Sunday, May 20, 2012

I don't bring my babies to mass


I don't bring my babies to mass.

Yes, there, I said it!

Before I explain, here is the necessary disclaimer:

For all of the wonderful moms and dads who bring their babies and toddlers to mass every week, I salute you. No, I applaud you. No, I pretty much worship you! (Okay, I don't worship you, but only because that would be a sin.) You are amazing and incredible, and I mean that with full sincerity and from the bottom of my heart. In no way is this post meant to suggest that you should leave your children at home, because I truly love seeing little ones at mass, and it's a joy to watch them grow through the seasons. Keep bringing them!

But, I can't do what you do.

I used to think I should, and I used to wonder if I was wrong not to, but about a decade ago, I made peace with the way we do things in the Miller family.

I am not able to deal with fussy babies and active toddlers at mass. We've already clearly established that I am not supermom, and that my having eight kids is only possible through a tidal wave of God's grace combined with a delicate logistical balancing act that I keep recalibrating. For my personal sanity, I must keep things as easy as possible in order to make the "Leila has a ton of kids" thing work. There might be a few other moms out there who are like me, and to them I simply want to say that you are not alone, and it's really okay.

On and off over the years (the last two years being "on"), my husband and I have done split shifts for mass, which amounts to Dean taking two or three kids to an early morning mass nearby, while I take the rest to our regular parish later in the day. Any babies or toddlers simply stay home. As a result, mass is peaceful, calm, and prayerful. Since my life is not that way otherwise, I need it for an hour or so on Sundays. I mean, I reeeaaaallllly neeeeeeeed it!

Some questions might spring to mind:

Do you miss being at mass with Dean and all the kids together? Sure, but not enough to make me want to take the two-year-old. And, I know from 20+ years of parenting that "this too shall pass", and there will come a time when we'll go to mass together as a family again. But now is not that time, and we're all okay with that.

Why not use the cry room? Well, we do -- but only when absolutely necessary. For example, recently, Dean took some of the kids out of town, and I had to bring the littlest guy, Benevolent Destruction, to mass. No way that kid can sit in a pew without putting on the baby equivalent of a Broadway show, so while my older kids stayed with the congregation, I traipsed off to the cry room with the little man. That experience reminded me why I love the split shift.

We are blessed to have oodles of big families and many young children at my parish, and the cry room is just like my house a mad house. Frankly, Miller boys make it worse. There has been many a child o' mine who could not be contained even in the cry room, including the one son who had to be carried out of there by Daddy all the way into the far parking lot, where mortified Mommy (and the rest of the worshipers, including the priest) could hear his unrelenting shrieks and wails.

So, we've never seen the cry room as a good regular option.

Why not church child care then? Actually, I am a huge fan of church child care! We have used that wonderful option over the years, and we will undoubtedly use it in the future. Not every parish is blessed to have such a ministry, and our parish's child care (we call it "church school") is fabulous. The kids are kept busy with good stuff: They learn their Faith, pray the Rosary, sing Bible songs, talk about Jesus, celebrate feast days and the liturgical year, do arts and crafts, have snacks, watch videos, etc. But at this moment, my youngest is not ready to be foisted upon the lovely ladies who run the child care; I wouldn't do that to them. Also, I know that if I did leave him there, I would be sitting at mass just worrying. So for now, split shift is our norm.

The biggest question is probably this: What about teaching your kids to behave at mass by taking them consistently from their infancy? My answer is simply that it's never been a problem for us. When my children reach a certain age -- or rather, a certain level of self-control -- we start bringing them to mass regularly. And for child after child, they've adapted just fine. They sit through mass quietly (as quietly as little kids can), and we all have a peaceful hour of worship. So for me, the whole thing is just a wait-it-out-till-they-are-mature-enough situation. At about age four or five, they suddenly become mass-goable. It's like a dream, and it works for us.

And to put another worry to rest, I have living proof -- in the form of tweens, teens, and even a couple of adults now -- that children do not grow up and leave the Church because they missed mass as babies.

Parenting little children is hard, and much of that difficulty cannot be avoided. But if a split shift eases the difficulty, if it helps keep you sane for the rest of the week, if it affords you that bit of tranquility you need, if it works for you, then do it, and be at peace.

That's what I do.



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74 comments:

  1. I needed to hear this. SAGE advice from a sage mother!!!

    My angel use to be angelic at mass, seriously, but now it is a chore and so hard I end up scolding her the whole time which really is absurd and does not make sense!!!!!

    THANK YOU THANK YOU FOR clarifying this for me and for so many of us!!!!

    WE love you!

    I always fantasized that somewhere in your State their was a parish and a long pew with all of you sitting cheerfully in it! Ha! Ha!

    And, now I see how you really make it work which makes so much sense!!!!!

    You are brilliant beyond brilliant!

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  2. Love this! We have just recently begun to take the twins to Mass with us and it is a miracle if I get to hear the homily. Luckily the ushers are kind enough to open the doors for us mothers to hear the homily sometimes :)

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  3. I can so relate to this! I have 5 children 5 and under. The thought of taking them all with me is scary! My #4 is a crazy 19 month old and I just know he could NOT keep his cool through the whole thing. I felt like I was somehow failing my little ones by not including them. It's nice to know I'm not alone in deciding to only take on a couple at a time.

