Taking Little Children To Church and Living To Tell About It

On those very rare occasions when all 10 of us attend the same Mass – Christmas, Easter – we have been told that we look like the perfect family:  well-behaved, clean, kneeling and standing at the right times……perfect big Catholic family. We’re not perfect of course, but it’s kind of nice of them to say.  What people seem to have thankfully forgotten is that it wasn’t always that way.

It wasn’t so long ago that I was THAT mom making a beeline for the vestibule with a screaming newborn whose demands for food were louder than communion bells, booming priests and ambitious church choirs.  Or grabbing the toddler by the scruff of the neck before he disappeared under the pew.  Or snatching the gum out of the curious hands that found it under the seat.  Yeah, THAT mom….eight times over.

We still laugh about #4’s obsession with all things firefighter and as a 3-year old he had a fireman hat permanently perched on his head.  The only time he would agree to take that hat off was for baths and bed.  With our pastor’s blessing, he wore it to church along with his matching bright red Superman cape.  He was a sight to behold.  One Sunday, while walking up to receive Communion with my husband, #4, with superhero strength to match his superhero outfit, managed to break away from hubby’s grip, dash faster than a speeding bullet past me and head straight for the communion bells placed at the base of the altar.   Before we could stop him, he was ringing those bells like the church was on fire.  How fitting for a firefighter; how embarrassing for his mom and dad; how hilarious for everyone else.

Then there was the time at weekday morning Mass that #6 got away from extremely pregnant me and made it as far as the organ at the front of the church before I caught up to him.  I don’t know what was worse – waddling after my son or carrying his screaming, kicking body out of the church hoping he wouldn’t put me into labour.

We used to resort to desperate measures to try to keep the kids quiet during Mass.  Feeding them junk food seemed to do the trick.  One of our parish priests had a practice of giving the little ones lollipops in the vestibule after Mass.  I would take extras every week and save them for the next Sunday and use them as pacifiers.  Usually this trick worked, but the kids got so used to them that we had to keep shoving more and more of the suckers into their mouths as they became super efficient at eating them.  It got to the point that the ushers would hand me lollipops as we entered the church.  One bundle for each young child.  I told the priest that I would start sending him my dental bills.

At the time, coping with young kids seemed so daunting and frustrating.  We thought it would never end.  But it did.  All too quickly.  Looking back, it wasn’t so tough and we now have some wonderful laughs over their antics.

When my husband and I, and our kids for that matter, see young families struggling with little children on Sunday, we make a point of encouraging them and helping out when we can.  It’s not easy.  The last thing parents need to deal with is criticism from people who are less than sympathetic to the plight of young families at Mass.

Dear parents of young children, I know it’s tough but it doesn’t last.  The important thing is that you are taking your family to church. One day, you’ll remember the way it was and have a good laugh.  You’ll look down the pew at your impeccably dressed, beautifully behaved family and thank God you persevered; and you and your family will encourage and help that mom and dad with the fidgety toddler and the hungry newborn.

Mass is beautiful.  Little children are beautiful.  They belong together.

Deo Gratias

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12 Responses to Taking Little Children To Church and Living To Tell About It

  1. “We still laugh about #4’s obsession with all things firefighter and as a 3-year old he had a fireman hat permanently perched on his head. The only time he would agree to take that hat off was for baths and bed. With our pastor’s blessing, he wore it to church along with his matching bright red Superman cape. He was a sight to behold. ”

    Are you sure you weren’t raising my kids instead of yours????

  2. SR says:

    This is such a wonderful and cute story. For those who have no patience for parents with young children in Mass, I always tell them, “We are Catholic you know and believe in life!” That pretty much gives me the “stunned look” I was hoping for:>). God Bless, SR

  3. SR, that’s really to-the-point and unfortunately, what a few people need to hear.

  4. Mr. V. says:

    Great post! Reminds me of the days when my son was younger. We only have one child, and he was a handful. We went to Italy on a trip one year, and were lucky enough to attend Mass at the Vatican one Sunday morning. We got there about 45 minutes early, cause we weren’t sure how crowded it would be. My son, who was four at the time, was excited at first about seeing the Pope. But, after waiting and waiting for so long for Mass to start, my son had had enough. About five minutes before Mass began, my son, who was on my shoulders, yet out a loud yell “I don’t want to see the Pope!” My wife and I were very embarrassed, but the people around us only smiled.

  5. Nicaela says:

    Beautiful post! I love your blog. We recently posted on the same topic in our little corner of cyberspace…seems to be a hot topic with us Catholic parents! Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement. It is too often that you hear derogatory comments about children at Mass, but as you say, it is where they belong.

  6. Love this post! We’re going through the toddler years for the 5th time and I was happy to be reminded that our little guy will grow out of the jumping, pulling, poking, screeching in the pew phase. Thanks for sharing! Thanks for sharing at Catholic Bloggers!

  7. Elisa says:

    Sigh. Most days are good for us. But my husband is deployed right now, so I do get an uneasy feeling before Mass every Sunday, wondering how my children will test my limits in Mass that day. But, in truth, they are getting better and better. And I am not too hard on them anymore. I just require them to be quiet (mostly) and sit still (somewhat). =)

  8. I admire the spouses of men and women who are deployed; it must be very difficult. Thank you for persevering. “Somewhat,” and “mostly,” words a parent lives by. Thanks for dropping by.

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