no no!” and forcefully slid all the books beneath my chair, wedging them under the feet of the gentleman behind us. By then, I was wishing I’d waited for my husband, but I thought, “We’re still doing OK. We’ll make it through the rest of the service.”
I offered Reese a few of the Gerber puffs, and she finally settled down and started leafing through an ancient Sesame Street book. When Mass attendees were called to stand and bow their heads in prayer, I did so. I’d only just closed my eyes when I heard Reese rattle the container of puffs. I let out a barely audible gasp and frantically reached down for the plastic canister, but before I could grab it, Reese had pried the lid off.
She proceeded to shake the container as hard as she could, creating an explosion of puffs, which then scattered on the floor in about 15 different directions.
“Uh oh, Mama! Uh oh!” she screamed, and then started giggling. I looked around and saw everyone in the room staring daggers at us.
I checked the container and saw that half the puffs remained. I didn’t want to scoop the spilled puffs off the dirty floor and put them in the canister on top of the still-fresh puffs. I mentally kicked myself for not bringing the diaper bag, which would gave give me somewhere to stash the soiled snacks. I had no time for regrets, though, as I looked over and saw Reese trying to stuff fistfuls of “floor food” into her mouth.
“No, no!” I told her in a stage whisper. “No!”
I pried the puffs from her little hands, resulting in a wail of protest. I looked around for somewhere to dispose of the spilled snacks, but found nothing. Reese’s cries grew louder. Out of desperation, I began stuffing the puffs in my shirt, making a little pocket with the hem so they didn’t fall out.
I held my shirt with one hand and used my free hand to alternately scoop up the spilled food and pry it from Reese’s hands as she continued her quest to consume it. Scoop. Pry. Scream. Scoop. Pry. Scream.
In the midst of all this, I was a little surprised that no one tried to help me, but I didn’t have much time to dwell on that thought. When I finally had cleaned up the spill, I clutched my puff-filled shirt to my torso with one hand and grabbed Reese’s wrist with the other. I used my hip to push open the door and tore out of the cry room as if my hair was on fire.
We deposited the puffs in a trash can near the restrooms and headed directly to the car. I was far too embarrassed to return for the remainder of the service. Church with a toddler obviously is a two-person job.