Last week at my church choir practice, I was reveling in being part of a choir again. I was enjoying having to stretch my brain to achieve something. I was getting a kick out of adjusting my voice just so to fit in with everyone else’s. I was feeling competent.
Then last night, I took my two toddler sons with me.
It was a cold, rainy night. Past their bedtime. I am brilliant, let me tell you.
Yes, the two-year-old screamed and cried when we got there because he wanted to go home, to bed. (I felt like a terrific parent.) Yes, my fellow choir members kept having to fish the boys’ cars out from under chairs. Yes, the boys made a game of throwing their coats at each other as hard as they possibly could. Yes, they ultimately ended up in a rolling, writhing heap, wrestling at the choir director’s feet. Yes, I had to pry their screeching heads out of each other’s clutches.
But let’s not dwell on those mishaps. Let’s focus, instead, on the few moments when no one was screaming or throwing or wrestling. I didn’t notice it at first, distracted as I was by the two-year-old on my lap, but my older son was trying his hand at directing the choir. He was standing several feet away from our actual director, miming her motions. There was a very serious look on his face. Undoubtedly, the looks on the choir members’ faces were less so.
As the music went on, he got more and more into it. His arms started to flail. He began to jump and dance a little. Then the music really overtook him. He ran up the few steps onto the altar. With every big note we hit, he jumped down a step – still flailing his arms and dancing around. When he got to the bottom, he’d race back to the top to start all over again.
It was like watching some miniature, wild-looking orchestra conductor. If I’d just brought him in his little tux and had a crazy wig to stick on his head, the picture would have been complete. (As it was, he was wearing footie pajamas.) It was all I could do to stop myself from breaking down into a giggling, laughing, snorting mess. And I’m his mother; I’m used to his shenanigans. I don’t envy our (real) choir director at that moment. She had quite the competition.
The evening was stressful and exhausting for me. If I’d been a little more self-conscious, it would also have been embarrassing. But our director (a mother of six) and my fellow choir members couldn’t have been nicer about it. There were lots of mentions of their own children and grandchildren, there were lots of comments about how cute the boys are, and there was a reminder that, “Jesus said to let the little children come to him!” Those good people even (gasp!) said that the boys had done well.
Sure, I was bone tired by the time I got in the car to head home. Sure, I resorted to rewarding myself with a chocolate-peanut-butter sundae on the way home. (Yay for ice cream shop drive-thru’s!) Sure, I sat in the driveway until my husband returned home from work and I let him carry the boys inside and to bed.
But overall, I was left with thankfulness for the people we had just been with. And for the larger Catholic culture they represent: a culture that delights in people, in children, in new life. One that recognizes that real people are wonderfully imperfect. One that greets a couple of rowdy, excited toddlers with love and offers their worn-out mama words of comfort.
I was also left with that happy image of my boy delighting – powerfully, physically – in music. This child who makes up songs all the time, who sings loudly and proudly, even when it’s just gobbledygook coming from his mouth. This child who wants, more than anything else, a guitar for Christmas. I wonder how his love for music will factor into his life as he grows. Yet again, I wonder what kind of an adult he will become.
Given the stress I’d been under just a couple of hours before, these weren’t such bad thoughts to be ending my evening with.