We Went to Mass Again! . . .

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We went to Mass again today. Abbey (4), Joseph (nearly 2), and myself. We arrived early, we had a quiet, non-messy snack and spill proof water bottles and coloring sheets with us, and we took our time looking at and using the Holy water to bless ourselves with the sign of the cross.

We went to mass before, and had a pretty successful, but slightly disheartening time of it. So, I was all geared up to try again. . .

We strolled slowly toward the second pew, taking in all the works of art and different interesting things about the church (small children find so many things interesting, don’t they!?), and  settled into the second pew, exactly where we sat last week. Joseph pointed out the working dog that accompanies one of the older ladies sitting in the first pew. I reminded him that we’e not going to bother the dog. He’s working. Then I walked Abbey through kneeling and saying a prayer. She was completely adorable and very serious about her prayer.

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. God is great, God is good, he will visit us today at church in the bread. Thank you God! Amen.”

Abbey got busy looking at our board book bible, quietly talking to herself about the pictures of the scriptures. Joseph decided he wanted to walk to the end of the pew (the rest of the pew was empty) and back. I took a deep breath.

We are remembering the rules of Mass! I thought. We were starting out strong.

A Friendly Voice of Discourse

One of the ladies in the first pew turned around and informed me that there was a “children’s room” in the back of the church that would be more appropriate for Joseph.

“I know that it is there, but we have tried it and it does not work for us. They get bored in there, and I feel that it is a place that enables screaming and crying, and separates us from the Mass. We’re going to attend mass right here, because this is what is working for us.” I said. For good measure, I added “I don’t think that they will disturb anyone with sounds of joy or raising their voices in song”

I felt like that was polite, and explained my position well. I didn’t want to say “There’s no way I’m sitting in that loud, insane penalty box where neither I nor my kids can see anything!”

How it Went

Mass went well. We sang, we prayed, we mostly remembered that the kneelers are for our knees and not our feet. . . Abbey enjoyed her children’s church class, and Joseph only got a little impatient during the homily and creed, during which, I just participated in mass by walking him on the sides of the church. It pleased him, calmed him down, and made it so that I could participate and didn’t have to leave Mass.

Abbey returned to us after her class, and I reminded her of the rules. I also reminded her that it’s important to be quiet during the consecration and the liturgy of the Eucharist. I tempted her curiosity by asking her to watch carefully for the bread, which the Priest would make into the Body of Christ with prayer. . . it all went remarkably well. Abbey and Joe were only trivially mischievous, and we enjoyed Mass, all the way through Communion.

After Communion, I decided that we would make our way down to where fellowship happens after church for some quiet time before donuts and refreshments. Last week, it was at the announcement time that Joe lost it, so I decided to just avoid that by stepping out proactively and letting him run and play a bit downstairs while the hall was still empty. He played with some toys and Abbey and I read a book.

After Mass

We were eating our donuts and refreshments when the same lady who had suggested the “family room” before mass came up to seemingly pseudo apologize for what she said. It wasn’t so much an apology as it was an attempt at smoothing over what she had said. “I hope you weren’t offended by what I said before mass” she said.

I ensured her that I was not offended and that we had enjoyed Mass. What she said next, though, was the kicker. If I were a different type of person, the following discussion probably would have embarrassed me and made me feel like never coming to church again.

“It’s nice to have children in church when they are older and understand Mass, but at his age (pointing to Joseph) it’s just not age-approriate” she said. And then, the kicker. “I’m sorry, Do you understand what age appropriate means?”

As if I’m an idiot of a parent? Jeesh.

“Yes, I understand very well what age appropriate means, and I am guiding him through the Mass experience in an age appropriate manner. I can’t expect him to sit the whole time, he tries his best. I do believe that my children are enriched by attending mass, and I will be attending Mass with my children, whether you think it is age appropriate or not. How are they supposed to learn that Mass is important to our faith if we never attend? How will they learn, if they’re never here?”

She replied, “You can bring your children, but only when it’s appropriate” she said. Again she asked me if I knew what age-appropriate is. “I mean, have you ever taken a child development course? Age appropriate. Do you know what that means? If you are frustrated and he is frustrated, then no one gets to enjoy mass.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I was hot under the collar at this point, but I wanted to be nice. “I understand fully what age appropriate means”, I said, “and I am sorry that you have an issue with my children attending mass. It is in no way inappropriate for them to attend with me, and I will continue to listen to their needs and attend mass as long as it works for our family. I seems like you have an interest in continuing to talk to me about this, but I do not like your patronizing tone, so I’d like to end this discussion in a friendly manner. . . right now, please”

She had no idea what to say to me. I honestly couldn’t believe I had kept it together and not cried while she tried to convince me that I . . . 1. was stupid, 2. was wrong, and 3. shouldn’t be bringing my toddler to Mass. But I did keep it together, and she just walked away.

“Thank you” I said as she turned away from me.

I’m sure she had a lovely time chatting about me with her friends over coffee, and I felt like a bit of a freak, sitting alone with my children, eating donuts and drinking orange juice while the rest of the congregation milled around me, but I stuck to my beliefs, and I let my children know how proud I was of their behavior at Mass, and their interest in our faith.

