By Kelly Wahlquist
Sometimes, I think God gets a kick out of situations that test our parenting skills, because God knows (literally) that we challenge His parenting of us all too often. Two situations spring to mind—taking a toddler to Mass and taking a teenager to Mass. With toddlers, it’s a game of distraction to avoid a temper tantrum. With teenagers, it’s a game of keeping them from being distracted and avoiding the eye roll.
In my family, long gone are the days when Cheerios would make me the perfect parent for 60 minutes. Now-a-days at Mass, I am surrounded by teenagers, who at any time can fall prey to the “I’m bored out of my mind” resting face. But on Easter Sunday, I learned not to be too quick to judge what appears to be a lack of participation or interest.
The priest did a fabulous job explaining why we renew our baptismal promises on this day of the Resurrection, explaining that when we make the sign of the cross, we are once again saying yes to being created anew in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hence why I was mortified when my 17 year old refused to cross herself as the priest walked by and sprinkled our section. How could she blatantly go against what Father just explained? How could she embarrass me like this? At a moment when I should have been rejoicing in my Baptism, I was longing for the days when I could pick her up and take her to the crying room! (Where now I could cry for being a failure of a Catholic mom.)
As we walked to the car, I did my best to address the situation calmly. I said, “You know, that was very disrespectful what you did in Mass.” She looked at me dumbfounded—a look not uncommon on a teenager’s face—and said, “What did I do?”
So, I explained how she didn’t make the sign of the cross when the priest was sprinkling us with holy water. Her face instantly lost 14 years, and with the eyes of a three year old, she looked at me and said, “But it didn’t hit me.”
Instantly, I burst into laughter. She was right. At our parish, the holy water is sprinkled with a palm branch, leaving many looking like they had been through a spiritual car wash. However, at the parish we go to on spring break, you’d be hard pressed to find a water spot on anyone in our section. I realized then and there that things aren’t always what they seem, and I learned a lesson in judging others, particularly teenagers. And I’m pretty sure God was smiling as I explained to my daughter that you don’t need to be drenched by holy water in order to renew your baptismal promises.