A topic that my husband and I hear a lot is about children in the Mass, but more specifically the younger ones and even babies. First and foremost, I am writing based on my experience as a mother of a 3 year old and it is just my personal opinion on the subject.
It is very hard no matter how well behaved your child is to be with them at Mass for an hour and at times longer. Not only do we have to find a way to entertain them, but also be in the Mass and experience the Mass. This is very challenging and I could only imagine how other families with more children deal with it. My husband and I hear a lot of opinions on this matter from other couples. The popular one seems to be, “why even bother taking my kid to Mass if I can’t even pay attention?”. There has been times that I feel the same way. I think it happens to any parent and not just at Mass but at any public place.
We have been blessed that Frankie has been a pretty well-behaved little boy MOST of the time, but he has his days as we have ours. I think the best thing I can recommend is PATIENCE!!! As parents we have to be that role model to our children and if we “skip” church on Sundays because of the difficulty of not wanting to “deal” with a child there then don’t even bother going. But don’t expect your child later on to like anything to do with Religion and expect him or her to give you a hard time when it comes time to take them to Religious Education classes. And if your dream is to see them get married through the Catholic Church and the time comes that they don’t want to, then remember the times you “skipped” Mass because it was too much trouble.
My husband and I have come to the conclusion that we have to be mindful and respectful of the parishioners around us. We don’t like to go inside “the cry room”. We feel that we don’t enjoy the Mass in there, but if the time comes that we need to go in there then it has to be done. If your child is being loud, noisy, crying, etc. and your many evil stares, pinches and promises of treats is not working, then why bother those around you and take them away from the experience of the Mass. That is the time you or your spouse have to take turns in removing that child from the pew and taking him to the cry room, the bathroom, or what we like to do is take him outside for a breather and a few threatening words of why he should be behaving and voila! This seems to work like a charm.
As Frankie gets older we have incorporated him better in explaining what is going on and he seems to really like learning about different things. He particularly loves it when we sing out loud. He is loving and memorizing the songs. It soothes him when I pick him up and move from side to side to the beat of a song. He also loves to go around and give the peace to those around him. We also give him his very own envelope to put in the collection as this makes him feel part of the mass.
He looks up to our priest (Father Carlos Vega) and when the homily comes, we tell him to pay attention to what Father is saying that he is talking to him about God. We even ask him sometimes what Father is saying and although 90% of the time he doesn’t know it shows him that that is a moment we pay attention and be quiet. He also looks forward to the end. If it is Father Vega giving the Mass he loves to wait for him at the foot of the isle and he extends his hand out to walk out with Father. He feels special and I wish more priests would do this. Maybe have all the kids rounded up in the altar after the final blessing and have them all walk out with him. (Just an idea)
He also gets to hold a small basket and say “please feed the needy”! At every doorway we have someone collecting money for our St. Vincent De Paul food pantry. He loves to get the money, thanks people, and the older parishioners love to go to him to give him their spare change or dollars. If we start to incorporate our kids early on then they are heading down the right track.
As a parent, we all have a right to enjoy the liturgy. The parishioners have a right to welcome families with small children and also have the patience, but parents also have the responsibility to remove themselves of situations that disrupt those around them. We have to be mindful that those around us want to experience the liturgy without being taken out of it due to distractions.
All in all, don’t give up parents. keep trying! Patience!