I dread going to Mass because of my kids


#1

I really need a lot of prayers with this. I really struggle with being at mass with my kids (especially the youngest two ages 1 and 2). In fact many days I just dread it. We last maybe 15 minutes in the pews before one of them wants to walk/crawl around or starts to get loud. I'm usually the only one who tries at all to keep the little ones quiet. We already have to separate the older two to keep them from goofing around. They in turn try to play with the babies and just make matters worse. We've tried sitting in the front, but that is always disastrous and I end up walking out anyway with both babies in front of the whole congregation.

We don't have a nursery. So I take them out to the narthex where usually there are other people sitting. My girls feel this is free reign and will go every which way for "entertainment". I feel like we might as well be at the park because all I'm doing is chasing the girls around.

I never hear the scriptures, and forget being able to follow the homily. I feel like I should just stay home with the babies as to avoid any interruption during mass which happens every Sunday.

I would just trudge along right now, but my biggest stress is that we are expecting baby #5 in Sept. This really does cause me a lot of anxiety. The thought of having a newborn who will need to nurse, in which I will also be left to trying to wrangle a 1 and 2 year old by myself is so overwhelming. My husband is not very helpful. Usually he'll just let the noise happen. On the few times he's taken the 2 year old out, you can hear her screaming through the closed doors as she is a mommies girl. :rolleyes:

I'm at a loss as to what to do. When I discuss it with my husband, all he really says is to offer my "suffering" to the Lord. More like just deal with it and "this too shall pass". That's just not very helpful.

I apologize if this sounds like just complaining. I've debated whether or not to even post this here because I don't want to come across as a whiner (which I'm known to do in the past). I really need prayers and much intersession for my children and myself.


#2

I feel for you.

Anyway possible that you and DH can split up mass times? He goes at one time, you go at another time.

So the smallest get to stay home sometimes. Sometimes you get to go all by yourself...

It's more time consuming this way....but at least you could focus on the Mass.


#3

I think the logistics of babies at Mass is something each family has to work out for themselves, and no it is not wrong to choose a parish, at least during these years, solely on the basis of what it offers in the way of a nursery or preschool on Sunday. For us, and DD#2 the only thing that worked between the time the baby is old enough to crawl, squirm and climb, through the yelling years, until they were at least 3 and old enough to sit quietly with a book or toy, was attending separate Masses with only the older children. We judged it was impossible to either participate properly ourselves or to teach the older children how to participate in any other way.

DD#1 and SIL however have taken all their kids to Mass all along, even the babies when they were old enough to go out (she, her MIL and me are rather conservative on this topic esp. in winter). They have a real teamwork going although they had their share of issues, Jessica insisted on wearing red rubber boots all summer when she was 2, and refused to wear shoes at all that winter, and she was a screamer, so her dad spent plenty of time with her in the narthex which was set up for that purpose. Their parish and the church building itself were very kid friendly and they had a nursery but they decided that just make the kids think Mass was playtime so did not use it. They did participate in the preschool however, because there the children were actually taught using a lectionary based program and had Mass celebrated for them properly in the school chapel. This parish is staffed by an order and had plenty of priests, and an excellent Catholic school as well.

Do what works best for your family this year, next year that may change, but you should not have to leave Mass feeling like you have been to the wars, nor should your older children. But don't make this decision based solely on uncharitable reactions from other parishioners. Yes there should be some respect for them and most of all for the liturgy, and that is why in that time from about 13 to 30 months when children seem the wildest, you may prefer to take them out, to the back, or leave them home with babysitter or the other parent. But if teaching them to behave at Mass is part of a wider consistent effort to improve their behavior in public places in general (as I fervently hope) continue to take them if it fits into your plan.

btw it is almost impossible to teach the older children to behave and participate if you are distracted by the baby and toddler, so that alone would be a good reason to leave them home with dad or another relative who can attend another Mass.