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  4. don't worry. You aren't the only one. My church doesn't have a cry room and has sporadic child care. At a loss on what to do short of tearing out my hair, my husband put his foot down and declared that our oldest who is two is not going to Mass until there is consistent child care.

    So now only the baby and I go.

    My husband isn't Catholic so the whole going church thing isn't mandatory for him. Technically it is, but try telling him that.

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  5. We persevered at Mass with our second son from birth (he's now 9). He was a nightmare. Even at 2 he'd yell "stop that singing" and take his little shoes off so he could throw them at people! I don't think we gained anything by taking him every week. In fact it's harder to wean kids off the books and crayons and stuff than it is to just start them off at 5 without. I would have done what you do, but my husband liked the idea of the whole family going together.

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  6. We also split it up going to mass. I fought this idea for many years and was miserable because of it. In my head, we were always supposed to be together as a family. But my oldest has autism and could not handle mass. After being reminded that even St.Therese's parents kept her at home until she was older, we finally began to do the split shift with Dennis going to one mass and me going to the other, and things got better. I eventually began to bring my oldest with me to mass and we called it "church training." I would "train" him how to sit at mass and deal with the autism thing at the same time. It took a year and a half of training and now he not only attends church (we even sit in a pew!) but he also received his First Holy Communion this year-something I didn't think would be possible until next year. So now I do "church training" with all my kids by starting to bring them every so often at the age of six, getting them "trained" so that by the age of seven, they are able to go every time. It's turned out to be a much more positive experience with this one-on-one time, rather than hissing out "be quiet!" over and over at mass. Maybe when the kids are older, we can all attend mass together again, and hopefully by then, my husband will be surprised at how well "trained" the kids are!

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  7. Leila, I almost burst into tears reading this post. THANK YOU for writing it. We do the exact. same. thing. I was feeling so so guilty about it every single Sunday without even knowing why. I guess as I have started to read more Catholic blogs I have felt like such a failure not bringing my four 2 yr olds to mass. Oh, we have tried several times ... even rotating just 1 baby per adult. Even then I only barely made it through. Christmas Eve Mass ended abruptly with me outside the church sobbing uncontrollably while my 4 understandably tired/frustrated babies sobbed with me and my dad went to get the car (we had just flown to TX from Philly under 24 hours before, naps were a mess, and they hated their Christmas outfits).

    After that fiasco we gave up and went back to our regular routine ... husband goes at 11AM, I go at 12:30PM. Shockingly, we are very good at keeping our kids under control in any other situation and they're actually really well behaved. Asking them to sit quietly for an hour is just NOT going to happen.

    I worried I was "making more work for myself" by having to wait and try to get older kids to behave in mass, but I actually think God gave me the ability to handle that challenge vs. handling toddlers at mass (where I have no talent! ha).

    Anyway, I also get absolutely nothing out of mass while wrangling with toddlers and neither does my husband. As I have really started to deepen my prayer life this time at mass is some of the only quiet time I have with God, and I need it.

    So thank you, thank you for making me feel just a bit better about myself this morning! :)

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  8. Thanks for a great reminder that we all do things differently and it's okay. :) We have a similar arrangement and it works for us too.

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  9. I have found it so very frustrating to try to be in Mass with screaming and distracting children. I feel for the parents trying to quiet their child and see the pain and embarrassment on their faces. Our parish, though quite large, does not offer any type of children's church during the Mass, so parents don't have that option. Our crying room is so small that no more than three little ones can be in there before it's pandemonium. I have started going to an earlier Mass to avoid the noise in church as it's not only distracting but I have some hearing loss and background noises make it impossible for me to hear the Mass. Our new priest is rather soft spoken and I'm lucky if I hear tidbits of his homily. So I salute you parents who give yourself an hour AWAY from the distraction of your small children (when you can) and those who try to make it work!

    DD

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  10. If I don't go to Mass with the hubs he won't go. It's not an option for us, plus our church is so far away the gas alone wouldn't even make any sense. So we all pile in the car and actually Hannah hasn't been doing too bad. But to make matters worse, I don't take books, snacks or drinks into Mass because those just become objects she can throw. But we have the cry room all to ourselves at the 8am Mass. :)

    So when I see the other Moms with 4-6 kids all sit like ducks 2 years, 17 months and 6 months, when they tell me they watch the other kids they are lying???????????? Because that is what they tell me.

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  11. My husband and I split shift a lot as well (although now that our youngest is almost 3 she's doing much better), but he is in the military and gone a lot so I end having all 4 by myself. Don't feel guilty about split shifting because on those days when I'm outnumbered 4 to 1.....I miss it :) And please pray for me (and my husband) as he and his military unit head to Afghanistan shortly.....it's going to be a long year in this household.

