If you have children, you know what the kid ghetto is. You’ve been there. Whether you wanted to or no, you’ve been there.
The kid ghetto is where you’re seated at the restaurant when you show up with people requiring booster seats or high chairs.
The basement you find yourself in during family reunions, where your senile great uncle and four nameless adolescent cousins are the only other people hanging out? That’s the kid ghetto.
Trip to the mall? The kid ghetto there is that shockingly unsanitary play area you swear you’ll never go to, but one day you push your luck one store too many and that’s where you end up.
Even church has one. Oh yes, a place as welcoming and forgiving as the church has its own kid ghetto. It’s the last five or six rows- the pews aaaaaaalllllll the way at the back of the church, where you’re in the liturgical catch-22 of children who can’t see what’s going on and get restless, but aren’t yet behaved enough to be trusted closer to the altar.
You know you’re there when all the missals are missing covers and the smell of Desitin and apple juice hover perpetually in the air.
That’s where we were today for Mass. Normally, I avoid the kid ghetto, and try to sneak my way into the no-man’s land of the middle pews, but since we had to attend the 5:00 p.m. Mass, we knew we had five potential time bombs on our hands. Hunger, fatigue, and an hour of having to stay in the same 3 foot area are not a good mix if you’re a kid.
Jude wanted to be held immediately. And as we were singing the Gloria, I could hear him saying something in my ear, over and over again. “E-X-I-T”, he kept repeating, pointing at the exit sign. “Those letters are ‘E-X-I-T’”.
While I was mentally congratulating myself on the bang-up job I was doing with the three year old, Gabriel was accosting my abdomen. He kept kissing my whole stomach, and then petting it, then murmuring sweet things to the baby in there. Looking up at me, he said, “Is it time for the baby to come out yet?” I shook my head at him, and tried to focus on singing.
“The baby’s not coming out yet? Why not? When the baby comes out, will it come out of here?” he asked, tapping my stomach. Absently, I nodded, trying to remember exactly howmany people were sitting behind us.
“The baby will come out of your stomach?” here Gabriel’s voice grew even louder with disbelief. He was now clearly audible over the singing. “I thought babies came out of your bagina.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed my normal Mass prayer, “Dear Lord, this would be a fantastic time to strike me dead, don’t you think?”
As usual, I was ignored.
Ignored by God, but not by Gabriel, who kept trying to clarify the exact route the baby would take to exit my body. Loudly. Finally, I bent down and reminded him that body parts generally covered by underwear were not acceptable topics of conversation in public.
Mommy score: stellar job with reading acquisition, +1, epic fail on common sense social graces, -1 = tie game
We sat down, and for the next 40 minutes I was poked, hugged, kissed, pushed, accosted, jolted, jostled, manhandled and any other synonym you can think of. I had actually reached a rather zen-like state by the time Father began his homily, and when Jude decided then was a good time to stick his entire face on my face, I was a little startled.
As I drew back, I could tell by the smell of Jude’s breath that neither he, nor I, nor Ken had remembered to brush his teeth before we left the house. The smell was horrible. I tried to hold my breath as Father discussed the Gospel today, the one where Jesus heals a blabbermouth leper.
Mommy score: stellar job with reading acquisition, +1, epic fail on common sense social graces, -1, negligent toddler oral hygiene, -1 = current score: -1
With his face pressed against my face, his rank breath making my eyes water, Jude whispered, “What’s a leper?” I briefly explained, and heaved a breath of clean air when Jude leaned back to consider my words. I had almost reached a zen state again when Jude put his face back into mine, and in the loudest, breathiest whisper his tiny body could muster, he hissed, “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!”
Honestly, I don’t know if he was talking about the leper, or if he’d caught a whiff of his own mouth. I do know, however, that the lady sitting in the pew next to us found Jude’s pronouncement hilarious and tried to cover her laughter with a coughing fit. It didn’t fool me for a second.
Mommy score: stellar job with reading acquisition, +1, epic fail on common sense social graces, -1, negligent toddler oral hygiene, -1, weirdo Old Testament impersonations loud enough to amuse onlookers, -1 = Mommy fail
But that’s the thing with the kid ghetto. Even if the scoreboard isn’t in your favor, if you escape with a shred of sanity, you’re still a winner.