Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Rules of Being Protestant

There are accepted rules when it comes to being Protestant.

The host is crackers and grape juice, which leaves Protestants of today worrying about the number of carbs they’re taking in on Sunday morning.

At some point, usually near the end of the service, someone will pass a plate down your pew. You’re supposed to put money in it. Just picture yourself at a party in college although nobody’s going to return with a fresh keg.

You’re supposed to sit quietly, unless it’s time to sing, then it’s acceptable to mumble because there are plenty of people who’ll sing over you, just like in elementary school.

And children get their own special sermon at the front of the sanctuary, during which they sit looking at the back of the sanctuary to see if their parents are watching.

This is the Boy’s favorite part of the service. He loves to wave at us.

“Would the children like to come forward?” the preacher asked.

A few children, pushed into the aisles by their parents, ventured forward. The Boy sprinted. He’d already sat still 10 whole minutes.

But something unexpected happened; the Girl squirmed out of my wife’s arms.

“I wann go, too,” she said.

What? She’d never asked to go to the children’s sermon before. She’d always been content to color, practice saying Daddy’s special “football words,” or sit in the nursery and win animal crackers off the other toddlers at craps.

But the children’s sermon? She’s only two. The Boy’s four, he can handle the responsibility of sitting on steps quietly and waving. He also has the advantage of never pulling a skirt over his head.

“Are you sure?” my wife asked.

“Uh huh,” the Girl said and we let her follow her brother to the front.

There’s something about a pretty little girl in a pink dress and ponytail that doesn’t scream, “I’ll age you prematurely,” but my wife and I are no longer fooled.

The Girl walked in the general direction of the children’s sermon and stopped.

“She’s not going up there,” my wife whispered.

She was right.

The Girl turned, looked at us, grinned, and started weaving her way through the empty rows of pews that always dominate the front of Protestant church services. Muffled laughter ran through the congregation, not necessarily because this was cute – it was – but because everyone knew it embarrassed the heck out of us.

“When she comes close enough,” my wife said, “I’m going to grab her.”

The Girl crept closer. My wife watched her like a lion stalking a gazelle. Three feet away she looked at my wife, turned and skittered back down the aisle.

“Don’t look her in the eyes,” my wife said. “She’s like a wild animal. If she knows we’re looking at her, she won’t get close to us.”

So we employed the deer in the forest “if I can’t see it, it can’t see me” technique and my wife finally caught her. Yes, the Child Running Loose in the Sanctuary Routine is one of the accepted rules of being a Protestant. And it’s cute, as long as the dress stays below her head.

Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt

You can order Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Toddlers, Teenagers -- They're All The Same

The toddler screamed. You know, toddlers scream a lot.

“No,” she wailed, yanking her hand out of mine. “My do it.”

We were crossing the street and when it comes to the street, my wife and I have four rules for our four- and two-year-old, 1) look both ways before going into the street, 2) never go into the street, 3) if crossing the street with Mommy or Daddy, hold one of their hands, and 4) if you violate rules One through Three, you’re shipped to work hard labor in a Siberian logging camp in 1974.

The Girl wanted to violate Rule Three. Not on my watch, chicky-pie.

She screamed again, mainly because I’d tucked her under my arm like a football and, for some reason, she didn’t like it. Toddlers have control problems – if they’re not in control, it’s a problem.

“Just wait until she’s 16,” my wife said, holding the hand of our non-screaming four-year-old son, who had to be enjoying this. “Then we’re really in trouble.

The Girl at 16? Oh, dear Lord. We could already see what was coming. The clothes, the fingernail polish, the Girl still thinking she can cross the street on her own.

“No, no. Put me down. Put me down. Put me down,” the Girl screamed, and screamed, and screamed, and screamed. I could only assume she thought repeating the same thing over and over would work, even though it never does. The Girl unsuccessfully employs this method when asking to watch extra television, get candy, drink coffee, or take the minivan out for a death race with those punks from the Pretty Pony Daycare. Although my wife and I appreciate her tenacity, her success rate is as low as Middle East peace talks.

Yeah, toddlers are teenagers, only shorter.

In a couple of years when the Girl decides to pull up her skirt and chew on the hem during the pre-school Christmas program, it’ll be OK. If it happens in 14 years, our house will get calls from the principal, the pastor, angry parents, and a bunch of teenage boys asking her for a date.

By the way, the answer is no, jerks.

I put the Girl down on the other side of the street and she stopped screaming, squinted at me, stomped down the sidewalk in a huff, and, if she’d had the motor skills to give me The Finger, she just may have done it.

Yep, toddlers are teenagers.

- They both yell, “I’ll get it, I’ll get it,” and sprint through the house whenever the telephone rings.

- They’re both fascinated with cell phones, computers and remote controls, and they both know how to operate these devices better than you.

- Hygiene is only an issue when it’s inconvenient for them.

- TV ranks ahead of Mom and Dad. … So do soft drinks, playing with dust particles in the window, and anything else I care to write.

- A lot of times you can’t understand what they’re saying. With toddlers, it eventually gets better.

- They both love body art. For a toddler, it’s Sharpie-colored fingernails and a Scooby Doo sticker on their shirt. For a teen, it’s a visible “why can’t I get a job?” piercing and a Scooby Doo tattoo on their butt.

- They both want to pick out their own clothes. When a toddler decides to wear a skirt so small her diaper shows, it’s cute. When a teenager wears a skirt so small her panties show, Daddy hemorrhages.

- At some point, they both hate you. Toddlers make up faster because they can’t pour their own milk.

- They both want to make their own mistakes. For a toddler, this is done while discovering the laws of Newtonian physics – like gravity. For a teen, it’s going to the wrong kind of party, being on Facebook instead of studying, or going to a college Daddy hates and for which he won’t pay a penny of tuition.

Yep, I’m already thinking about that. Keep it in mind that the next time we cross the street.

Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt

You can order Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at