I've read a lot of posts on taking your young children to Mass, many of which have addressed the issue of death-glaring curmudgeons who make parents of multiple tiny children--or of even one child--feel awful for bringing their loud, annoying kids into Mass. These posts have always made me feel super encouraged. Yes, it is good for me to bring my little ones to Mass even if they are slightly-to-a-lot disruptive. Yes, it is ok to do whatever I need to to get through it, even if it means camping out in the cry room, feeding them cheerios, and bribing them with treats afterward if they are good. And yes, there is grace present there even if I don't feel like there is because I am so exhausted and burned out by the end.
But I came out of Mass yester-evening in a bit of a quandary. What if I am becoming one of those grumpy curmudgeons about my OWN kids? Because I am. Really. I am more annoyed with them the entirety of the Mass than anyone else in church, this I can be sure of. I am literally sitting there wondering WHAT IS WRONG with them. They were fine before we walked into the church. They were sitting in their playroom at home playing peacefully and happily, with no tears, yelling, or weird body-squirming. But then we walk into the church, and it is like a switch is flipped in their little heads and they cannot or will not summon an ounce of the discipline/self control/obedience they had only 5 seconds before walking into that narthex.
Mike and I have talked it over a thousand times, trying to figure out what to do. The past 3 weeks we have been experimenting with the best time to go to Mass. We usually go to the 11 a.m. Mass, but things were getting worse and worse, so we tried the 9 a.m. last week. No better. Last night we did the 4:30 p.m. vigil Mass. That one was the worst of all. I leave almost every single Mass these days with a migraine and pining for a stiff drink. (This, by the way, was the only reason the Vigil Mass was better: it was acceptable to have a drink afterward.)
The only conclusion I have come to is that our expectations are just too high, and that it's probably time to begrudgingly accept that good kids sometimes act like rabid lemurs. Maybe all of us going to Mass together just isn't in the cards right now- or ever when we have kids this age and I am 7 months pregnant. Going to Mass by myself is physically hard right now. I chalk it up to the prolonged sitting/standing/kneeling with a nice splash of tons of crazy Toni Braxton Hicks contractions and the baby always going nuts on my bladder for the entirety of the liturgy- yeah that's probably it. The addition of a 3- and 1- year-old both cimbing back and fourth over my almost nonexistent lap the whole time and generally needing to be picked up multiple times does not help. Oh, and I am a selfish wimp of a baby and just want to sit and be comfortable.
We've gone through spurts where it is really good and going very well, and because of that we always tell ourselves during these tough times that it will surely get better. I am starting to doubt that it will get better at all right now, at least until we have an older child to help us with the younger one- so for like 5 more years. Looking back, I feel like from the first pre-Mass picture of this post to the last it has gotten progressively worse. and worse. and worse. So either I have regressed massively on the patience and virtue scale (a very likely possibility) or it just takes a reallly reallllly long time to get any better, especially while we are only adding additional totally dependent children to the mix right now.
Personally, I think parishes should just have a rent-a-teenager station at the back of each church before Mass. We would pay them in food after Mass if they would just sit with us and help us for that hour. Just sayin'.