My Son, Our Church & His Loose Lips

My palms sweat. My hands tremble. My brain races as I pray for the end of the nightmare unfolding in front of my eyes and the eyes of dozens of people in our community.

“This is the worst part of my week,” I whisper to my wife, as the crowd giggles with laughter and looks quickly in our direction.

“Make it stop, make it stop,” I mutter to myself, hoping that no one hears me.

Then, it stops and I breathe easy, relaxing into my pew, safe in the knowledge that I won’t have to endure the “what-if’s” and the “how-will-I-explain-this” for another 7 days.

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A little background is in order. Our oldest son, 4, is a charmer. Everyone in our church community knows him and loves him and the kid eats up the attention. On some Sunday mornings, I feel like I actually see him “turn it on”, i.e., getting into his character, as we enter church and he prepares to hold court. He is as fearless with his mouth as he is with his preschool dance moves. He also has a mind for memorization and the timing of a vaudeville comic. He’s a triple threat.

A few weeks ago, I told my wife how much I enjoy our preacher’s sermons. I also mentioned that I thought sometimes they go on a little long. My son was in the room and heard our conversation.

Cut to the following Sunday. We saw the preacher in church and I said hello and shook his hand. My son instantly chimed in with, “Daddy thinks your sermons go on too long.”

Silence.

Then laughter. The preacher burst out laughing, rubbed my son’s head and told me how adorable he was. I slinked back to my seat and debated renouncing my religion forever. How do you explain to a 4-year-old that, in the jargon of my journalism career, some things are off-the-record?

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Each Sunday the children in our church are called to the altar to participate in a Children’s Moment. The preacher turns that week’s scripture lesson into a teaching moment for the kids. Some Sundays it is a memorable, emotional moment. Some Sundays it is pure comic relief for the congregation, watching each child try to speak louder than the others and answer questions with a child’s brutal honesty.

My son, on most Sundays, treats the Children’s Moment like his personal showcase. He calls it “being on stage.” There was the time he lost the dollar bill he was supposed to put in the collection basket and got so upset that he had nearly everyone in the church reaching into their pockets for spare change. And there was the time he ran off the altar yelling that he had to go potty. He’s spontaneous, funny and unpredictable.

It’s that last word  — unpredictable — that makes me nearly sweat right through my Sunday church clothes. What might emerge from that boy’s mouth on the altar? Will he share the “bad word” that Daddy said last night? Will he speak up about the spanking he got for misbehaving the other day? Will he tell the congregation about how mommy and daddy yelled at him last night?

One longtime member of the church recently told me that she “loves to watch” my son because he’s so “entertaining.”

Entertaining I can live with. Spilling the family secrets, I prefer to avoid.

(Photo credit: Pieter Musterd / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND)

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The Beginning
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Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I’m one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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