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This post is part of a correspondence between Frankie and Adam, two toddlers from big Catholic families. For more explanation, go here.
To see Adam’s perspective over at Equipping Catholic Families, go here.
We’re both the youngest (so far) of big families. I don’t know about you, but I love throwing my mom for a loop, just when she thinks she has all this kid stuff figured out.
My question for you is: What are your family’s Mass survival strategies?
My family always sits right up front. In the very first pew if possible. That way we can see what’s going on in the Mass, rather than just a sea of grown up backs in front of us. It really helps us pay better attention. I like to see my biggest brother serving the Mass. But I do sometimes get so excited when I see him that I shout out his name. I really need to work on that.
We don’t usually have the problem of grownups asking us to skootch over to the middle, since we take up a whole pew. But I can see how that would be frustrating. Nobody wants to get stuck in the middle, not the old folks or the young folks.
If I start getting antsy my Dad will pick me up and, in a whisper, direct my attention to the priest, or the crucifix, or the windows. He also very quietly explains what’s going on. It quiets me down, and before I’m three I’ll have a pretty good handle on the order of the Mass.
Sometimes my mom or dad will have to take me out if I bonk my head or throw a fit. But they don’t mind walking past all the pews. Most people smile sympathetically.
But we always come right back into Mass as quickly as possible. They don’t want me to think that it’s playtime for me in the back of the church. It’s nice for me to see the good example of my brothers and sisters and the other parishioners sitting quietly and paying attention to the Mass. That’s why our family would never, ever sit in a cry room.* Our church doesn’t have one because it was built in 1797, so we don’t have to worry about it.
I am allowed to have snacks and toys (that aren’t messy or noisy) during Mass, but once I turn two I will have to give that up, like my brothers and sisters before me did. My parents think that two years old is about when I’ll be ready to be held accountable for my behavior in Mass. Then, if I get taken out of Mass for misbehaving I will have to sit quietly in a corner outside until we can go back in. You’re two. Did this ever happen to you? How bad is it?
We think that practice makes perfect. So, we try to go to Mass as often as possible. Every Sunday, of course, but we also usually go to Mass as a family on Saturday. And anyone who is up early enough can go to daily Mass with my parents. I make it a point to be up early.
Another thing that helps my biggest brothers and sister to pay attention during Mass is having a MagnifiKid, (thanks Nana!) so they can follow along with all the readings and prayers. It’s easier for them to keep track of where we are than with the regular missal, since they don’t have to flip around. It also has cute games and comics that they are NOT supposed to look at during Mass.
If we attend a Mass where a children’s liturgy is offered, my siblings who have not yet received their First Communion may go, but the others stay, so that they may hear a real homily by a priest. My parents think that’s important.
Our family wears church clothes to church. My mom says, “If we can bother to put on a bathing suit to go to the beach, we can certainly bother to put on khakis and a collared shirt to go to Mass.”
We always stay in the pew until the recessional hymn is finished. If we are at a church that has an Adoration Chapel we always stop in after Mass to say good morning to Jesus. I like to blow Him a kiss. My mom figures that if all eight of us go in, we only have to stay seven and a half minutes to make an hour of Adoration! But I have to admit, I rarely make it that long. My mom or dad or one of my oldest siblings will take me out if I get too antsy.
Then we get to go out and see everyone. People are so happy to see a big family at Mass. We remind many people of their own families, now all grown up. Sometimes ladies scoop me out of my mom’s arms and wander around with me. But she doesn’t mind.
If there are donuts, and the WHOLE FAMILY was good, we usually get to go have some. It’s a good motivation not to blow it for everyone.
I liked hearing about what your family does to survive Mass, and I can’t wait to talk next time.
Keep ’em on their toes!
*p.s. Frankie’s Mom here. Reading this over, I realize that it sounds like we’ve really got the system down. And I would say that for the most part, we do. But in the interest of full disclosure, Frankie isn’t old enough to remember how things used to be. As a mother of two, living in Chicago, I used to have the cry room all to myself for daily Mass and my two-year-old would run laps around the pews while I tried to pay attention to what was going on in the main church. I do NOT recommend this method. I just mention it in case you happen to be a young mother in the all-little-kids phase. If you’re anything like I was, there’s nowhere to go but up.
I would also add that sitting in the front pew is good for kids, but it’s even better for me. It is certainly our responsibility as parents to train our children to be well-behaved in Mass, and of course, we need to go out of Mass with babies and toddlers who are being disruptive.
But it can be VERY FRUSTRATING when I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job and my baby is just making baby noises here and there and people in front of us turn around to look and see what’s making that noise. It makes me want to hoist my baby in the air and say “IT’S A BABY! That’s what’s making those baby noises you hear. A baby.” But, of course, that wouldn’t be charitable.
And for all I know, the people don’t mean anything unpleasant by doing it. It just makes me feel defensive. Sitting in the front pew solves all of that. I’ll still try my best not to be disruptive, but if people take curious glances at us, I won’t see it.
P.S. If you happen to be a person who is very troubled by the presence of noisy babies in Mass, I would recommend the perspective of Father Ryan Erlenbush in a post entitled Crying Children Call to Mind the Mystery of the Mass and the resulting comment-tastrophy.