Going to mass/church with babies and young children can be tricky. You’re supposed to go to mass, sit, focus on God, all while pretending that you’re not going to lose your mind trying to wrangle your little angels.
The fact is, mass wasn’t designed to keep the attention of young children. Kids want to run, babies want to wiggle and crawl, and you just want your kids to stop fighting over the Cheerios you brought in an attempt to keep them distracted long enough for you to get through saying the Our Father or singing a prayer without having to make this face and angry whisper at them to behave.
What makes it worse is that you can feel not only the eyes of God upon you, but the eyes of all of the parishioners staring at you as well. It’s horrible, you think that they’re judging your parenting. You think that they’re wishing you’d JUST TAKE THE KIDS TO THE BACK OF THE CHURCH. You think that they’re saying, “Did you see her just point her finger! Ohhh she’s mad!” And then you’re thinking about them judging you, and you’re judging them for judging you IN CHURCH! But the odds are you’re wrong. The odds are that the majority of the parishioners have been in the EXACT same situation as you. In fact, some of them are in the exact situation as you WHILE you’re trying to get the kids to behave.
Yesterday at mass, my kids were going nuts in the pews. My youngest was squirmy, trying to nurse, then do alligator rolls in my arms, while the two eldest were arguing over Cheerios, telling me they were bored, and arguing over who would get to “guggle Mommy” after the baby was done nursing. It was embarrassing, and I whisper yelled A LOT. I won’t even talk about when Max dropped his pacifier and went forward and between the legs of the man in front of us on the kneeler. Or the part when both the girls decided they needed to go to the bathroom at the same time, and on our way back to the pew decided to RUN up the aisle. I mean, sure run to God with your hearts, but DO NOT RUN TO THE PEW!
It was a struggle. It was over an hour of thinking, “The Lord is testing me.” But guess what? After mass ended a woman from two pews back said to me, “Your family is beautiful! And it does get easier!” And then her husband also said, “Your family is beautiful.” I almost cried when they said that. Not everyone in the pews probably appreciates it screaming and the noise, but the fact is this: WHO CARES!? Children deserve to go to mass and be given a chance to develop a relationship with God.
Most days when my kids get rambunctious at church I have a few things I do with them to try to calm them. Here are my church survival tactics:
- Walk around the perimeter of the church with them – We walk up and down the side aisles and the back of the church A LOT. If they’re old enough to walk, this tires them out and can calm them down.
- Speaking of walking a lot, distract them while carrying them on these walks by looking at the stained glass and letting them touch the stained glass.
- Point out any pictures or statues in the church – You can make this into a fun game, “Where’s Mary? Where’s Jesus?” You can try to count how many images of Mary or Jesus are in the church. You can count how many crosses there are as well.
- Flip through the prayer books/hymnals with them – They can turn pages, you can try to find all of the alphabet on the pages together.
And when all else fails, you can try not to cry and just remember even Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14