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  12. Thank you for this post! I, too, was feeling guilty about not bringing E. However, this past week we had to bring him and I found myself getting mad at him for behaving so wildly and also the priest whose homily was really long! What a horrible way to be at Mass! Not bringing him works for us now and I'm so glad I'm not alone. I need that spiritual peace for one hour a week! :)

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  13. This is a wonderful post! Our family has been doing this on and off (and like you, mostly on!) for years. We currently have 6, the oldest being 8 and I am now expecting another. It can be so stressful trying to get through the Mass with all of them. That being said, I'm also trying to get us all there more often because in spite of the difficulty, I enjoy it :) I'm glad that you let people know that this is an option! My grandparents had ten children, split Masses and still ended up with two sons becoming priests! That helps me to remember that it'll be ok :)

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  14. I think this is also a difference in Sanguine moms and Melancholic moms... the authors talk about it in the book, in fact. I would align myself more with the "Ohhhh, no, I'm not about to just write off your behavior right now just because you're a toddler!!" line of thinking ;)

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  15. Oh thank the lord. Took all 3 to mass Saturday night and I'm pretty sure everyone within 10 feet of us got NOTHING out of it.

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  16. How funny you should write about this! Yesterday, my husband and I went to Mass separately for the first time since our son was born. He is 13 months and up until a few weeks ago he was usually pretty good - nothing that standing in some nook for a few minutes couldn't fix. I don't think we will always go separately, but I was amazed at how much time I had to focus and pray! My husband said the same thing when he got home.

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  17. YES, YES!! I'm not the only one out there who believes in 'split shifts' for mass!! My hubby and I have 5 children and while we have brought the whole brood to mass more recently, in the past, and there are still times, we impliment this process. Mass is a time for peaceful prayer and contemplation with Jesus-and we cannot reasonably do that when we are referring siblings who are picking on one another. We know almost immediately when we wake up on Sunday, if it will be 'that kind of day'. So, I hear you loud and clear- Peace and blessings to your family Leila- thanks for keeping it real!

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  18. Just the last few months, since my husband's promotion and subsequent erratic work schedule, we've split-shifted a little bit. I am sure we might do it this way a bit more going forward because #5 is much more ... how shall I say? ... spirited than his older siblings. He screams at the top of his lungs simply because he LOVES hearing himself do it. My other four never did that. So, yeah, we'll probably split-shift a bit here as we work through #5's toddler stage. We've always been the kind of parents to say, "Do whatever works for you" and I'm so glad I'm not beholden to one way or another to do things because God has a sense of humor! :)

    Thank you for sharing. Moms need to hear this stuff!

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  19. Thanks for this confession! :) Makes me feel so much better about having used the church childcare room a few times when Jack was a baby. I was lectured one time by a friend for doing so. Ironically, this friend skipped mass ALL THE TIME because it was her child's "naptime." Hmmm...so it's better not to go at all than to use the childcare room?? Sorry...had to vent that!

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  20. This is really good to read because Ryan and I have recently been thinking: Being Baptised, does Ben have a Sunday obligation that falls on us? Are we sinning if we don't bring him? This comes up quite a bit because I usually run to the vigil Mass to sing, but then I'll go again in the morning so I can sit with Ryan and help him with Ben (who must be having the time of his life at Mass with all the delightful and loud squeals he makes, which then make us exit to the vestibule.) I could easily just stay home with Ben while Ryan attends, but each week we think, "Is it wrong not to bring him to Mass?"

    So from a novice Catholic mother to a veteran, it isn't wrong?

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  21. We've never done split shifts and always take both babies, but this post makes me feel better too! I just had this image that "good" moms were somehow successful in keeping their babies sitting nicely in Mass and I was a failure because we have to take ours out sometimes. Now that I know many great moms are actually leaving their babies home, I have to wonder who am I even comparing myself to? And now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever even seen any well-behaved two year olds in church!

    On the flip side of this, I've been meaning to post about how I sometimes have to confess how I think I need my babies with me at Mass because I don't like the thought of having to concentrate for a whole hour (I think I have some ADHD issues). I secretly like the distraction. So maybe I should be leaving them home as penance! That thought scares me though. Haha.. we are all so different, aren't we??

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  22. I'm really enjoying these responses!

    Meg, it can't be wrong, because otherwise parishes would not provide child care for little ones. (Remember, child care is not mass attendance!)

    Once the child reaches the age of reason, I would think they need to be taken to mass regularly (hopefully before). The age of reason usually corresponds (in the Latin rite) to the age of reception of First Holy Communion. However, since little children are dependent on their parents to transport them place to place, it's the obligation of the parents to get them to mass, and a small child would not be culpable if he does not get there due to parents' neglect.

    I always sort of took the cue from the child care…if they watch kids up to age 5 or 6, then past that age, the child should be at mass! :)

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    1. I'm going to have to disagree with 5 or 6....Oh hell no, you are going to sit your butt in Mass and be quiet. :) I would HOPE and PRAY that by 5 or 6 someone better get the hint, if not before..... :)

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    2. Our church only allows the child care from 6mos to 3 years! At 3 years I think a child is capable of sitting in Mass for one hour and without any snacks! I never let Isabel eat in church even when she was little. We would nurse before and after...don't get me started on kids with snacks in Mass! (I know, I kind of went there all by myself). By 3 Isabel was certainly sitting quietly in the pew...I mean kids are going to preschool at that age, they can def sit in Mass!