A Little Bit of Salvation

I’m glad I stayed for a few more minutes instead of leaving right after my conversation with the “it’s not appropriate” lady. . . because a man came by and told me how beautiful my children are, and then another came by and said “they grow up so fast! Enjoy them now while they’re little!” He also reminded me, when I asked if they had been quiet enough in church (because of what the lady said to me about age-appropriateness) that if anyone says anything to me, to remember how many people were in attendance that didn’t say a word.

“How many people were up there at Mass with you?” he said.

I answered “About 200?”

“See, ONE out of two hundred people. Think of the 199 members that didn’t say anything abrasive. We are glad you’re here, and I hope that you won’t let the words of one church goer color your opinion of the whole church. Fr. Gary loves seeing children at the mass. I hope that you come again!”

So “Let’s Call it a Wash” Again

So, I’m calling this Sunday another wash in the scorebook. Mass went well, with only minor impatience on Joseph’s part, and a little goofing off from Abbey, and for the one abrasive “you’re wrong to bring your children to Mass” comment, there was a comforting comment from the nice man with the mustache – that reminded me to remember this Sunday for the joy I feel in sharing my faith with my children, instead of the comments, well meaning or not, of those who might disagree with me.

I’m feeling pretty good about my dedication to going to church with my children and teaching them about Mass from an early age. As long as it continues to work for our family, I will continue to do just as I am doing. . . it’s honestly been going a lot better behavior wise than I expected. Now, if I can just stay consistent.

 

Comments

  1. That gentleman was right on! There’s 200 people in church who do NOT think your kids were a problem- and they WEREN’T! It sounds like it went really well and the kids had a good time! I’d call it a success!

    • Thanks, Laura! Your support strengthens my heart and reminds me that I am doing the right thing! Like I told April, I was watching Joseph for signs that he was getting restless, and I had things on hand to help him stay calm and happy. I think that is totally age-appropriate :) oh, wait. According to the know-it-all lady, I don’t know what age appropriate means.

      I keep wondering if she would have approached me were I accompanied by a friend, or were a bit older, or if my husband had been with us. . .

      Anyway, it matters not. We went to Mass again and I enjoyed SO MUCH worshipping with my babies and watching them take in the sights and sounds and holiness of Mass! It was great, and I find great joy in that!

  2. April Baumiller says:

    as the parent you know what and where is appropriate for your child. regardless of age! it’s your call because no child is the same. if you feel your children should be in church with and you know what their limits are then that is your call. not some lady who, from what it sounds like, can’t tolerate the sound of a pin drop in church. go you!!! keep it up :) hope mass is just as fun an enjoyable next week.

    • Thanks April! Honestly, Joseph was so quiet and well behaved. He was mobile in the pew, getting down, walking to another seat, and sitting there, looking at the hymnals, accidentally bumping something with his head, etc. but he was very quiet and sweet. There was absolutely no misbehavior or boundary pushing that would indicate to me that he was uncomfortable in any way for the greater part of the service. And when I did feel that tension from him, I met his need for movement by walking him around, out of the line of sight of others, in order to calm him and still be able to participate in the Mass.

      I appreciate your support!!!!

  3. Wow. You handled that amazingly well. The Holy Spirit was truly with you. Obviously, that woman thought she was the Pope and can make blanket rules.

    • The Holy Spirit was definitely with me in that moment, because I have been known to have quite the “mama bear” outbursts in the past when criticized, or especially when my child is judged. I was honestly shocked when I had the gentle words to state my point somewhat eloquently, because inside, I was raging mad that she had come to me, looking to discourage me from attending Mass in the church with my children.

      I know that what she would like me to do is become discouraged, and go sit in the cry room like she suggested. But, happily, I have a strong heart, and even stronger friends and fellow Christian and Catholic mamas to encourage me to attend without being discriminated against. Thank you for your support!

  4. I’m glad you didn’t let that woman get to you. You handled her nicer than I would have.

    Are there *no* other children in that parish? Because it shouldn’t be this strange that a woman is bringing children to Mass, that the priest and one of the parishioners feels the need to comment on it.

    If Age-Appropriate Woman says anything to you again, remind her that Jesus’s disciples tried to keep the children away from Him, and He said, “Let the little children come to me,” and then said that anyone who receives a little child has received Him. Since she’s ostensibly there to receive Him, then she needs to receive the children God sent as well.

    • She definitely “got to me” for a moment, and then I remembered all the beautiful, spirited support I got last week, cheering me on for sharing my faith with my children. . . and I remembered: “No, I’m in the right here! You have no right to try and shame me or make me feel like I don’t know what I’m doing!”

      I tried to take a deep breath, and say something strong but gentle to make her go away. And she did go away :) I wanted to set a good example for my children, and I think I did. Next time, I’ll be even more prepared . . . thank you for the context of the “Let the little children come to me” scripture!

