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Toddler’s Guide to Orthodox Parents

TACOMA — God exists outside time, therefore all times are the time to loudly raise our voice to the Lord. Parents might say that it’s not appropriate to be loud at all times, but we know better. This is why most of the liturgy is written in the present tense. Follow this guide for proper education of Orthodox parents on the importance of the “holy noise” Father Alexander Schmemann talked about in his final sermon. Here are some tips:

“Silent wrist tug” is a perfect game to play with other toddlers, because you can build quite a bit of excitement before making noise, which your parents will barely tolerate. Then, all involved can shriek and giggle when the sermon begins.

Focus noisemaking on the quiet parts of the liturgy, and behave well during the loud hymns. Other adults will think judgmental things about your parents, but your parents know that picking up a child making a moderate amount noise will cause him or her to escalate to loud shrieking, so they wait until a loud hymn to discipline you.

If your mom says, “You are behaving very badly, and I am going to take you outside,” you should repeat that back to her in a very bossy tone next week as the thing you want, “I am behaving badly, and I have to go outside.” Once outside, show glee at every punishment parents can think of. If your parent succeeds in breaking your defiance and making you cry by holding you upside-down by the ankles, meet us next week at the playground for gymnastics lessons so you’ll learn how to resist that, too.

Your dad may have established “My head is not a drum” early on, but he didn’t say “trampoline.” Long prostrations during Presanctified Liturgies are a great time to sit on his head and bounce.

If your mother frowns at you while holding you, this means she needs you to stretch her mouth back in to a smile with your hands, a game which is way more fun than play dough.
If your gums are hurting, your mother’s headscarf, especially the chin knot, is especially good for teething. Or, if you’re not allowed to have this, you can shriek. Your mom will appreciate being given a choice.

Many Orthodox churches do not have pews. This is because they are toddler parade grounds on which we demonstrate how much progress we have been making on learning to crawl or walk. Also, if one of your parents is in the choir and the other is not, this is an opportunity to make them feel equally loved by playing “shuttle run,” going from one parent to the other every five minutes.

If your parent appears to be about to do something uncivilized, such as take you outside, here are some things you can do to charm people:

  • Find old ladies, smile brightly, and ask what their names are.
  • Find a child your age of the opposite sex, hold hands, and slowly walk across the church. This will take your parents’ mind off punishment and instead lead them to make wedding plans.
  • When a child on the opposite side of the church shrieks, be silent for 60 seconds. This will make your parents glad that their child is not the noisiest in the church right now.
  • Similarly, be silent when a childless adult’s cell phone goes off in church, as the other adult’s mistake will make them happy.
  • Sing along with the choir without being asked. Or, announce loudly after the anaphora that “Theotokos song next.” People will ponder this for a moment and be quite impressed when the choir sings “It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos…”

If you would like to know how a wireless microphone works, smile at a priest, or deacon point at the microphone, and ask, “How dat work?” The clergyman will be delighted to show you which part you talk in to, and won’t suspect that you’re planning to grab one later. Orthodox churches often have tables with tablecloths that go all the way to the floor, and they are great places to hide while you broadcast nursery rhymes.

If you have been making progress on potty training, you should find a quiet moment during the service to announce you need to put something in the potty, and make clear which part of your body is going to put it there. Bonus points for calling out exactly what it is you intend to produce.

The Litany of Supplication and the Litany of the Catechumens is official toddler-walking time outside the church. Don’t let your parents forget that. This is why the deacon says “catechumens depart!” We’re pretty sure “catechumen” is Greek for “pre-schooler.”

Orthodox people believe in consistency in worship, and toddlers can be great at enforcing that. For example, if your father refrains from venerating an icon because there is a priest hearing confessions next to it, that is when you should bellow, “Kiss Jesus!” Furthermore, you should demand to kiss every icon in the church, because who is going to say no to that?

Your parents need prosphora. Take a piece from the bowl, then ask your dad to pick you up. Hold on to the bread for a little while, and later, when he’s talking with another adult, sneak the piece of bread in to his open mouth the way he does so with spoonfuls of strained spinach for you. This is a good way at the end of the service to return the love your parents show to you.

This story was filed by recovering reporter Thomas Eric Ruthford, who is working on a more serious book, Please Cry: A Father’s View Outside the Incubator, which he blogs about here.

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About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

4 comments on “Toddler’s Guide to Orthodox Parents

  1. Or this toddler: who, while being held by a grandparent in the Communion, loudly proclaimed “I BE QUIET!”

  2. ” A Church with no crying is a Church that’s dying!”

  3. This is so great. Thank you.

  4. I enjoyed this so much. Splendidly done, Thomas.

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