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    3. My girls could, Angela. You've never met my boys, ha ha! But they all eventually made it.

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  23. Thanks for writing this! Sometimes we leave little E at home when my mom visits. I feel so guilty enjoying the mass with just DH. We have been taking little E with us to daily mass and Sunday mass, mostly. We have had some difficult days, like when little E was screaming "poopy" at the Good Friday service. Nice. But, we are blessed by little E's temprament, she is usually quite easy. I would have to do something different if we have another child with a more spirited temprament.

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  24. E, you mean one like Hannah, i.e. Little Sew?? ;P

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  25. I have found that mass has been more stressful as of late. In fact, with a 2 year old and a 1 year old, doing anything is difficult. We got stuck at the mechanic this morning for almost 2 hours waiting for an oil change (don't ask!) and I almost lost my sanity.

    So this post is pretty timely for me. I am coming to the point where I need to reevaluate what my children are capable of and - just as important- what my limits are.

    I am somewhat relieved to see not all people bring the little ones to mass, but I am still torn as to what is right for our family. We have a "spirited" two and a half year old who has, on occasion, made it all the way to the homily sitting quietly in her seat, so we know she is capable of it. But if this only happens one in ten times ... should we even try? My one year old, on the other hand, has been gifted with a temperament where mass is usually not a problem.

    I do end up leaving every single mass at some point to take the kids to the back and let them crawl, pull up, run around. I am still torn, though, as to how to stay reverent in the midst of all of that toddler activity. Sometimes it seems impossible!

    My spirit aches for time with the Lord. I find that I sometimes leave in tears afterward, when all I wanted was to sit at Jesus' feet and rest for a few minutes. I also resent my husband who usually gets more time in prayer! How terrible is that!?

    All that being said, I have to wonder whether our children will adapt any more quickly if we continue to bring them, despite a few difficult years in the beginning? Any thoughts on this? Because that is what I was banking on!!:)

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  26. "All that being said, I have to wonder whether our children will adapt any more quickly if we continue to bring them, despite a few difficult years in the beginning? Any thoughts on this? Because that is what I was banking on!!:) "

    LifeHopes, my theory is, why fight this battle when they will behave at age four or five anyway? :)

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  27. Just to play devil's advocate...I'm wondering what you would say about the Mass being a sacrifice. We are all the Body of Christ, screaming todddler and all. It is our time that we are sacrificing to be there, even if we don't get anything out of mass except the graces we receive through the Eucharist. Just a thought!

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    1. I'm banking on this because at this time in my life it's what I have to give at Mass. Distractions and all........

      I remember the days when I was in the Mass fully not distracted, sobbing......Now I'm just not the one crying! LOL

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  28. Sew, I think that some children are naturally calm and have better self-control innately. Some entire families are calm and quiet. I have seen it! It's amazing! That is not my family, ha ha! I am guessing Mrs. Duggar's kids would all sit quietly and respectfully. But we are talking about the fiery Mediterranean/Arab Miller children… ha ha! Calm and collected is not in our bloodline, sigh… That being said, they do behave well when they are developmentally able to overcome their innate hot-blooded craziness. So, it all works out, but I don't want to fight that battle when it's not necessary or productive. But if my kids were calm and self-placating by nature, I would take them in a heartbeat. Some of my kids have made it to mass years before others. I think one of them started coming at three, and another one not till five, for example.

    Great questions! It's one of those times that there is no "objective" answer, no right or wrong.

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  29. E, I would just say that we are not required to go looking for suffering! :)
    We are able to do things that ease our way (and others' ways) if it is not immoral.

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  30. None of the parishes we've gone to have had cry rooms or nurseries but, even if they did, I dont think we would use them. We are big on taking the kids to "Jesus's House" and they know they are expected to behave. There have been times where, for one reason or another, it'snot going well. We have gone to the Narthex a few times (wired with sound) or we go to one of the Shrines. Then, when the behavior is better, we get back to our pew (when the time is inconspicuous). But it's had work. I am ALWAYS moved by the various parishioners (usually quite elderly) who encourage us (because there have been plenty of times that I've been like REALLY??? WE'RE AT CHURCH KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!") and for the support of our priests, both at our former parish (where the kids were born/baptized) and our current one. I've been to Masswhere you can tell the priest/parishioners are not family oriented and it is awful (even when my kids are the ones behaving). But, I do think there is truth to the notion of taking kids and having them 'learn' behavior. Ours are almost 3 (how is that possible???) and both of them know that they kneel before we go into the pew, that they genuflect at the altar and bow/genuflect at the altar. They know how to cross themselves, LOVE to exchange the peace, and have started singing the first few lines of the Sanctus. It's amazing for us to see, but it is also awesome to hear them praising God and knowing "Mama Mary, "Papa Joseph",and "Jesus". To the point that, whenI took maya to the bathroom on Saturday night, we couldnt go back into the church until she had gone to the Holy Family shrine and prayed. Amazes me the grace that God bestows on the little ones. :)

    (All that said, I loved this post and I'll soon be posting about a funny experience at Church last week!)

