We have some experience with moving, so we have some understanding of what it is to be welcomed, and we have been extremely fortunate in that regard. Last year we moved just before we had a baby and neighbors brought meals and the parents at our kids’ school put together a gift basket when our baby arrived. We moved again a few months later and our neighbors two houses down welcomed us with a note, an Amazon gift card, and a nice bottle of wine. They welcomed us into their home and immediately became part of the family. We spent afternoons and evenings in their backyard, running around with our kids, throwing water balloons, lighting Chinese lanterns, releasing butterflies. It was very hard to leave them.
I was worried that this time we would not have the same luck. I felt like the odds were against us. How many times can a person move and find great neighbors? So far, we have been very happy. Our neighbors here have been so welcoming and kind. They are older, but they seem to have already adopted us like lost little puppies.
Last night we had dinner with some of my husband’s new colleagues and bosses, and they were all wonderful too. They seem like real people, and although I am still existing in a state of culture shock, they were all fairly relatable. They have all gone out of their way to be helpful, and they seem like good, smart, fun, interesting people.
So, our neighbors are great, HW’s colleagues and their wives seem great, that leaves school and our Church.
I don’t know that much about the school situation yet, but we had a play date with one of the other mom’s, and she seems very nice. There will be an adjustment period for everyone, of course, but my feeling is that everyone there will also be very warm and welcoming. It helps that it’s a private school. We all chose the same school because education is a priority to all of us, and we all agree this school offers the best programs. That’s a pretty good-sized common ground to start from.
The Church piece is going to be more of a challenge. We are bad Catholics, but we attend every Sunday, if we are able. To be sure, there are some Sundays when someone wakes up with a stomachache or a sore throat and they could probably make it through one hour of Mass, but we don’t go because it just feels like one thing too many. I know, that’s terrible, but sometimes getting four kids dressed and ready and packed to go, and knowing that someone is going to scream or have a fit or poop at in inappropriate time is a lot, and adding a mystery illness on top of that is just too much.
At our last location we were involved, though not as involved as we wanted to be. We were there for a short period of time and so much happened, and it seemed like we battled illness for two months straight. The place we were before that we were extremely involved, and our priest became part of our family. We are still close with him, and we still consider him one of our dearest friends. It was nice to feel like we were part of a real community, and I hope to find that here.
There are a lot of parishes to choose from. If you’re not Catholic, this is how it works. Each parish is assigned to a geographical location, but each person is free to choose which parish he or she wants to be a part of. Usually joining a parish involves a meeting with one of the priests, filling out some basic paperwork, and receiving envelopes with your name, or completely a form online. Simple. The difficult part is finding the right parish for you.
I try not to be too picky. I think about my grandparents, who didn’t have a choice. Their parish was the only option for miles and miles, and if they couldn’t get along with the priest or the other parishioners, they would just have to deal with it. Parish “shopping” seems like cheating. I am also aware of the fact that the bar was set pretty high with our last few experiences, and I try to keep an open mind and remember that every parish has its own way of doing things, and sometimes it takes time to appreciate why things are done differently.
So with all of that in mind, we have decided to try a few different parishes before we commit. We found one, it’s gorgeous, and it comes highly recommended as the kind of place we want to be a part of. The school is supposed to be good, in case we ever decide to go that route, and they have an active and vibrant community. Still, I haven’t felt particularly welcome there.
I know we’re new, and it’s not like I’m expecting them to roll out the red carpet or anything. I also know we have four kids, which is three more than most people around here have, and two more than everyone else I’ve seen, but it is a Catholic Church. I don’t have a problem with cry rooms qua cry rooms, but it’s like if a child is going to do anything more than softly turn the page of a book or shift ever so slightly in his or her seat, that’s where they expect to send you, but even in the cry room, if a child actually cries, people expect you to leave.
The first time it happened, I thought, well, maybe this isn’t the Mass specifically for children. That’s fine, we’ll try another. But today, we went to the Mass specifically designated as the one for kids. My kids are great. They are amazing. But they are kids, and they squirm, and they whisper (often questions about what something means – a pretty good reason to talk during Mass if you ask me), and sometimes, they forget and talk in their inside voices, and every once in a while, one of the little ones lets out a scream, or seven, and sometimes, because we are at the potty “training”* stage, one yells something about having to poop. Big deal. If you aren’t completely and utterly charmed by my children, something is seriously wrong with you, and if you can’t be bothered to offer them the sign of peace because they disrupted your concentration, you need to go back to CCD, because clearly you missed some of the more important lessons.
We are going to try some of the other parishes. They maybe not be as fancy, or we may end up going to Mass in Spanish, or at a less convenient time, but we will find a place that is right for us, or we’ll find a way to change the place with the grumpies. We may be bad Catholics, but at least we aren’t that bad.
*They call it potty training, but my experience is more like, kids decide they want to use the toilet and train us to drop what we are doing and race them to the seat. Rinse and repeat 900 times until their little legs can touch the ground.