Advice to Parents Bringing Small Kids to Mass


#1

Hi! Well, I'm not married and have no children of my own, so one of the pleasures that I have in attending Mass is getting to see other people bring their littles along. As an outsider, I've noticed a few things about parents and their kids that I think needs addressing, because I see the same thing over and over again. So, if you will be patient, I have some advice based on my observations.

Naturally, not being a parent myself, I don't know how 100% practical some of these are, so feel free to disregard the impractical ones.

Without further ado:

1) Sit near the front. Too often I see families sitting all the way near the back of our church, surrounded by their littles and the littles of others. I think parents of little kids think they must relegate themselves to the outlands out of courtesy to us without kids. It makes me feel uncomfortable because I know that in my church, the sound system is sometimes iffy, and really, those in the Church who are doing God's work by training their children need to be able to hear well and understand, so that they can teach their babies accurately. Of course, if the place is jammed packed, naturally someone's going to have to be at the front and someone's going to have to be at the back, but remember, you're the first educational foundation for your babies. You have to be well formed in your faith to teach them. Don't ever feel guilty for sitting where you can hear the homily better. It's an important part of your religious instruction.

2) Sing! Singing songs is one of the most fun, interesting parts of Mass to small children (if I recall correctly from my own childhood - I may have missed the homily and the Readings when I was small, but by golly I had most of "Gather" memorized!). Littles may not have the ability to comprehend the Mass, since they're still in their formative years, but hearing you sing and getting to sing along will help them get involved in Mass. Don't be embarrassed about your singing ability. As my priest Father Charles says - God gave you your voice! Give it right back to Him!

3) Whenever possible, bring your littles with you when you receive Communion. Remember that you're receiving the actual, physical Body and Blood of God Himself. The sooner they see your reverence for Jesus in the physical form, the sooner they'll start to understand the best way to love God and worship Him. Communion is wonderful, joyful, almost magical in the way it transforms people! They may not be able to receive yet, but your littles will have the pleasure of looking forward to joining with God just as you do!

4) Be aware of what sort of Parish activities are available after Mass. Get your kids involved in those activities. The Parish is your second home, where you can go to be close to God and other people who love God. You have a right to let your kids enjoy those activities, too!

Now, having said that, I have some advice for my fellow no-kid-types out there, either people who are older and have already seen their littles grow up, or to those like me without them at all.

1) Share seats! Parents with littles might need to rush out if there's an emergency diaper incident or if the baby can't stop crying. Be willing to take a seat in the middle of the pews, to let them have the end seats as needed.

2) Be nice! There are times when a baby or small child is going to cry and cry and cry. Sometimes that makes it hard to hear the homily or the Readings. It can be frustrating, but remember that God wants those littles there because they're part of His family and part of your Parish. Offer up your frustrations and be of cheerful heart - some day, those babies will be older kids, receiving their first communions, and the more you welcome them now, while they're small, the more they'll want to be part of the Catholic family when they're bigger.

3) Sing! Be happy! Smile during Mass! Remember, we're there to celebrate Christ and to focus on Him. By loving God as much as you can, and showing your love for Him in Mass, you're showing the next generation of Catholics what the joy and happiness of Catholicism is. Yes, sometimes the focus of the Mass is on damnation, which is serious and needs to be treated as such. Be thoughtful and prayerful about Hell and accept its reality, but be joyful about the outpouring of mercy that Jesus Christ offers to us all, and look at the opportunity to bring a little to God as a way of keeping people out of Hell. Ultimately, God wins, Hell loses, and it's this reality that we should celebrate!

God is beautiful and takes good care of us. I just want to see people with kids be able to enjoy the Mass fully, and see littles get the chance to experience the awe and joy of Mass as early as possible. Littles have this ability to grasp the beauty of Mass better than adults, like how they capture the magic of Christmas better than we do, but only if they're shown that Mass isn't boring and a drag.


#2

Good post, Tabsie, and I am a father of four, all under six.

Double kudos on the advice to move to the middle. I really cannot understand how people do not get this, or why people are so focused on being in a particular seat.