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  31. And all the people said, "Amen!" Were you at the Good Friday service where my children and other lovely STA children were outside getting their giggles out when the sprinklers turned on...and the music director had to come out and tell us that everyone inside could hear the noise? That was...something.

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  32. Good point, E, about the mass being a sacrifice. I was also banking on the fact that my children were receiving graces just from being near the Eucharist. Perhaps that is not theologically correct, but I do think Christ meets us where we are at, even if we are 2:) And I am amazed that my 2 year old genuflects, crosses herself, asks for holy water, etc. when we arrive.

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    1. Could you video that because I would sob. :)

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    2. That is theologically correct. We receive graces by being before the Eucharist...we do not have to receive the Eucharist at Mass to be transformed by it's grace. :)

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  33. Alishia, yes, I was there, ha ha!! So funny...

    Michele, I say more power to you! I think that is wonderful. Looking forward to reading your funny story! :)

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  34. By the way, I totally agree that some parishes are not child-friendly and that is heartbreaking to me! It really does not bother me at all that there are a million little ones at my parish; in fact, I rejoice and revel in the beauty of the faith that supports and accepts all that LIFE! What a gift! Other people's children don't distract me at all (at least not in a bad way). We have tons of kids at every mass, and our parish is so welcoming and really understands the challenges. Rarely has a child been so disruptive and a parent not clued in to take him out, so that is good.

    Again, I am just writing about my own limits as a mother. Not in any way saying people should not bring littles to mass. Like I said, I love that!

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  35. We grew up going to the traditional mass and it was church teaching that "no child under the age of reason is obligated to assist at the Holy Sacrifice". It was, however, the obligation of parents to make sure that their kids didn't inconvenience others who are trying to worship. So, they recommended split shifts - even parents alternating Sundays if there weren't two masses on one Sunday to split between. Leaving the little ones at home until they were "of age". And barring that, using the cry room if available. I remember several sermons from Father about unruly children in Mass and also aimed at parents who spent the entire time in the cry room. It makes sense - what exactly are you there for but to participate in the mass, and if your kiddos keep you from doing that (or worse, keep other people from it), then maybe they aren't ready to be there.
    I don't think my parents every stayed home with the young ones, but I could be wrong. I do remember my younger siblings had books on the Saints and lots of cheerios in the pews :). There was no cry room when we were younger, but I'm pretty sure all of us were hauled out to the church hall to get a spanking for unruly behavior every so often. We definitely learned pretty quickly and at a young age that church was, if nothing else, a place to stay quiet and sit still OR ELSE, haha.

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  36. I never thought of splitting shifts, but I am sure my husband wouldn't be into it.

    We don't have an official cry room, but the mass can be heard in the lobby. I absolutely hate cry rooms. It feels like a fish tank and makes me feel as though my kid is not welcome with the rest of the church. I tend to think it encourages parishes to be less friendly towards the little ones and encourages excessive food, video games, etc. But, that is my opinion.

    We barely make it through mass each week and avoid mass times that include baptisms and other "add-ons".

    We usually find that someone in an adjacent pew will entertain our 20-month-old daughter for the entire mass. I always worry that this is ruining their experience, but often people are mouthing, "its OK" over and over to me. We have a special toy she can only use during mass and are very thankful for pacifiers.

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  37. I COMPLETELY understand!!! Jason and I don't see each other very much during the week so we can't stand to do the split shift on Sundays...our 4 year old has finally reached an age where he can sit quietly (except for the occasional, "Mom! Am I being good?" outburst) and more often than not Jason is standing in the back with our 2 year old, while I spend mass holding our baby in the pews along with hearing only 1/2 the homily so I can go nurse him...we often talk about the grace received just for being there, we often share looks of horror and laughter during times of chaos and we often walk out of there saying, "Woo! Glad that's over!" but...this too shall pass. Every once in a while his parents take the kids and we enjoy a mass together, just the two of us. We appreciate it so much more.

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  38. I do have to share that at one time I was at mass and a parent was taking a fussy parent out. The priest stopped his homily to ask the parent to please stay, that children sometimes fuss...Then he came down from his podium to soothe the child himself (and was successful!) He was a visiting priest, I guess he's known for calming fussy babies and children during homilies.

    My point is that even though it's so difficult for us sometimes, our efforts are never unnoticed by God.

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  39. Thanks for the post, this was great, and the responses are helpful too. I have a question along the same lines...My 2 younger kids (ages 8 and 11) do not attend Mass regularly. I am divorced, they are with their father every other weekend. It is awful to bring them when they are with me. Not my daughter (11) so much as my boy (8). Their dad is not Catholic. He was raised Mormon but is, at best, an agnostic., who is on the anti-catholic side of the fence. He is absolutely against me forcing the kids to go to Mass, and lets the kids know this. I end up dragging them on the Sundays they are with me and hearing my son say loudly "this is stupid! God is dumb! I'm telling Dad you MADE me come and I hate it!" I know that if they attended every Sunday it would be different. It would also be better if their dad was at least Christian and supportive, but things are the way they are. Any tips, helpful hints, prayers?

