The Man on the X

There is no horror like hearing your six year old say during the most solemn, prayerful, silent part of the Catholic Mass, in the same voice she uses to ask for another chicken nugget across the kitchen, “Who is the man on the X?”

We are kneeling, hands clasped, eyes closed, but not her. She’s been staring at the front of the church, staring above our priest’s head, where that enormous X with the Man on it dangles from the ceiling.

This is the Man on the X at the front of our church.

This is the Man on the X at the front of our church.

Like any failed parent, my first reaction is to frantically look around to see who has heard. A dozen set of eyes dart away – down to their chests, up to the heavens, over to the other side of the pew. My second reaction as a now publicly failed parent is to whisper-hiss, “That’s Jesus!”

During all of this, my husband’s eyes remain closed, just like when our kids were babies, wailing in the wee hours of the morning. It’s the magical man gift of pretending not to be in the middle of our family’s most disgraceful moment yet.

We go to Mass. We read bible stories at bedtime. Our children go to Sunday School. They learn stories of Jesus, draw pictures of Jesus, have done everything short of make a clay baby Jesus.

Clearly, it wasn’t enough. Not when she asks about the Man on the X, which I would argue is far closer alphabetically to a lower case ‘t’, but this thinking probably confirms my failure.

She does know how to do prayer hands.

She does know how to do prayer hands.

This is how it gets you. Yes, it. Because I’m not taking the hit for this one. It is whatever force in the universe makes sure these moments happen in front of as many people as possible.

I have been the witness many times myself — to the young child who slapped his mother across the face, hard, in the middle of the grocery store, to the mother in the waiting room of the doctor’s office desperately trying to catch her child’s vomit in her hands, to the woman in the cocktail dress and high heels who misjudged her step up onto the curb and crashed to the ground in the middle of the intersection.

In each instance, the first thing the women did was look to see who saw, and each time, I quickly looked away. I didn’t think the toddler-slapped and vomit covered women were bad mothers, or the curb victim woman was stupid or careless. But I bet they did. I know they did.

When our son was about three years old, my husband took him with him to get the car serviced. My husband loves the waiting room of the car place, with its Starbucks coffee and good magazines. On this saturday the room was packed with customers, and our son was playing with the vending machine, chattering away, pulling and tugging on the handles, growing frustrated.dadcoffee

Finally, he turned to the waiting room and proclaimed, “This f***ing thing doesn’t work!”

My husband addressed the issue by pretending our son did not belong to him, never looking up from his magazine, sipping his coffee and turning the page.

I’ve decided that instead of hating myself because my daughter mistook Jesus for a random man hanging on the wrong letter, I need to be more like my husband. More like a man.

So, in the name of the Man on the X, take that, Universe.










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16 comments on “The Man on the X
  1. Hilarious – at least you all go to Church – we’re outcasts again because we don’t – heaven forbid (pun intended). I’ll never forget the horrified look, over dinner, when my Husband told a ‘friend’ that he’d probably embrace Islam if he wasn’t agnostic.

  2. Hi Jaye,

    I’m one of Kenny’s co-workers (and a fellow Catholic). I know I’ve heard a kid or two say something very similar during Mass. 🙂 Also, I was once a preschool teacher. I was wearing a crucifix when one of my little ones asked me, “Who’s that guy on the plus sign?”

    Just the fact that you’re going to Mass and taking your kids with you shows me that you’re far from a parental failure.

    Plus, I’m pretty sure that Man on the X would have giggled along with the rest of the congregation.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Guy on the plus sign…gotta love it. I hope you’re right, that our X-man would have laughed, too. I’m kinda counting on that.

  3. Jeanine says:

    That literally made me laugh out loud!! I hope to be as great a parent as the both of you!!

  4. Valerie Hoff says:

    Awesome. I bet she entertained a lot of people 🙂

  5. Lea-Anne says:

    I live for these moments! It’s the only way I get some good stories to tell. And thanks for the great advice. When in doubt, I’m going to ask myself “What would the man on the X do?”

  6. MikeinATL says:

    Similar story: Last Christmas Eve, our family was attending the Childern’s Christmas Mass at St. Luke’s Episcopal. My 5 year old grand daughter was sitting on my lap during the sermon. The priest was talking about the meaning of Christmas.

    In a not-so-quiet voice, my granddaughter queried me: “Papa, is tomorrow really Jesus’ birthday?”

    When I told her it was, she responded: “Did anyone think to order him a cake?”

  7. You totally rocked telling that story! Love your writing and love that you are ‘just a mom’ just like the rest of us. I love “the man on the X” humiliation because I can relate … I’ve caught more puke and sushed more toddlers than I ever thought … how about the one where they point to the man taking up the entire booth in McDonald’s exclaiming like they are merely talking about hair color, “Mommy! That man is so FAT!!”
    I should have just kept reading the paper too …
    Way to go on your webpage – great post!

  8. Stacey says:

    That is great! We all have our moments. I’m sure more are to come!

  9. lisa says:

    Too funny…I remember you telling me the story about Jude. .that’s priceless..

  10. Jill Becker says:

    Hmmm… As Iris’s godmother… have a dropped a ball here?? Delightful writing and thank God you are married to the man who keeps his eyes closed. I’m married to the same man, so to speak… It’s supreme balance. Otherwise the world would explode. Xoxo
    ( Nice Iris angel picture)

  11. David Laufer says:

    #1, you got her to church and she is asking questions
    #2, your clergy is happy you are there and welcomes children
    #3, you ain’t seen nothing yet! stay on your toes, she is going to ask you some hum dingers before she leaves your care.
    #4 kids are what life is all about. As long as you come at them with love in your heart, your parenting successes will be transcendent, and even your mistakes will be fine.

  12. Michael King says:

    I love it! As they say, “Outta the mouths of babes…”

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