#4

hmm, I don't know about the little ones, but for your older children I would clearly explain the behavior that is expected of them at church, explain why you need them to be good and if they misbehave institute harsh punishments for disobeying you. I remember being 4-6 and if I was really bad in church, afterwards I would have to sit facing the wall for the length of mass (about and hour which was good because mass was actually closer to 80min :p). My younger siblings were twins so mom already had her hands full and couldn't deal with a misbehaving 4 year old. Then I would be sitting in the corner while my parents were preparing dinner so I was out of the way then too. Double bonus :thumbsup:.

Is there another mass time that would work better for you younger children? An earlier mass where they are in a good mood because they are rested or a later mass where they are mellow because they are tired? I hope you find something that works for you.


#5

you are not alone, we all have been through this. When my kids were real little like 1 and 2, I would split up Mass with my husband. he would go to one, and I would go to another, and the other would babysit. By, 3 years old, the kids became tolerable at Mass...Good luck:)..or if your church has a family Mass, you could bring them there..there's always kids crying at the family Mass at my church...:)


#6

Oh, I hear you! We have so been there! :o

For about a year, DH and I split up Masses, one of us staying home with the littles. Some of our friends disagreed vehemently with us on this, saying that the family should go together to Mass and that even little children need to learn how to behave... but for us it did not work when they were that age, and we have absolutely no regrets about splitting up. We were able to focus more on the Mass, not only for our own spiritual edification, but it also allowed us to instruct our children during Mass more (because we weren't spending time in the back with little ones or breaking up fights). When the kids got older, they had no trouble learning proper Mass behavior.

It was sad not to share in the Mass with DH, so we tried to arrange a once a month "date Mass"- we'd get a sitter, find an evening Mass and go out for dinner afterwards.


#7

[quote="smallcat, post:6, topic:204428"]
Oh, I .

It was sad not to share in the Mass with DH, so we tried to arrange a once a month "date Mass"- we'd get a sitter, find an evening Mass and go out for dinner afterwards.

[/quote]

this is a splendid idea any couple should consider


#8

I had a problem like this with our twins. They got it into their head that Mass was a place to mess around. I thought at the time that it was because we had a "cry room", but I think it was because they were just very active kids. Sometimes, it takes "a body per baby" to keep things under control. I think this is why Mass is not an obligation for small children, and why the catechism specifically mentions the care of infants as a valid reason for missing Sunday Mass:

2181 The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.

I have found that whatever you do, when the kids act up, it must absolutely NOT be entertaining. For instance, it would go better for you if the 2 year old realizes that if she acts up, there is no one EXCEPT Daddy who is going to take her outside, and even out there she is not going to get to get down and run around. Behaving well needs to be the thing that works out the most to her liking, 100% of the time.

I say this as the mother of altar servers who now do very well:
1) This too shall pass, but in the meantime, you need the nourishment of the entire Mass, not just Holy Communion. Getting to Mass without the kids used to be my sanity saver. Do not imagine that essentially missing it will be a good way to "suffer for the Lord". Only when it cannot be helped would I look at it that way. Fasting can be beneficial, but not starving yourself. There is no place in Scriptures, at any rate, that it is recommended to take a fast from the Lord.
2) Whatever you do, do not allow your children into any habit of behavior at Mass which is not reverent and appropriate. I left our kids home from church for probably a year in order to "reset" their expectations on that one. When they came back, it was a new ballgame. I was a little hesitant, but it worked well.
3) Either set the child up for success, or leave the child home. A child ought to be required to go to Mass and behave well for some stretch of time before he or she makes his or her First Holy Communion, but a child is not going to be spiritually handicapped by being denied the opportunity to be a toddler terror for two years. Having said that, a very small child needs something to occupy him or her. I liked those gizmos where you can draw with a stick on a string, then erase. Can't mark up the pews with those.

Consider doing this. First off, the Mass date idea is a great one. You want to be able to attend Mass with your spouse and without children too young to sit through Mass without acting up on a regular basis. But also consider (I come from a family of eight and a parish full of large families) leaving the younger children at home until the older ones are old enough to help mind them. In other words, when you don't have a "Mass date", split Masses, having one spouse at home with the kids while the other goes to Mass with the children who are old enough. Then the other spouse goes alone or with remaining older children.

