April 06, 2009,
M.C. asks from New Britain, CT on April 05, 2009
How Can I Keep My Three-year-old Civil During the Long Easter Mass?
Ok, so our family is Roman Catholic and as such we have a loooooong traditional mass coming up next Sunday for Easter. I sing upstairs in the choir so it is impossible for me to keep our three-year-old under control during mass; my husband takes him downstairs in the pews instead, but he has a hard time keeping the little guy quiet and interested (read: not yelling and not disturbing the other parishioners). We've tried bringing books and coloring books for him to play with during mass and also helping him follow along with the service by holding and "reading" his own missalette, but still after 15 minutes he's making a nuisance of himself. So, moms, what else should we try? I enjoy singing in the choir and the choir director really needs my voice, but I hate to see my husband frustrated and not enjoying mass, I hate to see the other parishioners irritated and most of all I hate to see my little guy resenting his time spent in church!
P.S. Before anyone says it, yes I am aware that I could have prevented this problem by bringing him to mass every Sunday from infancy and conditioning him to behave well during mass. I didn't, only occasionally, and that ship has sailed (although my goal is to get him to church service as many Sundays as possible now that he's getting a little older). Also I am well aware that it is unrealistic to expect a three-year-old to sit stilly and quietly for well over an hour in a mostly unfamiliar setting--or even a familiar one for that matter.
So What Happened?™
Wow, such great ideas moms! In answer to some of you, we have a soundproof "crying room" separate from the main sanctuary of the church with nothing in it except chairs and missalettes. We do go there sometimes but the sound isn't always that great and it's behind the very last row of pews so we try to avoid it. I am definitely going to speak to our pastor about upgrading the room or putting some tables in the back of the sanctuary so all of us parents can bring our little guys there. It's funny because the pastor's been asking all us parents to bring our kids to church; I don't think he realizes how hard it for us to feel welcome back in that crying room!
I really do need to sing upstairs for both masses (at least until we get some more soprano choir members, we're really small right now) but I'll definitely have my family go to the later one. I think this weekend I'll pack the Mr. Potato head, one of the Cheerios books (along with the Cheerios to put in the spaces), a magnet book or a half cookie sheet and magnets, an Easter coloring book, a snack and a juice box to send with my husband downstairs. I'll even see if I can get him to sit up front so my boys can see. And, when my youngest inevitably gets restless, I'll tell my husband or one of my daughters (in advance) to take him for a quick break. If the other parishioners get antsy, I'll just be sure to say a big "God bless you, Happy Easter!" when I join my family after the recessional. Thanks to all of you for being supportive, kids will be kids and it's nice to hear some of you have gone through the same stuff.
H.M. answers from Boston on April 06, 2009
You're doing great! How about making a small bag of "mass only" quiet toys along with the books you already have for him? I suggest using toys that either he has never seen, or use toys that he hasn't seen in a very long time. I tried this with my grandchildren, and it helped quite a bit. They were not perfectly quiet, but they did well for their age.
C.B. answers from Springfield on April 05, 2009
Hi M.! I think its great that you hopefully avoided the negativity before it even came...haha. With my daughter I bring food, that seems to keep her occupied for most of the time. Good Luck I'll be crossing my fingers for you....
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J.G. answers from New London on April 06, 2009
We are lucky that our church has a nursery. But I don't like my son missing out - so he comes in to the service. We are doubly lucky that our church has a speaker in the narthex (vestibule of the church) with a table, crayons, books, etc. WE go there often and can still hear the service. Maybe a few parents could approach your church for something like this.
We visited my husband's old church last year and they had a basket with little tote bags. Inside were crayons, quiet toys, books, etc. They weren't as nice as what we had packed, but they were different and it really held his attention (for at least half the service). So now I kept special toys and special snacks only for church - the novelty helps. Also, I try to give snack during the gospel so he is quiet then. Also, I sit where he can get up and stand and move - as a sensory seeker SI child, he simply can NOT sit still at this age (we're working on that as a goal).