#3

Great post- all the more effective coming from a non parent. Now that my kids are grown I try to be very supportive to the families that I see with their little one. I especially take the time to tell the parents with large families how much I appreciate the courage and unselfishness to go aganst our current demographic trend.


#4

Congratulations on your kids! :smiley:

It’s so hard sometimes for parents because I always see people who would rather be on the outside, standing up and letting folks with kids in to the interior of the pews, but that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t think most single folks or folks without kids do it on purpose, but littles are little and emergency diaper runs are hectic enough without Mama or Daddy having to go, “Pardon me, pardon me, excuse me, pardon me,” in the middle of the homily.

And some people seem offended that the kids are in the church proper instead of the cry room or something. As a single woman, it’s easier for me to sit toward the back, in the center of the pew, and invest in a good Missal to suppliment what I hear than it is for a parent with his or her hands full. That’s why I’m encouraging people not to feel embarassed or ashamed if they have kids and sit toward the front - you guys have responsibilities toward your littles. And don’t be shy about asking someone to let you sit on the outside!


#5

[quote="kimdyuma, post:3, topic:202583"]
Great post- all the more effective coming from a non parent. Now that my kids are grown I try to be very supportive to the families that I see with their little one. I especially take the time to tell the parents with large families how much I appreciate the courage and unselfishness to go aganst our current demographic trend.

[/quote]

Good! The more supportive those of us without kids are to those of us with kids, the more those kids will grow up feeling like welcome members of the Catholic family! As Catholics, we have to work to shape the next generation. We want those kids to enjoy Heaven, right? So, that means those of us without kids need to be very patient. The last thing we want is to make a little feel unwelcome, so that when he or she is older, he or she won't participate in Mass, or come at all. :(


#6

Your post made me smile... thank you! :D


#7

[quote="Em_in_FL, post:6, topic:202583"]
Your post made me smile... thank you! :D

[/quote]

You're welcome!

I was inspired by a children's Mass my priest held. He described Mass as a big celebration - "When you go to a birthday party, you wear fancy clothes, listen to music, sing, and eat special foods, right?" Then he described all the parts of the Mass, from the candles to the corporal, as being tools we use to celebrate. I realized that kids need to be shown how much happiness there is at Mass, so I started watching folks with their kids.

...plus, not having any of my own, I enjoy seeing babies go to Mass and get to experience everything for the first time, or maybe not experience it, but at least understand for the first time.

Another thing I loved was when I was at Reconciliation one day and as I waited in line, I saw a man holding a baby take her up toward the Altar and showing her the Tabernacle. It was a precious moment seeing that baby's first introduction to the house of God. I think sometimes we people without littles forget how much we need littles in order to learn to be like them - humble, relying on God, and joyful. We need to treat the Mass like it's our first time going every time. Being mindful of the littles in our pews is a good way to remember to do that!


#8

A few notes

Littles don't always like to sing...so don't think parents aren't encourging their children if they're not singing or...if they're anything like children I've watched...have a tendency to sing their own songs.

And some people really, really, really don't like being in the middle of the pew. I HATE it. I think it comes from growing up and feeling squished. I would rather be tripped over than go in the middle. Moreoften, I'll relocate.


#9

Littles do make up their own songs a lot, don’t they? :smiley:

I feel like a lot of people subdue their voices because we’re not good singers - I’m an awful one myself. But most of the small children I meet like to chat or make noise, and being encouraged to sing by people, instead of shushed, gets them involved in the Mass. Mostly I just worry that parents aren’t letting themselves get into Mass because of having kids with them. I hate that some parents feel like second class citizens.

Actually, I’m with you on the pew thing - I prefer to sit at the very front, in the closest corner, because I’m hard of hearing (it’s easier when I can read the speaker’s lips as well as hear the Readings and homily) and because I’m a minor germ-o-phobe (I prefer to receive the Sacred Blood early on to avoid catching anything from the rim of the cup). Sometimes, though, we just have to put up with things that irk us (me especially with the receiving the Precious Blood). It was sort of a reminder to myself not to be jealous or pushy, but I see other people do it as well.

