That kid in church this morning was mine.
You know the one—sprawled out on the floor, throwing toys, talking 17 octaves above a whisper, pacing up and down the pews like a rabid dog.
Yes . . . THAT one.
And I am sure you also know how easily and freely the judgment flows when one of Heaven’s tiny blessings is distracting you from the Gospel every 30 seconds.
Why don’t they discipline that child?
Why don’t they take her into the cry room?
Why don’t they respect everyone else’s time of worship?
It’s OK. You can be honest because I have often wondered myself.
Last week I drove by our church to check the marquee for information about masses reopening. To my surprise, my 2-year-old instantly recognized where we were and began squealing, “Jesus! I see Jesus!” So today when we walked into Mass, I felt joyful in knowing we were finally returning to our spiritual home with a renewed sense of peace and hope. I was thrilled to be back in His holy presence.
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While my heart knows He was undoubtedly present, the only two things I felt certain of encountering were an out-of-routine toddler and many—so many—glaring eyeballs.
Initially, the idea of a smaller congregation seemed comforting. Yet within seconds of realizing that I had grossly underestimated how challenging it would be to remind my young daughter of church etiquette and behavioral expectations, the intimacy became suffocating.
I was a momma expecting joy, peace, and hope, but found instead shame, struggle, and defeat. I cried myself right up to Communion.
But we came to church today. For the first time in three months, when so many of our seats remain empty, we came. We showed up.
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I am sorry you were distracted. I was, too. But just as I wished for grace this morning, I have to be willing to extend it to my child as well. She is two, plain and simple. She did the best she could. And, if it will make you feel better, I can answer all those “Why don’t they . . .” questions:
- We discipline our child, we do. But please understand that before COVID-19, a few coloring sheets and a snack were enough to keep her engaged. I packed those things today, but they were not enough.
- We do not take our child to the cry room because we believe in the beauty and power of her actively participating in the Mass with us not only as a family but as an integral member of the Body of Christ. And also because when I began gathering our things to leave altogether, Father Anguiano stopped right in the middle of his homily to look me dead in the eyes and affirm, “It is OK that she’s here and making noise. It’s OK.” (A gift I so desperately needed at that moment.)
- We do respect other’s time of worship, INCLUDING HERS. Yes, she was loud, noisy, and somewhat obnoxious, but if you truly listened to all her gibber gabber, you would have caught bite-sized snippets of her faith too, like when she made the Sign of the Cross for the first time, or sang “Amen!” a few seconds too soon, or called out Jesus’s name when she saw the chalice being raised.
So please, for the next few months be patient of the families with young children returning to church.
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Extend some grace and a few extra smiles. Offer to help or offer up a silent prayer, whichever is most comfortable to you. But whatever you decide, remember we parents are trying our best—unruly children and all—to raise up the next generation of Saints and disciples the best we know how . . . IN the church (Luke 18:6).