Consider, for the kids who are old enough, making good behavior at Mass reason for a treat. First off, consider that kids who have been good get to go to Mass alone with you. That alone is a treat. Yes...*alone time with Mom! *Wow! When you have four brothers and sisters, believe me, that is gold. The same goes for alone time with Dad. When older kids habitually act like human beings on their own, I would even take them on the "Mass date." (Arrange a date night without them at another time.) I used to only allow our kids to have the after-Mass doughnut if they could tell me something that Father said during the homily. (For awhile, I had them write a little note in a notebook, one page for every Sunday, which I want to go back to. It is nice to look over the progression.)

Preparing for Mass: Get online and read the readings with the kids old enough to understand them with translation. Start reading the response only from the Responsorial Psalm. A priest taught me that this gives a key to the connection between the Gospel and the first reading. This works! Now, read the Gospel. If reading to your kids, read a line, explain it, read a line explain it, then talk about the whole thing with that Responsorial Psalm line. (This is a good time to bring in what the Gospel has to do with the liturgical season you're in, asking the kids to predict what color vestments for that week.) Only then do you go back and read the first reading, and then the response of the people--kind of a "ooo! I see how the Gospel is going to fulfill this! I can see this coming!!--that is in the Responsorial Psalm. Read the second reading last, noticing that sometimes it is chosen to go with the other readings and sometimes the Church is working her way from week to week through a particular epistle, instead. (That very often adds an insight that wouldn't come from choosing a reading with an obvious connection.)

If you've done that, not only will it not matter so much that you miss a line here and there during the Liturgy of the Word, but more importantly the kids will not get so bored with it. They'll be able to catch a snatch here or there and know where the readings are headed.

Also teach the older ones what different gestures and parts of the Mass mean. Stress that the Mass is, as the Church teaches, one single act of worship. All the parts work together, but the work goes better for those who understand how the Mass works.

Your goal here is not to physically have your kids at Mass, but to teach them to love the Mass as they grow, and to automatically participate well. If that means leaving them home until you can give them that, this is OK.


#9

I know how you feel. We have three kids all under three years old (though we don't have any older ones egging them on). The youngest one is still small enough to sleep through Mass in the car seat, but I don't know what we're going to do once all three kids are awake the whole time and we're truly outnumbered.

Like others have talked about, we sometimes do the tag-team Mass attendance strategy. We don't do it all the time though because we feel that it is important for the kids to go and to eventually learn how to behave during Mass. Also, I find it funny that other people have also thought of the "Mass date" idea.

We try to make sure to sit by some older ladies because they're usually pretty understanding and happy to be around babies even if they're not on their best behavior. There will always be some who are annoyed by the kids. Our priest even chided our congregation about people bringing milk and snacks for kids during Mass. He's all "try to feed them before coming to Mass" and "it can wait until after Mass." I'm sorry Father, but we don't bring snacks because the kids need to eat, we bring them because they momentarily keep the kids quiet.

Anyway, I have a similar attitude to your husband. A large family glorifies God. Your family is doing good, holy work; and any baptized child who hasn't yet reached the age of reason is nothing but a tabernacle of the holy spirit. Anyone who doesn't recognize this needs to lighten up. Try your best not to get too flustered, and accept that your kids aren't always going to be good, and you're not going to be perfect at keeping them in line. Try to read the readings ahead of time, and that will make it a lot easier to follow during Mass when you're constantly being distracted.

Another thing that my wife, a former Catholic school teacher, has observed: the same kindergartners who are a terror on Sunday can be perfect angels during a school Mass. They're capable of behaving, you just can't let them take advantage of the fact that they know how to press all of your buttons. I'm not saying I know how to do this, I just know it's possible!