I do understand why you disagree, and appreciate your forthrightness. However, I’m going to have to disagree and keep my suggestion that people who are capable should take the middle seats (while I was strictly keeping this family oriented, because I was mostly addressing parents with small littles, it’s good to point out that younger folks should defer to the elderly when they have trouble finding seats as well, or those who need more room because, say, they have to bring oxygen tanks with them - one gent at my church has to sit on an end because of the bulk of his oxygen tank).

But again, there’s a level of practicality that needs to be looked at, which is why I say disregard those suggestions that aren’t practical.


#10

Thanks, Tabs!

So often, we hear parishoners say we need to keep kids at the back of the church so they can be removed if they get disruptive. Frankly, that's fantastically rude!

I'm the mother of an 11 year old son who has autism. The difference between sitting front and center and sitting in the back for a quick escape is like night and day. When we sit up front, my son can see what's going on and he can focus on the service. How can I expect him to pay attention to something he can't see or hear? It works so well that we asked his teacher to put him up front at school, and that works well for him too.

-MM-


#11

[quote="tabsie3210, post:1, topic:202583"]

1) Sit near the front. ** Too often I see families sitting all the way near the back of our church, surrounded by their littles and the littles of others. I think parents of little kids think they must relegate themselves to the outlands out of courtesy to us without kids. It makes me feel uncomfortable because I know that in my church, the sound system is sometimes iffy, and really, those in the Church who are doing God's work by training their children need to be able to hear well and understand, so that they can teach their babies accurately. Of course, if the place is jammed packed, naturally someone's going to have to be at the front and someone's going to have to be at the back, but remember, you're the first educational foundation for your babies. **You have to be well formed in your faith to teach them. Don't ever feel guilty for sitting where you can hear the homily better. It's an important part of your religious instruction.

[/quote]

:thumbsup:

Awesome post, the whole thing, Tabitha (from the Bible)
I especially like this one!


#12

I have a nephew who’s severely autistic. All kids learn better when they are able to be up-front and in the middle of something. That’s why, I think, some teachers used to put me in the back of the room (the worst thing I did in class was read a book from home when I finished my lessons or got bored with the lecture :wink: ) and other kids up front (those who could focus better when they were an active part of the lecture, but who were inclined to misbehave when away from the center of things. With an autistic child, according to my sister, it’s harder because that child has a tendency to solely focus on something, and any distractions can cause him big-time problems when he’s trying to learn.

Church isn’t a social pecking order. We’re neither slave nor free, woman nor man, Gentile nor Jew anymore, we’re just the body of Christ. Sit where you need to sit so that you can receive full instruction in the Scripture.


#13

I’m a grown woman with no littles and no husband. It’s my responsibility to see to my own religious instruction. If I can’t always hear the homily or make it out well due to the sound system, then I have to make myself work harder to understand exactly what’s being said and what it means. That’s my job.

It’s a whole different kettle of fish when you have a family. As a parent, one is responsible for knowing the faith and then passing the faith on to one’s littles. It becomes a juggle - pay attention to the kids but learn the lesson of the Mass and join the celebration. Since parenthood doesn’t seem to be my calling, at least not yet, then it’s my responsibility to assist parents in teaching their littles, and if that means getting out of the way so a family of six can sit up front, then that’s my responsibility. Mom and Dad have enough responsibility without me getting uppity.

Really, though, all Catholics, parents or non-parents, have to bring all the children they can to Christ. I’m my brother’s keeper - I have to make good decisions so that parents with kids can learn and teach effectively.

Sometimes I feel like I’m terribly, terribly selfish, and I know I sin and make mistakes (Thank GOD for Reconciliation! Amen!). I hope that by explaining what I see and what I feel, I can start to change me so I do a better job as a Catholic, and give other Catholics some good ideas to start with. I don’t pretend to know anything about how to raise kids, but I do know that I’m supposed to help, and I hope that this little bit might be useful to someone.


