We recently attended a baptism for my nephew. The drama began before we even left the house, attempting to get Mikey to wear something other than “comfy clothes,” aka sweatpants. After explaining to him that neither Dada nor I wanted to wear real pants, either, but this is a special occasion, we got him into a pair of jeans.
However, those negotiations led to us being later than usual, so when we arrived at the church the priest was already at the altar and prayers were being recited.
We shuffle in, carrying Mikey’s “bag of tricks” to keep him entertained, the door slams behind us and Mikey says, “Where are Nonno and Nonna?” garnering us a few head-turns from the people in the back pews.
Yep, the Croccos have arrived!
Of course, since it’s our family being baptized, they are in the front few rows so we have to make our way up there to join them. We slide past some aunts and uncles, whispering, “Sorry! Excuse me!” as we file in.
We are seated behind my sister-in-law and her husband, and the baby of honor, Joey; as well as my mother- and father-in-law; and my brother-in-law and his wife, and their three kids. Leo is almost 5, like Mikey, while Marco just turned 3 and Mila is 7 months old.
As soon as we sit, Mikey digs into his backpack to pull out some wrestling figurines to play with and immediately begins smashing them loudly against the wooden pews and making grunt sounds. Mike begins “shushing” Mikey, then looks to me when he feels the heat of eyes on him. I simply give him an “I told you so” look, because I told him those toys would get Mikey wound up and, as usual, I was right.
When it comes time for the families of those being baptized to approach the altar, my brother-in-law Tony’s wife, Marianne, turns around and hoists Mila into my arms at the same time “asking” if Mike and I would “keep and eye on the kids” because she and Tony are Joey’s Godparents and have to go up to the altar, as well. Marco and Leo then climb over the pew to join us and quickly take interest in the wrestlers.
Mila turns around in my arms to see who it is that her mother passed her off to, looks up at me with her big doe eyes, and immediately starts to fuss. Lucky for me, Mikey was a fussy baby so I know exactly how to handle this. I start bobbing her up and down on my knee and whispering “Look, there’s Momma, she’s right there!” as I point up front.
A loud thud and a grunt draw my attention to the boys playing next to me and I narrow my eyes at them, whispering a warning to my child, “Mikey…”
Mila then starts throwing her head back in my arms, so I adjust her and reach over to get a shaker toy thing from her car seat and try to entertain her. I feel relief when she grabs it and quiets down.
Then another boom from the boys. I whip my head to the side at the same time Mike whisper-shouts at them, “Boys, if you don’t keep it down you can’t play with these anymore.”
When I realize a brief pause in the ceremony I look up and see the priest staring at us. “Sorry,” I mouth. Tony and Marianne are grinning at us.
It occurs to me at that moment that Mike and I are accustomed to our 2:1 ratio. That is, two parents versus one child. We are not used to being outnumbered, especially by two.
The priest resumes the ceremony, and Mila starts fussing again. I reach into the car seat and pull out a teething ring, which she grabs and puts in her mouth. Then I hear a shout from one of the boys and I lean over and, with my jaw clenched and only moving my lips, I whisper-growl, “Mikey, Leo, Marco, settle down! This is your last warning!”
Mila throws the chew toy on the floor and I quickly swipe it back up.
Now, I’m one of those moms who will just wipe the toy off on my pants and give it right back to my kid. Marianne is not. But Aunt Mar isn’t looking over here so back in the baby’s mouth it goes!
Out of the corner of my eye I see a wrestler go flying, then Mike says “OK, enough!” and starts pulling the figures out of the boys’ hands, and is met with protest.
Mila spits the teething toy out and starts full on crying. Digging back into the recesses of my brain, I remember that when I couldn’t make Mikey happy when he was a baby, I would stand up with him and bounce him around or walk with him. So, I stand up and start to shuffle past the boys, who are now whining because Mike took the toys away, and when I happen to look behind me, I see every single set of eyes on us.
Then I realize it is again quiet, and I look up and see everyone at the altar also staring at us. Tony and Marianne are laughing. The priest is not.
“Sorry!” I mouth again, and finish exiting the pew and stand off to the side, jiggling a crying Mila. At this point, the boys are out of control, so Mike grabs them all by the scruff and starts shuffling them out of the pew, as well, and as he passes me he says, “We’re going outside.”
After what seems like the longest baptism of all time, Marianne comes back for Mila and I make no bones about telling her that they have too many kids.
Once the ceremony is over and Mike, Mikey and I get into the car to head to the reception, Mike turns to me and says, “Definitely one and done.”
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mother of a 4 ½-year old. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.