Sunday, March 16, 2008

Notes from a Church Pew #3: church by proxy

By some small stroke of fortune, Firstborn and The Small(er) One slumbered peacefully until well past 9am this morning but this state of bliss had a flip-side. As Alpha and I have come to rely on their shrill demands for breakfast as our weekend alarm call, we too slumbered and missed the 10am Mass.

Big deal, I hear you say, finger poised on the mouse as you prepare to go a-blogging in a more secular zone. No, I'm not about to confess my sins and bewail my lack of Godliness; my sleeping for longer than a gnat's fart (as is usual) just happened to deliver an entirely new experience.

Rocking up at midday Mass, I felt confused as I scanned the crowds. Where were the coiffed heads of the usual genuflecting Euro-contingent? The designer labels? The dizzying array of cashmere? All I could see were ordinary looking people, mostly on their own, getting on with their churchy thing, heads down in serious contemplation. No sidelong glances, no loud hailing of neighbours and school-gate conspirators, no elegant pause at the front of the church to see and be seen. Was I in the right place? Yes. There was Father H in his special Palm Sunday robes and the same hatchet-faced old lady handing out the hymn books at the front of the church, glaring at my chattering/ screaming kids as she always does.

Then I noticed at least four pews packed to squeezing point with hordes of Filipino ladies, all whisper-gossiping merrily and accompanied by obviously non-Filipino children of varying shapes and sizes.

Yep, it was the Kensington nannies out with their charges.

Now, excuse me for being a traditional kind of kill-joy, but isn't the weekend a time when parents should be hanging out with their kids? During the week a fair proportion of us have to work (although, as I mentioned before in one of my previous Church Pew posts, Kensington is a statistical anomaly when it comes to working wives) but surely Sunday is widely accepted as being a time for family?

I am aware that some people have to work at weekends. Maybe it just so happened that this weekend lots of mummies and daddies decided to take a trip to rekindle the marital flames, leaving the kids in the tender care of their nannies. Maybe the nannies begged their employers to allow them to take the children to Mass for the good of their little souls. Or maybe Kensington mummies are so used to having anything they want, without putting in a whole lot of effort, that sending the nanny to church with the kids - kind of a Church by proxy situation - seems like a reasonable thing to do. Maybe...I don't know, I've run out of maybes.

Sure, it's none of my business if parents want to do non-kid related stuff on a Sunday morning (or any other morning, afternoon or evening) and so leave their offspring in the care of the nanny. After all, wealthy parents have been avoiding bringing up their own children for centuries. There just seems to be something wrong about it.

Am I being a little smug (me good parent, you bad parent)? Am I a little jealous (think of all that free time!)? Or am I perhaps just looking for yet another stick with which to beat the cliche that is the Kensington Mummy?

Anything is possible and nothing in life is for sure - except of course for one thing, that other people's lives are an endless source of fascination.


Sugarmama said...

Family time aside, I've got to say I think it's more than a little weird to send your kids to church with someone else. Isn't religious education supposed to be part of the parents' job description? (This from someone who hasn't attended church since the 1980's...)

Anonymous said...

To be generous, the parents might be neglectful of their own souls but want to assure a happy eternity for their children (and their nannies). Quite responsible really.

On the other hand, they could be louche, neglectful parents still abed on a Sunday morning in a drunken stupor, and those saintlike nannies are protecting the souls of their innocent charges.

Yet again, the giggling irreligeous nannies could have been ordered by busy parents to take the children to church to keep their places at school.

I think this needs more investigation and could be a serious issue for the church.

By the by, did you hear that our new German Pope has abolished Limbo. I stay awake at night worrying about this. Can you help?

Heidi Hess Saxton said...

I completely agree ... religious education is and has always been the responsibility of parents.

Actually, limbo was never an official teaching of the Church. However, you can rest easy ... the intention is still there. What he is saying is that God wants ALL babies in heaven with him ... even those (who through no fault of their own) were not baptized. We can trust in the mercy of God.

Here's an article about it, in case someone thinks I'm making this up.

Happy Easter!