#14

Thank you for posting this! My husband and I often have frustrating experiences at Mass because of the looks we get from others... We have a two year old and one year old. It often amazes me how people will stare at us if we wait for a second before removing one of our kids from the pew. Obviously, if one of them is crying/screaming, etc, we head to the pseudo-cry room. We actually prefer to sit in the middle of the pew because the kiddos are less likely to try and escape if there are unfamiliar people on the ends. :)


#15

Well, we have four grandchildren, ranging from 7 months to 8 years. Occasionally, the little 7 month-young gal will raise a ruckus, but it's always short-lived since her mom, dad or frequently grandpa will give her the attention she demands. Usually our grandchildren are focused upon watching what's going on at the altar, with the candles, the brightly-colored vestments, the statues, colored windows, and people moving around and speaking.

Our 6 year-old is quite intent upon learning what's happening during Mass, and often asks me "where we are" in his little children's missal.

Children are a blessing, and always bring a smile to my grizzled old face!!! http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v313/ponyguy/luv.gif


#16

AMEN!!!

Love the post, LOVE the responses as well!

When my kids were little we always brought them to the early Mass because they were better behaved in the morning. We sat them as near to the front as possible. Now that they are older, they are very involved at Church. They have been altar servers, and have Cantored with me. My oldest is married with her own little one, and our second starts Confirmation this Fall.

Steph


#17

Congratulations on your littles! A pair of them under three - I bet it’s a ton of fun getting to show them things for the very first time!

I hadn’t thought about tiny escapees when I made the comment to let parents sit at the ends, which of course is why I was saying that one should disregard anything I suggested that wasn’t practical. Still, whatever lets you both care for your littles and get the religious instruction you need is what’s best.

We’re supposed to be like little children - treat everything like a gift, be joyful in all our works, love without constraint, and rely on God for all our needs. Watch littles in the receiving line with their parents during Communion. They’re so interested, curious, wanting to know what’s going on… they seem more “into” Communion than a lot of adults, even when they’re too young to receive. That’s why I think it’s a shame that parents don’t get encouraged to get into the Mass when they have their littles with them.


#18

[quote="Ponyguy, post:15, topic:202583"]
Well, we have four grandchildren, ranging from 7 months to 8 years. Occasionally, the little 7 month-young gal will raise a ruckus, but it's always short-lived since her mom, dad or frequently grandpa will give her the attention she demands. Usually our grandchildren are focused upon watching what's going on at the altar, with the candles, the brightly-colored vestments, the statues, colored windows, and people moving around and speaking.

Our 6 year-old is quite intent upon learning what's happening during Mass, and often asks me "where we are" in his little children's missal.

Children are a blessing, and always bring a smile to my grizzled old face!!! http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v313/ponyguy/luv.gif

[/quote]

Wee! Four grandkids to spoil, congrats!

Littles need frequent attention. It's part of being little. Some people seem so offended when kids act up during Mass, but I'm just happy that they're there. You can't always control a baby. People who have babies with them need to be given loving support, because they're trying to learn and to raise their littles right. I remember when I was a teen, my mother used to bring paper and crayons to Mass with us, and whenever we sat next to someone with an excited little, Mama would ask if it was okay to let the kid draw - she always got a smile from the mother, the kid was happy and could keep busy, and I always felt happy.

Your six-year-old is already having the fun of learning about Mass and is processing information so quickly - it's wonderful to hear that he or she is able to keep up in the Missal!

The nice part about being a grandparent is you get the fun of seeing littles learning about God twice. First, your own, then theirs! :D


#19

Bingo! You got them involved when they were littles and now that they’re adults or approaching adulthood, they have a better understanding of (and a deeper love for) the Church and the Mass. And that love will be passed on to their own littles. It’s a cycle that will work to win souls for God!

This is a very important subject to me because I don’t always feel like I love God enough - when I was younger I was an enthusiastic (if confused by the outside world) Catholic, and at times now that I’m older, I feel like I’m lukewarm. My biggest joy is in sharing the faith with children, who already know right from wrong and are learning to apply what they know to the world around them. If I could encourage their faith, then I know they will have an easier time loving God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strenght. But since I’m not a parent, I think maybe my job is to help parents out and make their jobs easier.

I just want kids to have fun, and to me, Catholicism is too much fun not to share.


#20

[quote="MommaT, post:14, topic:202583"]
We actually prefer to sit in the middle of the pew because the kiddos are less likely to try and escape if there are unfamiliar people on the ends. :)

[/quote]

hehe This is us too.


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