    On the flip side, my daughter loves it and prays Hail Marys and Our Fathers on her own before bed and asks really great questions, so all is not doom and gloom. :-)

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  40. Ok, I'm laughing at myself...I mean a parent was taking a fussy BABY out. I need more coffee!

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  41. Haha! Timely for me! I do take our foster baby to Mass, but I didn't want to take her to confession this weekend (only my second since I'm a new convert), so I left her home while I zipped over to a close parish and was going to come back and get her to head to Mass a little further away at my parish - but the Confessor and penitent were in such a long discussion I finally had to leave so I'd have time to go home and get baby! Thinking I'll just bring her with me next time...

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  42. i thought i was the only one w this problem. hahaha. how can any 15 month old baby sit still that long?!

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  43. I love you Leila! Thanks for such an honest post.

    We take our kids to Mass all as a family, but that is because we needed to do that starting long ago. We had a rough start to our marriage (I was not Catholic) and it's something my husband wanted, and I obeyed. For him. He wants his family all together, and God knows he's got that right.

    However...I hope this adds to your post. Leila is right. Just to get all doctrinal on you, because I like that.

    This is from Dr. Ludwig Ott's book Fundamentals of Catholic Doctrine:

    "It follows from the validity of child-Baptism that baptised infants are full members of the Church, and that, after attaining the use of reason, they are obliged to fulfil the baptismal vows taken on their behalf by their godparents. The teaching of Erasmus of Rotterdam, that children after the attaining of the use of reason should freely decide whether they wish to recognise the baptismal obligations or not, was rejected by the Council of Trent. D 870. According to God’s positive ordinance, every human being, for the attaining of his supernatural destination, is directed to become a member of the Church of Christ by Baptism. For the sake of his eternal salvation he must assume the obligations of Christian belief and Christian morality which flow from Baptism."

    Also, the Catechism affirms that infants are not obliged to attend Mass, and even neither are those who care for them (but I think that means really serious reasons like newborns or sick babies):

    "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."

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  44. 'scuse me.

    Dr. Ott's book is Fundamentals of Catholic DOGMA.

    The point is, this is a serious book of certain dogma, and it acknowledges what Leila is saying.

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  45. It seems that Mass is a luxury these days and I never thought that bringing Joseph to Mass would be such an exercise of patience, HUMILITY, and grace. We do a little of both, split shifs and going together. Although we rarely do the split shift we find that we are so much fulfilled afterwards.
    You know the hardest part for Joseph is when Mass doesn't begin on time. They ran really late yesterday and he was about to terrorize the whole group of people near us but once it began, he got quieter.
    My husband would prefer split shift all the time, I was the one with the vision of the whole family seating peacefully in the pew. Yeah, the joke was on me. There is no peacefulness in our pew :)
    I do have to say that as I was reading the comments, I wondered if waiting to bring the children when they are at the age of reason would help them to realize that attending mass if a privelege, not a punishment (only said because if they feel that they connect always getting into trouble or making Mama or Daddy blow steam from their ears with church attendence)?
    Just thinking that children pick up on our emotions, tensions, and know our true feelings no matter if we are smiling on the outside or not! So maybe there is really a sacrifice in leaving them at home at times, for them to not have to see their caregivers lose it! I really do notice that I am able to let Joseph just be a toddler at home but at a late doctor's appt, mass, or restaurant I am expecting a super-child to emerge and that is not fair to him!
    I have been thinking that getting them used to Mass as an early age (0-3) is very helpful, but your and your readers have given me some new ideas to consider!

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  46. too many typos, sorry!! My mind is fried!

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  47. Thank you so much for this entry and for all the comments! I am not alone? I am normal? We are the family who take their 8 children, including a feral 3 year-old and infant twins to Mass. To be completely honest, I do not enjoy Mass. In fact I dread it. On any given Sunday for the last 6 years, if you asked me during the Profession of Faith what the Homily was about I would not be able to tell you. Have no idea what is going on: all my husband and I do is wrangle our 4 youngest kids with the help of our 4 oldest. It's completely ridiculous. In theory I know that I am getting the benefits of Mass whether or not I can hear the homily. But in practice I'm afraid that this whole horse and pony show -- we are one of 3 large families in our large suburban Parish so we draw attention -- is negatively affecting my spiritual life.

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  48. viedecirque, you are not alone! And wow... a bilingual blog? That is tres cool!! Nice to see you in the Bubble, sister!

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  49. Leila, this is interesting to me. I grew up Protestant, so kids went to Sunday School and not church. Having young kids with me in the pew was a huge sacrifice for me and my husband. (And we keep finding parishes who are not baby mewing friendly).

    Yet, my heart is really changed on this issue.

