Don't Give Up
After our second son was born we decided that me staying home was the best for our family, and our budget. I felt so good about our decision, and envisioned that my days would be full of crafts, baking, sweet moments with the boys, and daily mass. I know...I laughed at MYSELF as I wrote that. After a lot of trial and error, I came up with a nice easy schedule flow for our day that has been really wonderful but definitely did not include daily mass. I decided one morning several months back to try and take the boys on my own. Oliver had turned 2 a couple months before and Emilio was about 6 months. I was determined, but I could not shake the feeling that it was not going to go well. I chalked it up to natural concern when trying something new with our new family dynamic, and got us all ready to go. I had all the necessary precautions, a bottle, quiet mass toys, pacifies, and a full sippy cup.
I decided to leave the baby in his car seat and bring in the stroller so that I could have at least one of them contained. We made our way to one of the front pews and I noticed that thankfully there was a lovely woman that I knew well sitting right behind me. She would later prove to be INVALUABLE. A few things to note, mass at my parish is held in a small chapel, and it is usually pretty full of daily mass attendees. One of these regular attendees sat in front of us and looked back at me with what looked like annoyance as we noisily got settled in our pew but I tried to ignore her as Mass began. Everything started off well until our Pastor stood to read the Gospel, and I noticed that Oliver was not longer soothed by his pacifier and was starting to get wiggly. At the same time, Emilio started to protest the confines of his car seat. The lady in front of us turned to look at me again, this time OPENLY disapprovingly. This time I held her gaze. I was starting to sweat and my heartrate quickened, but I was NOT going to be judged for bringing my children to mass. As I picked up Emilio, Oliver started to say "UP! UP! UP!" and when I leaned down to shush him he screamed, "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! UP! UP! UP!"
I tried putting Oliver in the car seat, thinking that I could distract him, but that only angered him more because I was still not complying with his request. My friend, the one behind us in the pew, offered to hold the baby while I held Oliver and tried to soothe him. When Oliver rejected my attempts at helping him, she stepped in and distracted him for me. She was so encouraging and HELPFUL. I adore her for that. However, at this point the lady in front of us was looking back every few seconds and loudly sighing annoyed with us. When I stood to receive communion Oliver threw himself on the ground and I had to step OVER him to get into the communion line. He yelled even louder, "NO! NO! NO!" for the duration of mass. I did not even have the strength to defiantly stare back at the woman in the pew in front of me because I felt so defeated. As mass ended, I kneeled with my head down, tears stinging my eyes, waiting for the chapel to empty out so that I would not have to face any of the other people who had gone to mass that morning. But as I made my way to the door, an older woman came up to me and said, "You are such a good mom! Those boys are so adorable! Keep bringing them to Mass! Just keep at it" She was BEAMING at me. I mumbled a quiet thank you and walked quickly to my car so that she would not see me cry. That woman lifted me up when I felt so low and I know that that was the Lord speaking through her. It was his voice telling me, "DO NOT GIVE UP."
Mass can be hard with little ones. I have literally gotten into the car after strapping the boys in to their seats and asked my husband, "Soooo, what did Father say?" Yet, every Sunday we go because in order for our children to learn how to behave in mass, they actually have to GO to mass. My children, and your children, have the right to go to mass and experience Christ. We have the wonderful opportunity to show our children a faith that has so many beautiful things to offer and we cannot allow others to discourage us. In light of a recent article by a priest about his own opinions that children should not go to Mass until they are able to fully “understand” what is happening, I know it can be so easy to be discouraged. We expect our clergy to affirm our openness to life, not make us feel terrible for taking our children to Mass, so I know how hard it can be when we read toxic things like that that make us question ourselves and our choices for our children. I don’t think that the woman in the pew, or the priest who wrote that terribly misguided article are bad people. I do not think they meant to be unkind. I know that little ones can be a lot sometimes, BELIEVE ME I KNOW. But not taking them to Mass, for us, is simply not an option. So what can we do when our kids are causing a scene and it’s terribly distracting for others? One thing we can do is pray for those around us in mass who are distracted by our children just as much as we are, that they would show mercy and experience conversion through our children. We also remove our 1 1/2 year old to the vestibule pretty regularly because his screeching is INTENSE. Once he calms down, we head back into Mass and pray the calm remains.
I have not ventured to daily mass again since that day, but I think I will again soon. Not only for my children, but for the grace that I know comes from being with Christ at mass. As our baby has grown and is now a toddler as well, Mass is even harder. We often can’t hear what is going on, and I am sure their squealing is not helpful for the people around us. But you know what? We sit in the SAME pew every week, and the same people always sit near us, offering kind words, encouraging glances, and smiling at the kids when they are especially nuts. Recently my husband was in a conversation with our wonderful Pastor about how frustrating/embarrassing taking kids to Mass can be, his response? “All you have to worry about is what God thinks, and if other people glare or say anything about you taking your kids to mass, that is more of a reflection of them and the ways that they are not affirming life or realizing the importance of parents leading their children to Christ.” I LOVE OUR PASTOR. I think he nailed it on the head. So many times I worry about what others will think, and not what really matters; GOD. He is the only one that truly matters. So, I will hopefully venture to take the kids to daily mass again soon. Even if it goes poorly, which odds are high that it might, I will do what I can to help them encounter Christ. I will not give up.
What are some ways that you help your children enter into Mass? Moms of little ones, what are some ways you keep them semi-quiet? Give us all the tips!