Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fitting for a Sunday

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'.




20 comments :

  1. Man, I hear you! Church with kids can be nuts!! A few weeks ago Tagg yelled out, "Guess what?! ... Chicken Butt!!" in the middle of our sacrament when you could have heard a pin drop! I wanted to die, cuss, pray and laugh all at the same time.
    I think that even with the craziness though, at least they learn the church is important and they'll feel the consistency of going.

    I love your matching dresses!! So cute!

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  2. I like your teenager suggestion!
    Mostly I try and remember 'practice makes better', go one parish over (with a wonderful cry-room) occasionally and by myself when I know I need a break. Great post!

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  3. Ana - Persevere!! It's SO hard with littles at Mass. And every mother is nodding her head reading this, even those of us whose kids are finally getting older. Keep trying and going, though - God is giving you so much grace, and He knows your heart and understands this season of your life. And definitely lower your expectations. I know I used to get more annoyed when I let myself feel the pressure of assuming that I was annoying other people. They can't ever learn, if you don't take them. I know people who have gone in the other direction and not taken their kids until they were 4 or 5. And then you have a much older child not behaving in Mass. I always used to feel horrible because I'd go up and receive the Eucharist and come back to kneel and pray, only to have some child start climbing on me, or lying in the back of my legs on the kneeler. So not TWO minutes after taking Christ inside of me, and I'm already whisper-yelling at some child in anger. Sigh. We're all a work in progress, and you're doing a great job.

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  4. Ana,
    I only have one, but I remember how trying she was at Mass. My husband was intolerant of any peep she made even as an infant, so we spent a long time in cry rooms or in back of church. As she got a little older, he took her out and wouldn't let her down. If she would be quiet, he would come back into Mass and she could get down, but if she made a peep it was always back out and being held. She learned pretty quickly that wasn't too much fun, especially when Daddy wasn't happy, or losing dessert at dinner. I don't know if that would work for you or not, but the teenager idea is gold. The little ones would probably want to model them anyway. Do you have any homeschool groups in the area that need service hours?
    Love your pictures!

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    1. As she got even older, he told her she would have to go to a second Mass with him if she acted up. We never had to use it, but it certainly made an impression on her.

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    2. Thanks so much! My husband does a similar thing with holding the girls in the back if they act up so that it's not a reward for bad behavior. I think a huge part of the stress is pregnancy so hopefully it will get better soon :)

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  5. Hi Ana! I feel your pain & can totally relate. Our children are currently ages 5, 2, and 9 months old. They were manageable during church until they were ages 4, 20 months, and 1 month/newborn. Then things got really out of control. At that point, we tried everything-- strapping the two little ones in a double stroller & walking in the foyer, the cry room, snacks, quiet toys, rewards, prepping our oldest by going over what we will do/hear during mass, and last, but not least we prayed a lot!!! Unfortunately, we've been treading water/slowly drowning in poor church behavior ever since & I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. My husband & I finally decided to go to church separately some weeks (one of us will bring our 5 year old with us), and leave our two little boys at home. It's not ideal, but is necessary to maintain our sanity sometimes. Other weeks, we go to church as a whole family at another parish that has a booming church organ that seems to drown out the screams of our 2 year old. At least we hope it does.

    Good luck & hang in there!

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  6. I'm Methodist, and they don't hugely encourage little kids in church, so it was just us with our 3 and 1 year olds until I gave up last summer and sent them to Sunday School (which is just daycare, I can own that). Maybe if the church were full of squirmy, not-understanding-quiet-voices little people I could hack it, but it was just too much and my husband wanted us to send them off. Now it's just baby Lucy and she's 10 months and getting awful noisy and squirmy...

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  7. haha or rent-a-college-student! I don't know about anyone else, but when I was in college, I would have been overjoyed if a young family had asked me to sit with them and their children and let me pretend to be mommy for an hour...I'd look into that if I were you...I'm sure there's some baby-crazed 18-20something just dying to sit with your girls :)

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  8. Oh my goodness...this is our Mass experience, too! This totally makes me feel better!

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  9. Ana,
    I used to go to Mass with all my little hellions (we ALWAYS go together as a family) and look at this one particular family that sat in front of us (also named the Martins) and go crazy with envy. They had their 5 kids all lined up acting like angels throughout the whole Mass. I would be sweating through the whole Mass trying to get my kids to sit still. My mother knew this other family and would tell me that when their kids were younger, they also misbehaved at Mass, but the parents took them to daily Mass and eventually they learned how to behave. This always gave me hope. And you know what? With the exception of Mr. Xander, who is one, my kids are now those angels in Mass. Seriously. We sit at the front, and they behave so well. If not, I just shoot them a death glare and they go back to being angels. Once they are 3 years old we don't allow toys/food/books but we do give them one piece of candy after Mass if they are good. Call it a bribe or reward, I don't care. All I know is that it works :) Just keep perservering, you will get there one day. And I find that the earlier Mass is always the better choice.

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    1. We did the "donut after Mass" reward. Believe me, one or two Sundays where one doesn't get a donut while all his other brothers are eating one right in front of him, and it makes an impression!. These are all such great ideas - and it's so nice to know that we all struggle with this!

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  10. Wow, I TOTALLY get where you're coming from. I have an almost 8-year-old and a 21-month-old... and together they are just such a handful at Mass. It doesn't help that my DD has attention issues. Then throw her rambunctious brother into the mix, and I'll be lucky if I can look straight ahead for 20 minutes total during Mass. I say I want to be able to focus/pay attention more, but at times we've tried going to Mass separately and it just feels so lonely and empty. Thanks for this blog post. I'm so glad I'm not alone. And I do need to work on not being so hyper-focused on how my kids are acting.

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  11. 7 or 7:30am Mass is our only hope! Since our kids are always up by then anyway, the only issue are the weeks Daddy needs to sleep in... This is the best ever time for several reasons: 1) If I'm lucky and they've slept past 6:30, the residual grogginess can get us about half-way through Mass right there, 2) Even if they're wide awake, this is obviously their #1 freshest time of the day, so meltdowns pretty much never happen: no one's horrifically starving, desperately in need of a nap (except me), etc...and they are pretty easily amused by some books and a few stray nun peg dolls, 3)(and here's the real secret ingredient) many parishes don't have music at the earliest Mass...it's AMAZING what a difference there is between a 40 min and full hour Mass with kids :P Actually, even if there is music, the comparatively small congregation at that time still shaves off enough to make it a decent improvement. Last week we tried to bump that just to the 8:30am Mass...which ended with the 40-something mom in front of me leaning back during the after-Communion *meditation* period (HA!) to give me her heart-felt reassurance that "it really does get SO much easier, really so much easier, I just had to tell you that!" Yeah...

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  12. Sorry I posted that twice somehow. Well, I did really mean it!

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    1. haha, it's ok, it is definitely not just you!!

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  13. 4 is a magical, wonderful, glorious age. I swear, they turn 4 and VOILA! Kneeling, sign of peace, money into the collection basket waiting until after the consecration to go pee even if they REEEEEAAALLLLY need to go. It's just that any time under 4 is insane and you'll have, like, 3 of them at the same time. And you'll think you're going to die! But you won't. And if you do, at least it's while you're at Mass, which is a straight ticket to heaven anyway. Win!

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