    So my question is: Do you miss getting the Eucharist with your husband every week? There are so many little moments during the Mass where I look at Jon and smile, or squeeze his hand. Things that happen in the reading or are mentioned in a homily that seem to speak exactly to our current spiritual journey. On the way home, we talk about the homily. It's amazing that one spouse will remember one half, and the other another part. Reflecting together after Mass (even over several HOWLING babies in their carseats) that's such a precious moment of community. I love being fed the same spiritual food with my husband at the same time.

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  50. Abigail, I have to come back to this, from above:

    Do you miss being at mass with Dean and all the kids together? Sure, but not enough to make me want to take the two-year-old. And, I know from 20+ years of parenting that "this too shall pass", and there will come a time when we'll go to mass together as a family again. But now is not that time, and we're all okay with that.

    That's just the honest truth. I really need that hour of peace, and I know that Dean does, too. We end up hearing two separate homilies every Sunday, so we discuss those. But I know that my having eight children is dependent upon my doing things as simply as possible. It's along the lines of what I wrote here:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-i-never-should-have-had-eight.html

    One other note (which is kind of funny and even legendary). Dean is very early morning person. He often falls asleep at the 11:00 mass, so a lot of the homily is about nudging him awake. But at the 8:00, he does great! And, since I am not an early morning person, 8:00 would most definitely be a nightmare for me the rest of the day (and trying to get the kids ready and out the door by that time would put me in a near occasion of sin, as I become a horrible person, and so does Dean).

    For us, the split shift keeps us all happy and healthy. :)

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  51. as I become a horrible person, and so does Dean

    Meaning, we end up yelling at the kids to hurry up [our church is 20 minutes away, and we like to get there at least 10 minutes before mass starts], we may end up yelling at each other, and we are generally flustered. This is good for no one. We've found a wonderful solution in the split shift. One day, I will be back at mass with Dean every week [and no doubt nudging him awake, ha ha].

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  52. I haven't gotten through all the comments yet... but oh my goodness Leila THANK you for this post!! :-D It never really occurred to me that "split shifts" were "allowed" lol. I'll never forget one of the most defining moments in my life... I was engaged to a man (not my hubby). It was Christmas Eve. His mother had come to visit and had attended Mass with us. On the car ride home, she started going on and on about how parents don't know how to parent these days, how their kids were unruly, how she and her sibs sat in the front row like obedient little ducklings, etc. I was starting to get visions of what was expected of me as a future DIL. Thing was... my sister had her first baby by then, and we could see the challenges of having a little guy at Mass. So I offered my perspective... that some children are ready for Mass before others, that certain temperaments deal better (and earlier) with the requirements of Mass, and that some parents really HAD to sit in the back pew for a quick escape or access to the cry room because that was the best they really could do. I was promptly corrected about how wrong I was, how a "good parent" would be able to manage a full Mass with quiet children regardless of age, stage, number of kids. That night had me in tears as both son and mother kept telling me over and over that I was wrong, I was too lax, I was basically too "modern" - in so many words - and I internally was freaking out about marrying into the family (and honestly, I never said it to this mother, but of all her sibs, only SHE had kept the faith... so in spite of all the "great parenting" and perfect sitting in the pews, it didn't translate to adulthood for some reason). Anyway, for many reasons (and I was hardly the perfect fiance myself), that relationship didn't result in marriage.

    Fast forward 7 years, married with baby #1 on the way, and I am already wondering how Mass is going to change for us lol. I feel such a relief knowing there are multiple ways to go about it. Not sure what we'll do as right now, Mass is a bonding experience for me and Dh... I sit by him, rest on his shoulder, hold his hand etc and LOVE it. I already know with a baby in one of our arms, holding hands will be impossible, but we'll see regarding whether or not we split shifts entirely for some seasons. Dh is big into reverence and I do tend to need 1 hour of peace/concentration... so yeah, we'll see.

    I will say, my nephew did seem to benefit very early on from going to Mass since day 1. At age 1 and 2 he was playing priest, imitating the Latin in baby gibberish, even talking about theological concepts like "mystery" by age 3 etc. But secretly (or not so secretly), I think he may have a vocation... I don't think every child responds the way he did nor should parents feel guilty if they don't (and he's had his impossible phases too).

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  53. I once had to confess that every Sunday at Mass I was in a towering rage at my children! I go to a church with no cry room, and there are tons of kiddies making various levels of noise, and no one seems to really mind. But I couldn't handle the questions, the tossing and turning in my lap, the nursing in the pew with old man kneeling right behind me, the spitting up on my outfit, the missing of all readings and homily because I'm marching in the vestibule--I was so resentful! So for a brief period of about six months--in the heat of 1 baby, 2 toddlers--we split up for mass. One of us went early, the other took the big kids to later mass. It was wonderful. It didn't last long. We got to worship and pray in peace. And we got a chance to teach our biggies how to participate in the mass! Now we have a few more and my youngest is five, so we can all go together! Actually, we've been going together for some time now!