#10

[quote="jilly4ski, post:4, topic:204428"]
hmm, I don't know about the little ones, but for your older children I would clearly explain the behavior that is expected of them at church, explain why you need them to be good and if they misbehave institute harsh punishments for disobeying you. I remember being 4-6 and if I was really bad in church, afterwards I would have to sit facing the wall for the length of mass (about and hour which was good because mass was actually closer to 80min :p). My younger siblings were twins so mom already had her hands full and couldn't deal with a misbehaving 4 year old. Then I would be sitting in the corner while my parents were preparing dinner so I was out of the way then too. Double bonus :thumbsup:.

Is there another mass time that would work better for you younger children? An earlier mass where they are in a good mood because they are rested or a later mass where they are mellow because they are tired? I hope you find something that works for you.

[/quote]

Very good Jilly, I am an oldie, so in my day it was all about teaching discipline before Church. The older ones propper behavior, during mass, for our family rubbed off on the young ones.;):cool::thumbsup:Peace,Carlan


#11

Me and my wife have 4 children, ages 7, 9,9, and 10. So I know how you feel. When they were younger we had our struggles in Mass, rarely could we hear a holmily, and had to endure the rude stares of the holier then thou croud. Whats great though is that we stuck with it, Mass is a place for families, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It seems I may have missed the entire Mass dealing with the little ones, but I always came away with at leat one thing from the mass. I think God intervenes that way. I used to drag my boys out to time outs for being pills several times every mass. Eventually they started behaving better. It’s not an easy task. When they started pre-school at a Catholic School and could behave perfeclty at Mass for the two teachers, I knew they could actually do it. We had no tolerance for poor behavior after that. I used to get alot of smiles from the choir all the trips I made to the hallway and back with a boy in tow.

So please just stick with it, God wants your entire family there and at the same time.


#12

[quote="Mary_Gail_36, post:2, topic:204428"]
I feel for you.

Anyway possible that you and DH can split up mass times? He goes at one time, you go at another time.

So the smallest get to stay home sometimes. Sometimes you get to go all by yourself...

It's more time consuming this way....but at least you could focus on the Mass.

[/quote]

This is what we did. It worked well when the little one was too young to stay still. Once he learned to walk, he was a nightmare. (So from about 11 months until he was about 2 1/2) If you tried to corral him in any way, he just screamed his head off.

I know some people feel that the young ones should be "disciplined" or "controlled" to learn how to behave. I think that's totally unrealistic - there is no such thing as reasoning with a 1-2 year old in a place where you need to be QUIET. Sure, you can have a battle of wills at home, where you can let them scream til they run out of gas, but you can't do this at Mass.

I also like the Date Mass idea!


#13

Well there are a couple things ya can do:

  1. Find a parish with a nursery
  2. Split Masses with your Husband (though I think its important a family goes toghether as much as possible)

As far as taking your children to Mass it needs to be established from the earliest age that a very high manner of conduct is expected. The second they even Start to go outa line you make it very clear its unacceptable. Dont let it continue to a point of disurption the very first thing that is gonna lead to disruption you stop it right then and there.

May seem harsh but eventually they will get the message.


#14

[quote="Redbaron998, post:13, topic:204428"]
Well there are a couple things ya can do:

As far as taking your children to Mass it needs to be established from the earliest age that a very high manner of conduct is expected. The second they even Start to go outa line you make it very clear its unacceptable. Dont let it continue to a point of disurption the very first thing that is gonna lead to disruption you stop it right then and there.

May seem harsh but eventually they will get the message.

[/quote]

Thats exaclty what I was trying to say earlier! Well said!


#15

[quote="Redbaron998, post:13, topic:204428"]
The second they even Start to go outa line you make it very clear its unacceptable. Dont let it continue to a point of disurption the very first thing that is gonna lead to disruption you stop it right then and there.

[/quote]

I really don't understand how this can be done respectfully during Mass with a 1 or 2-year old.


#16

[quote="Redbaron998, post:13, topic:204428"]
As far as taking your children to Mass it needs to be established from the earliest age that a very high manner of conduct is expected. The second they even Start to go outa line you make it very clear its unacceptable. Dont let it continue to a point of disurption the very first thing that is gonna lead to disruption you stop it right then and there.