I also try to balance the church's needs with my son's needs and with the other parishioners' needs. A little noise should be tolerated - I'm not talking big amounts. But all church's need to realize that children are the future of the church. If they don't feel welcomed and have a sense of ownership before the teen years, many will leave the moment their parents can't force them to go any more. (I have a 24 year old too and my husband works with the youth program at our church). We don't have a children's service, but our minister has said that people who need it quiet should come to the early service and parents, please come to the later service. So now I don't feel the need to constantly shush my younger son and he listens to the few times I do.
K.D. answers from Providence on April 06, 2009
well beign a child dev specialist you know not all kids have teh same temperment and soemtimes bringing infants and small children to worship is very stressful situation. do they have a crying room???? i usually start out in the sanctuary and then immediately exit to teh crying room if my two yr old is to busy for the main church. i brign snacks small toy etc. it is really to much to askto have them absolultly quiet through out the whole service so i keep my expectations low and try not to get frustrated kids sense that anyway this to shall pass and continue singing your husbadn can handle it maybe let him go to 830 or 7 mass and then everyone relaxes and you can ehjoy your singing time not stressful adn practice church next week when the service is do able with a 3 yr old and not so long as easter mass... mother of 4 - 14 11 9 and 2 K. d
K.L. answers from Boston on April 06, 2009
My husband and I were brought up Catholic (school and everything!) and though we now attend another protestant church, I have to say, when we do attend Mass with other family members, the priests have been very accepting of talking,crying etc from little kids. I even apologized to a priest at a memorial mass for a relative and he said "I love when the little ones are in church, it doesn't bother me a bit". At our church we do have nursery and kids church during service so its expected that babies,toddlers and children up to 2nd grade go to one of them and not the adult worship. Sometimes I would like to have my son in service with me, but feel kind of pressured not to. Maybe you could suggest having the "crying room" be more of a nursery with toys and activities for the kids. There are many Bible curriculums for kids and I'm sure the Catholic church would have some of their own. As far as other members, maybe try to sit with other families? Best!
K.G. answers from Boston on April 06, 2009
Every church I've ever been to has a nursary. Let him sit for the service for 15 minutes. When he gets antsy have your husband take him to the nursary and leave him there until the end of the service. Then next time try to get him to sit for 20 minutes.
R.K. answers from Springfield on April 06, 2009
Our church had an area in the back for parents w/ young children where you could sit and hear mass and the kids could play but weren't being disruptive. I've all so been to a few churches where the kids sit through only part of the mass then they have the chance to go to a room similar to a daycare style and play and learn about mass on their level so they can actually understand what is going on and being said. Maybe its time to a look for a more child friendly catholic church they are around. Personally I don't go to Mass anymore because I found you just can't please people. You either get the disgusted look because your child acts up or starts to cry, you get disgusted looks fi you go to Mass w/o your kids, and kids don't understand what's going so of course they aren't going to sit still and those that expect them to are crazy. If it weren't for the crazy looks I got when my youngest would cry and need to nurse I'd probably still go but people for some reason expect children to sit and be quiet...HAHAHA they need to wake up and go back to when they had small kids. Maybe you could get him a babysitter or have a family member or neighbor watch him while you go or let your husband stay home w/ the kids there is no reason to put a 3 yr old through Easter Mass if you don't have to they don't understand what's going on anyways.
M.B. answers from Providence on April 06, 2009
Well Hi M.. As my family doesn't go to mass, I don't know if this will work for you, but it has worked for me when I have to bring my 3-year-old to a long and potentially boring event for a 3-year-old. Have you thought of bringing play-do or moon sand. They both make no noise and are easy clean up. Most people understand that you need to bring stuff for little guys.
ALso, does your church have a children's area? We've gone to a few christening where there is a children's area that is pretty sound proof so as not to disturb parisheners. They had teenager-parisheners in there keeping an eye on the kids and/or parents could stay in it too. SOmething to look into. Good luck!
L.D. answers from Burlington on April 06, 2009
when my brother was that age we used to bring dry cereal for him in a little snack container (and we went to church every sunday when i was growing up)..he would sit and eat them or kneel at the pew and line them up and play games with them..what about buying the book where you put the Cheerios in the little holes for him?
L.P. answers from Lewiston on April 06, 2009
Boys are much more active and coloring books don't usually hold their interest for long. How about an action figure for each hand? My youngest always has one in each hand, in church too, and this usually does the trick. Good luck - I'm sure you won't be the only one at your church with squirmy little ones!