"Cranky Scowlmouths" and Kids in Mass - What's the Answer?

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cry_in_massThe wise and witty Patrick Madrid has a great post over at his blog today on the age old dilemma of noisy kids in Mass. If I had a dollar for every time this topic has come up in the Catholic blogosphere, I could like afford to buy myself that iPad I’ve been so desperately wanting!  But the truth is, we keep talking about this topic because — like so many other things about our Church — it’s universal!  Little kids are challenged to sit through Mass, moms may become frustrated and feel self conscious, and elderly parishioners whose prayers are disrupted can be less than charitable.  On any given Sunday morning, it’s happening all across the world in a variety of languages.

I concur 100% with Patrick Madrid’s suggestion that charity and patience are needed on both sides of this equation.  I have “been there and done that”, having likely parented two of the most rambunctious toddlers ever to grace the pew of a Catholic Church.  My kids were horrible in Mass, and I often felt on the verge of tears trying to keep them under control.  Since I was frequently in church by myself with them, leaving gracefully and quietly involved a true production.  Somehow, by the grace of God, we got through those years intact.

I don’t have a solution, only prayers and well wishes for the moms and dads who are currently in the trenches.  A few practicalities – sit near the front, so your kids can engage with the liturgy.  I get distracted if I sit too far back, and I’m not two!  Arrive early enough that you can sit in an “escape pattern” and please try to be considerate of those around you if your little one goes crazy.  For your own spiritual fulfillment, read the liturgy of the word prior to going to Mass, since you likely won’t hear too much of it on Sunday.  Be calm – I swear, our kids can smell our annoyance, and seem to thrive on it!  Be patient with other members of the Body of Christ who may not be charitable towards you – it’s likely that they too have their own crosses to bear.  And know that this too shall pass.  If you persevere, you will be rewarded with a family that is unified in the Eucharist.  And that’s a beautiful thing…

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About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

4 Comments

  1. Great perspective! I think I spent a decade in the crying room. So much so that my four kids still prefer to go there first. My biggest pet peeve is parents who bring their little ones to Mass with Cheerios, Goldfish, sippy cups, etc. When your kid throws the sippy cup full of apple juice and it sprays all over a fellow parishioner, would you hand them a baby wipe and smile…or run to the quickest exit?

  2. A couple of pastors back, we had a pastor who used to announce: “Children, if your parent gets a little loud or cranky, feel free to bring them to the reconciliation room until they are quiet and happy again.” A little humor went a long way there, and people did take advantage of that room to quiet down a loud child. This church has no cry room and the vestibule doesn’t have speakers.

    I too don’t like seeing food, drinks or toys in church. We would let our children bring “Bible books” when they were small (board books on Bible stories, or children’s Bibles, or books with prayers). But the other night at my daughter’s confirmation, there was a child a few pews away who had a plastic box of colored pencils. That made a good bit of noise every time he rummaged for a different color. And food? Really, there is no need. Feed the child a snack in the car on the way to church. Make sure he drinks and uses the toilet before you sit down. Other than an infant, no one needs to be fed in church.

  3. I agree with what everyone said and I hate to see kids with food. I must admit though that a well timed Tootsie Roll Lolly Pop goes a long way to keeping a kid quiet. I outlaw them by 3-4 years old but they have saved my sanity in church. The same can be said for “Cry Rooms” even though they can be a purgatory. What really annoys me is seeing adults or older kids/teens come into church and immediately walk into the cry room and sit there instead of in a half empty church. I just want to say, “What are you doing in here? Leave please. The reason we are in here is to not disturb adults, we don’t need more adults in here!”

  4. I have an almost two year-old and a 3-month old. I don’t see anything wrong with a snack at mass for my toddler or having some quiet toys. I am teaching her to stay in the pew, and yes, sometimes eating a snack does the trick, or having some juice. It’s a miracle that we make it to mass at all some days, because we don’t have a chance to feed our daughter a snack before church. So please, show some mercy. Toddlers do not need to fast. Yes, she will not be allowed to always snack or have a sippy cup, but it can keep her more focused than an empty stomach. I think it’s key to have things for children to have something to “do” while in the pews when their attention diverges from our beautiful mass. They don’t have the cognitive skills to understand what’s going one. So, yes, bring board books about mass or the Bible, but parents need to engage their kids at mass–tell them what’s going on. “We’re going to listen to the reading in the Bible. See the book?” “There’s Jesus’s body. Look.” or “There’s Jesus’s blood.” Kids need to be primed to learn and pay attention appropriate to their age. Show some love for those of us who want to give our children a snack or sippy cup during mass!

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