May seem harsh but eventually they will get the message.

[/quote]

Yes. Likewise, good behavior at Mass ought to be recognized as the most important good behavior there is. It is a very pleasing gift to God, and quite young children can learn that. If there is a lot of "carrot" in the message, if you take the trouble to give children the best chances for success--see that they are fed and rested before Mass, that their Sunday clothes are comfortable and enjoyable to wear, that kind of thing--there doesn't need to be much "stick", particularly if the consequences are consistent. As for the "carrot", verbal recognition and the privleges of going the places that people with self-control are allowed to go is often sufficient. There doesn't have to be a "pay off".

A child with the self-control to do well at Mass ought to be recognized. That is a worthy accomplishment. They ought to feel good about getting there.


#17

[quote="BabyDoll4, post:1, topic:204428"]
I really need a lot of prayers with this. I really struggle with being at mass with my kids (especially the youngest two ages 1 and 2). In fact many days I just dread it. We last maybe 15 minutes in the pews before one of them wants to walk/crawl around or starts to get loud. I'm usually the only one who tries at all to keep the little ones quiet. We already have to separate the older two to keep them from goofing around. They in turn try to play with the babies and just make matters worse. We've tried sitting in the front, but that is always disastrous and I end up walking out anyway with both babies in front of the whole congregation.

[/quote]

You're not alone. I'm having pretty much the same experience with my children. The only consolation I can offer is that A. I generally think that people are happy to see children in church because it means the parish is alive and well so they have to cut you some slack for that and B. remember what Christ said to the apostles about "suffering the little children to come unto him"? I think that applies to mass.

But that said it is annoying from your perspective because you can't get much out of mass if you're constantly minding your children. They will grow up someday, however, and (hopefully) become better-behaved.


#18

I want to add that I think it is important to at least give the impression to your children that you are paying attention and participating fully in Mass. Teach by example. Your kids want to be like you.


#19

Thank you everyone for your responses. They are great suggestions and I will talk to my husband about different mass times.

There is more I need to respond to, but I don't have the time right now. My 2 year old has been a terror and we are having a horrible, horrible day.

Anyway, please pray for us and our participation in mass. I will respond when I can.


#20

[quote="Iowander, post:18, topic:204428"]
I want to add that I think it is important to at least give the impression to your children that you are paying attention and participating fully in Mass. Teach by example. Your kids want to be like you.

[/quote]

Right. To make a disciple, you have to be a disciple, attitude included.

For mothers whose children stray, most know of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine. A lesser-appreciated saint for Christian mothers is St. Nonna (August 5; died 374):

Although raised as a Christian, Nonna married Gregory, who belonged to the Hypsistarian sect. Nonetheless, this "mixed marriage" resulted in his conversion. Furthermore, St. Nonna is known for raising one of the most saintly families in Christian history. Nonna, Gregory, and their three children: Gregory, Gorgonia, and Caesarius all became saints. St. Gregory, the eldest child became Bishop of Nazianzus and a Doctor of the Church. The second child, St. Gorgonia married and raised a family of three children. The youngest child, St. Caesarius, became a physician while choosing to live in virtuous poverty.

St. Nonna unfortunately had to endure the death of her two grown up children, Gorgonia and Caesarius. Despite such heartbreak, St. Nonna still cared for others (widows, orphans, and the unfortunate) while still being a model for homemakers. St. Gregory describes his mother as having excelled in both piety and in managing the household. He put it this way:

"While some women excel in the management of their households and others in piety---for it is difficult to achieve both---she nevertheless surpassed all in both, because she was pre-eminent in each and because she alone combined the two. She increased the resources of her household by her care and practical foresight according to the standards and norms laid down by Solomon for the valiant woman. She devoted herself to God and divine things as though she were completely removed from household cares. In no wise, however, did she neglect one duty in fulfilling the other; rather, she performed both more effectively by making one support the other."

A few months after her husband passed away, Nonna died in church while participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. from savior.org/saints/nonna.htm

St. Nonna, Pray for us!


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.