At Mass this Sunday we crept in late (girls night, just got back) and sat on the crap seats at the back. They are crap because one's back becomes unbearably hot due to radiator right behind the seat, and one person at the end of the bench has to sit with head constantly bowed (looking very holy) because, inexplicably, there is a lectern stowed there, forcing the devoted one to lean forward 45 degrees in a prayerful pose.
We settled down to the usual quiet cacophony of 'Shhh.'
'Will you be quiet and sit down.'
'Take your coat off if you are hot.'
'Leave your coat on if you're cold.'
All spoken with skill and dexterity of experienced ventriloquist; through side of mouth, with sharp expulsion of air, and minimum of sound. I am a master, or rather, mistress of this skill.
Kick off with a Resounding Hymn. My husband sang Very Loudly. He didn't really know the tune, but had a really good go.
We stood, sat, knelt, and did all the right things. Only a limited amount of Bottom Scratching (why do boys need to have a good scratch in public?) and Persistent Whispering going on.
Then it was time for the sermon. We settled ourselves down. Children swinging legs and picking noses. Their own. My daughter and I noticed an utterly sweet little girl, a couple of rows ahead, asleep on her father's lap.
'That is so sweet,' whispered my daughter.
'You were like that' I tell her. She looks at me and you can see her thinking.
'Oh,' she says. And does that little shrug she does when she's pleased.
We sit and listen.
Two rows down, where the little girl is asleep, the father slowly gets up, turns around and grins maniacally at all of us. We grin back. Not really getting the joke. He lifts the little girl high into his arms, and does the 'Excuse me, sorry, so sorry,' thing all down his row. We all look. He gets to the end and starts up towards us, still with the rictus grin. We all grin back, our facial muscles starting to ache.
Then we see it.
His entire left trouser leg is soaking wet. And steaming.
He staggers past us with little girl slowly waking up. With his grin still plastered to his face, now red with exertion and embarrassment, he sidles past us and out of the door. I try to show him my total support and sympathy in my returning smile. I hope I didn't look horribly scary, like Matron in Carry on Nursing. You know, all pursued lips and mascara.
We looked at the door from time to time as we heard signs of a cleaning up process going on outside.
'Look darling, let Daddy wipe his leg.'
'Yes, we will change your pants but Daddy needs to make his trousers less wet.'
It was fascinating. Just a little more fascinating than... golly, what was the sermon about?
Back came Daddy. We all craned our neck to see what he would be wearing.
The same. But just a little less steamy.
A huge, Europe shaped gash of damp all over his left leg. It had even seeped round the back. Child with bare legs and clean pants. We know because she didn't like the colour. We heard through the door.
He grinned some more. We grinned back.
Down the row he went. Sorry, Excuse me, so sorry. And sat down.
And cuddled his little daughter close.
What a hero.
I love being a parent now. Because you get men like that. Totally there for their children and totally up for all the embarrassment that goes with parenthood.
Just like my husband.