Monday, June 14, 2010


the family in which i grew up was large by today's standards. there were 7 children in my family. a pair of boys and a gaggle of girls. well, 5 girls anyway. is that a gaggle? if not a gaggle, it was certainly a giggle.

each night as we would come together for family prayer before bedtime, my dad, being the head of the household, took the patriarchal role of assigning one member of the family to offer the prayer. more often than not, one of us would make a silly remark which would set us all to laughing- including my mom. but never my dad.

in fact, my earliest memory of the prayer laughter routine was when i was probably 4 or 5 years old and we lived in longmont, colorado. my mom had just finished changing the cloth diaper of the youngest child and it was neatly folded on the plastic bloomer pants that were sitting on the yellowish green shag carpet of the living room, just waiting to make it to the laundry.

dad called everyone around for prayers and as we knelt and waited for reverence, my mom bowed her body down toward the diaper, with outstretched arms and said, "wetty diapie, wettie diapie, not a poopy diapie, but a wettie diapie." and that garnered major giggles from the three oldest daughters, who joined in as she repeated paying homage to the diaper gods.

it was funny. and we memorized this little mantra and have repeated it at various moments in our family's history. and usually, it draws immediate laughter.

now, as a mother, i wonder if my mom created that little diaper worship to break up the monotony of that particular day. i can't imagine that mothering five small children under the age of 9 was an easy task. and, please, cloth diapers without a diaper service? ugh, no thank you.

but back to dad and prayer time, he would play the stern father and attempt to bring order to the circle. and his attempts were rarely successful. and usually, the laughter would heighten.

and his irritation would heighten. and then my sweet mother would scold us children for laughing and not being serious when our father was trying to have family prayer. and we would be a little repentant and calm down just enough for whomever was called on to say the prayer. and the prayer would begin. and one by one, stifled laughter could be heard among the "we thank thee's" and the "we ask thee's" until the whole family was again doubled over in laughter. mostly reverent, silent laughter. mostly.

at the conclusion of the prayer my dad would voice his disappointment in our behavior and we would gather in the center for a group family hug where my mom would declare, "Love ya little family."

on an ordinary, reverent prayer night, my dad would add, "christmas eve gift." but, on the nights of the laughing prayer, he would get up from the circle and swiftly leave the room- disgusted with his ill-behaved offspring.

and we were off to bed.

i'm pretty sure that as my dad readied himself for bed his thoughts returned to family prayer time and, despite the frustrations of collecting the attentions of 8 unruly people, how he loved his family, including that giggle of girls.

p.s. i am really quite impressed by your knowledge of the second grade joke i shared the other day. plus, i am impressed that one or two of you may have even known additional stanzas. this tells me that you communicate with your children-- or at least, it tells me that you don't totally ignore your children as they are jabbering away all day long while you are concentrating on the daily tasks of parenting. yay for the parents!


Jessica said...

our family prayers always consisted of laughing! and still do...just last week as the entire family was gathered in a small lake house for vacation, my dad called on my oldest sister to say the prayer, and before she even started we were all cracking up. family prayers are the heart of the family!

Cynthia said...

I'm from a 5 girl family (5 in 7 years) I know the kind of giggling you're talking about!

Emzwee said...

That was a perfect description of our family. Yep, dad waiting to be reverent, mom sometimes helping, sometimes creating the laughter and then just lots of laughter. Good memories.