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  54. Hmm, this is interesting to me. We've always gone to mass as a family. With the two little boys now, it's definitely challenging, but we're still doing it. If I have to nurse the baby, I just feed him right there in the pew. I cover with a blanket and don't really worry about it. If Dominic gets cranky, Mike stands with him in the back but he's not allowed to get down and run around. He's already learning what's allowed and what's not. I know it'll get harder as Joey gets older and they tag team us! But I want them there to receive the graces. We've also learned to sit next to the choir because Dominic loves to watch them sing. Overall we try not to be too strict because we know they're just little, but we also want them to start learning how to be good at mass. Next year Mikey will be an altar server so maybe that will help the little ones focus up front. Or give them a reason to yell out their brothers name!

    The beauty of parenting is that each family figures out what works for them, as long as its morally ok. You go girl!

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  55. I take Addie (almost 17 months) all by myself each Sunday at 8am. Not because I think she is getting anything out of it, but because otherwise DH would want to bring her to his Protestant church. He is adamant that she won't be Catholic so I am just trying to expose her to as much of my faith as I can!!! :) Honestly, I don't get much out of when she is with me, but when I say "fold your hands" she'll stop her wiggling for about 20 seconds and be a little bit angelic. This post eases my mind a bit about leaving her behind if the need exists. Thanks!

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  56. We go to Mass as a family, but that's what works for us right now. I can see the wisdom in a split-shift arrangement.

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  57. So glad to see others do the split shift too! I have a 4 year old and 2 year old boy and they sit like snakes but the 4 year old does sit still if he's just with one of us so we're back on the split shift.

    I live in a liberal area and unfortunately find that the less kid-friendly masses (no cry room/nursery) are the ones that have the most faithful priests and the more kid friendly parishes are really off-doctrine sometimes. No objections to nursery here, I'm jealous and would use one if we had one but I do know that my son loves going to 'short mass' down the road because it is usually 45 minutes long:) He will sit nicely in the front row of our more traditional parish (not traditionalist, mind you, but male altar servers, older hymns, only priest giving out the Eucharist.)

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  58. I am so glad I read this post.. thanks for making me feel "not alone" :-) My 2 year old is a terror at mass. It's really difficult and at times extremely stressful for us. I will have to consider "shift splitting" if my husband will go for it.

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  59. First-time commenter saying this is an AWESOME post. I have no problem with other people's kids at mass - they don't bother me. But I do have a problem with MY kids at mass. I'm like you - I hate going to mass with small children.

    I absolutely think we should welcome parents of small children at mass and not give them dirty looks every time their child makes a peep. But there's also nothing wrong with split shifts, or church child care, or another option if that's what works best for your family. The flip side of welcoming small children at mass is this idea that you HAVE TO take your small children to mass, which I seem to see everywhere in the blogosphere. This post was very validating to me! Thanks!

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  60. As a parishioner without kids, I thank you! Lol

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  61. Thank you. My three year old is a holy terror. Part of it is being three and part of it is the autism. In any case, he opens and shuts church doors all hour and I'm actually very blessed because my husband's parish is willing to put up with the noise in order that Daniel can be in church. Since he started an ABA preschool program, he's gotten better but I think it's going to be at least another year or two before he can sit in the pew the whole time.

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  62. Thank you, Leila, for an honest post on an important topic. It really got us thinking about we do bring our little ones to Mass. As I know after following your blog for a while (quietly), you are not afraid of other perspectives, so here's ours:

    http://forgottenaltars.blogspot.com/2012/06/hey-parents-leave-those-kids-at-home-on.html

    Whether parents choose to bring their children to Mass or not, they should definitely examine their decision carefully. Thank you for helping parents do that. God bless you and the work you're doing!

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  63. Our Family, thank you! What a lovely and well-written post. I appreciate that viewpoint very much! And, you'll be please to know that on the occasions my toddlers do go with us, we don't do any Thomas the Tank Engine books, nor Dora! :)

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  64. This post was meant for me. I have struggled with this for years. My little children are not shall we say church material. We have tried everything from forcing them all to come ( I have 7). To the split shift and lastly with going as a family but having gma watch the babies. My 8 year old has mild aspergers and I wanted him to make his communion this year and had the goal of taking him every Sunday of this year. The only way to give him structured attention throughout the year was to leave the babies at home so I could focus on his growth. Gma watched the littles so I could go with him and the older ones. But I did feel guilty. Anyway it worked and these past few weeks we have all gone again and to tell you the truth it's been a nightmare of shrieks from the toddler. I am considering going back to leaving her with gma.
    I also experienced the older ones adjusting fine when they start church at age 4 or 5.

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  65. Wow Thank you so much for writing this! It's been an ongoing struggle in our family through all 8 kids over the last 18 years and the only informed view I've gotten is the "guilt inducing I'm a total failure" opinion. I would love to be at mass as a whole family for lots of reasons but it just doesn't work for us right now. I guess with acceptance comes some peace. I look forward to the day that it does work for us!

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  66. 1 1/2 years later and I am red easing this to knock some sense into me. It was just J

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  67. I'm very thankful for this post. Still wondering how we could make it work ~ but Allison at Northern CF Family mentioned it again after I wailed from my inmost being about the roiling behavior of my three smallest during Mass. Thanks again!

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