      • Can you bring a bodyguard or a friend next week? Someone to stand beside you and look intimidating enough that everyone leaves you alone? **sigh**

        I like Celine’s idea that this is a test. Satan doesn’t want you to go to church, so he’s putting all these very helpful ideas into everyone’s head. “Oh, I’ll tell her about the cry room! I’ll just tell her it’s inappropriate to let the little children come to Jesus! Then she’ll be enlightened and so wise!” *shaking my head**

        • LOL. My husband will be home from patrol soon, and I’ll entice him to come to church with us by telling him I need a bodyguard from the little old bitties who like to say borderline mean things about his family to my face . . . maybe he’ll jump at that opportunity.

          I can just hear him now: “So, I don’t have to do all the kneeling and hand signals and stuff, but I just have to be there so people don’t mess with you? OK. I can do that” LMAO

  5. Keep doing what you’re doing. Consider the misinformed parishioner a “test”. You passed, with flying colors.

  6. I am so happy that you stuck it out. I am just very sorry that your family was treated like that at Mass. Honestly, I think some people just have to invent things to complain about. This being cold and flu season, I often hear coughing and sneezing during Mass yet I hear no one suggest that one should stay home if one is mildly ill.

    I also think it is a good strategy to sit up towards the front. Often my childre have requested it to me. After all, from a child’s perspective, they only see backs of heads and people’s bottoms when we sit further back. I can imagine how much harder it is for them to focus on something and pay attention when that is the case.

    Many prayers for the misinformed woman and prayers for your strength and grace as you deal with this. Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job so far.

  7. Good for you! Our priest is not the least bit impatient with the children, even when they cry or are loud. He is VERY impatient with adults, etc. I think that you did the right thing, especially with being up in the front where the kids could see everything going on. The man who came up to afterwards was an angel–he was right! Only one grumpy lady thought it was a problem–think of all of those who were probably so happy to see your little ones figuring out the mass experience. Keep up the great work!

  8. Good job, mama (and kiddos!). And I am giving thanks for the man with the mustache. You are welcomed there, by no less than Jesus himself.

  9. Dude, your ACTUAL conversation with the lady sounds like the kind I just get to have in my head after the snotty person has left. ;) Kudos & big cheers to you for keeping it together and defending yourself and your kids!

    I’ve had my share of problems bringing kids to (Protestant) church, and whenever I moan about it, there are always people telling me their Catholic church is so open to having kids of whatever age there, so I was surprised to hear of your problems. But I’m glad the other people there were welcoming and didn’t agree with that woman. I really think you did great!

  10. Good for you!!! I can understand the lady’s desire to make sure you were aware of the cry room, but all that arguing about age-appropriateness was absurd.

    My son is 8. I have been bringing him to lengthy Episcopal services at least once a week since he was two weeks old. Our church does not have a cry room but does have a nursery, and Sunday school for ages 3-12 during part of the service. At first I would not have put my baby in the nursery anyway, because it was so much easier to be able to nurse him at the first sign of hunger than to pump bottles for him or have a nursery worker disrupt the service by coming to get me and then miss part of the service by going down to the nursery. As he got older, I would have been willing to have him go to Sunday school, but he never wanted to go as he wanted to be with me–so I gently insisted on gradually more and more appropriate behavior. He’s been behaving extremely well for years now and is a lot more engaged in church than the kids who go to Sunday school and then come in and read/draw/play/snack through the Eucharist.

    Our parish is awesome, and I only once got any guff about having my son with me (and NEVER any criticism for breastfeeding in church!)–when he was about 18 months, a man in his sixties told me I “should” put him in the nursery because he was “distracting.” I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry that he bothered you!” and thereafter made a point of sitting as far away from that man as possible, to avoid bothering him.

    In speaking with Ms. Age Appropriate, it would have been polite to ask if Joseph’s behavior had bothered her. I think you did a great job of responding to what she actually said, but it may be that she was speaking of her “concern” for him rather than her own feelings because she thought it was more polite. (As if it isn’t totally rude to criticize your parenting and speak to you as if you’re stupid!) Sometimes if you can show that you care about a person’s feelings and your child’s effect on them, the criticism of your child and you will end. But I really think you handled it fine! Hang in there and keep going to church!

  11. That is awful behavior from that woman. We sometimes get the side-eye, but never been approached like that. Good for you for standing up for what was right! (Because it IS right — Jesus said “let the little children come to me.”)

    I probably would have asked if she worked at the church (was she an usher or something?). If not, it might give her pause as to why she is pestering you. And if so, I would address it with the priest because he ought to know that his volunteers are discouraging the littlest parishioners from attending Mass.

    Actually no. I probably wouldn’t have asked. I probably would have slunk home and cried. I HATE public criticism. But that’s what I would WANT to have done …

    Good on you for giving a calm, informed answer. Maybe she will think twice before doing that to someone else.

    • It was hard not to grab my babies, run to the car, and cry. Actually, I may have cried in the car a little, but the babies didn’t notice. Thanks for your support! I’ll be attending tomorrow with the kiddos (we’ve been deterred by the snow these past couple weeks) and I’m sure I’ll have something to blog about after we celebrate mass together :)

      I enjoy connecting with you!

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