The De-Militarized Zone

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Every Sunday we take our grandchildren (Lizzie – age 4, Liam – age 2) to Mass because Mom and Dad have to work.  When they were babies this wasn’t so bad because they usually fell asleep or only fussed until you gave them a bottle or a pacifier.  In addition, people in church are much more forgiving of babies – and their caregivers – mainly because babies are just so darn cute!  This is not true of children once they reach about age 2.

We always sit in the front row during Mass because I usually am a reader and it is easier for great-grandma (who, surprisingly has the courage to go to Mass with our motley crew) to hear the readings and the sermon.   This has enabled the entire congregation to witness the gradual craziness which has taken over our family during Mass.

As the children learned to walk, we would position ourselves in such a way that they could not escape from the pew and cause general mayhem – because, as anyone knows, escaped children never run towards the back of the church (which would make sense if they were truly wishing to get out of the place) – no – they always run towards the front and want to be right up front with the priest around the altar.  After all, every child knows that it really is all about them and they are the stars of the show – so why aren’t they being spotlighted on that wonderful stage!

Once Lizzie and Liam learned that they couldn’t get past us in the pew, they started climbing over everything – but mainly they used Grandpa as a tree.  This was all done under the guise that they want to be able to ‘see’ – but keep in mind that we are in the front row – what more could they possibly see??  Well – stupid question – they want to see all the way to the back of the church and see their audience!

Then, they learned that the kneelers would go up and down – and didn’t care if toes were in the way.  Plus, these were great seats!  You could sit on them and color on the sheets handed out to children at the beginning of Mass.  These are always given with the hope that the children will be quiet while they color pictures of Moses and Jesus and Mary – but in reality, the kids like them because they make a lot of noise by crinkling and crumpling them!  Inevitably, these have to be taken away because the kids are using these to make more noise than they would by using Grandpa as a climbing post!

The one thing all kids learn early is that their parents/grandparents will do ANYTHING to keep them quiet during Mass and not have to face the disapproving stares of the congregation.  I have brought bags of cheerios and crackers for snacks, crayons to color those wonderful pictures, calculators to play with the buttons and have even let them stack all of the books in the pew – as long as they are QUIET!

We are now resorting to threats – seems a little counterproductive doesn’t it?  We go to church to learn about brotherly love and how to forgive – and spend half the time threatening our little hellions with severe punishment if they don’t sit still!  Bribery is no longer working so punishment is next. 

We have now come to the point where even this doesn’t work.  I knew the day was coming because I faced it with my own children.  Luckily, it hits about the same time the child is old enough to go to Sunday School – so we will only have to suffer through this until this fall – and then Lizzie will go to classes during Mass.  Hallelujah!

It should be noted that our church doesn’t have a ‘family room’ or ‘cry room’ – so our grandchildren are not the only ones causing distractions during Mass – they aren’t even the worst offenders all of the time – they just happen to be the most visible because we sit in the front row!  And for those of you who are thinking – why the heck don’t you take them out during the service or not bring them at all – we have taken them out during Mass, but they think this is great and continue the behavior – so that doesn’t work.  As far as not going to Mass?  Well, that just isn’t an option – since it is important to our family to celebrate this holy day every week – even if it comes with the price of temporary insanity!

In the past few weeks, we have noticed that a de-militarized zone has been established behind us.  At first we thought the empty pew was because Mass is very lightly attended at 11:30 a.m. – but even when the church is full, we tend to have an empty pew behind us, unless some poor unsuspecting newcomer decides that’s a safe place to sit.  Lucky for us, the kids, although a little rowdy sometimes, are usually pleasant – and they are still pretty darn cute, so they are forgiven easily.   And for those individuals who don’t forgive them and aren’t just a little amused by their antics and our struggles?  Well – we’ll say some extra prayers for them – in between putting all the books back in the correct spot, picking up torn and crumpled paper, cleaning up spilled cheerios and keeping the children from running up to the front to give Father a hug.

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4 responses »

  1. Can’t say I’m really a fan of children being allowed to behave this way, no matter how funny the story. And for once, the strictness with which my mother raised me seems right. We were never allowed to behave this way, the consequences were a big deterrent, and so we behaved well in church even as young children. It was just not an option to behave like a hellion. I suspect the demilitarized zone is not nearly as humorous to your church neighbors as it is to you.

  2. What a cute story! I am so glad you still take them even though you may go insane in the process. You will be rewarded in the end.

    You are a most interesting writer, I must say. Very good story teller, and you make a frustrating situation sound a bit funny. (Though it’s not.) LOL

    I have two very young grandchildren, but I haven’t even thought of the idea of taking them to Church. The two-year-old is a real challenge, and he enjoys beating up his baby sister. I think I would appear as a child-abuser, if I took such steps. Bravo to you. Keep up the good work, and the great story-telling.

  3. Great writing Katie and so funny in a funny sort of way.
    Is it not possible to have a creche, somebody volunteering each week to watch over the children.
    The Church is not only for adults for as Jesus said ” suffer the little children to come unto me”. It would not be right to exclude them, and to stay away would be unthinkable.
    I can understand that it could be distracting for the older foggies but the Church was created for all, not just those who can sit quietly.
    I used to belong to the Godstone Baptist Church many years ago and I was the Youth Group Leader. Baptists are quite strict about what goes on in the church and quite a few eyebrows were raised when the Youth Group put on a play in the church. We had music that soothed and music that rocked your senses but it was fun and got the message through. Only two people left in disgust, so not bad really out of a full church.
    Perhaps it would be an idea for those that do not like children in the church to pray for a solution.

    Thank you for the wonderful reading
    Have a happy day

    • I probably over-stated how my grandchildren act in church – although there are days! As Catholics, we are very lucky that most Catholic churches have more than one service — ours has four – 5:30 pm on Saturday and 7:30 am, 9:30 am & 11:30 am on Sunday. So, if any parishiner doesn’t like the dynamics of the congregation, there are others to choose from and we all do that based on different things. Music is always a big one – and we go to the 11:30 because the children love the music – plus, I used to sing in the 11:30 choir so they would know the songs. I love to watch them both sing along — even though they are only 2 and 4. For Catholics, Mass is about worshipping as a community and that includes the children. Most of us revel in the sound of a child in Mass because that means new life and a new member of our community. The Mass has parts where we try to specifically include the children – and our grandchildren love those parts.

      Are they a little crazy right now? Yes – but what child isn’t at age 2 and 4? They aren’t noisy — just rambunctious – and truth be told — I probably cause more of scene trying to keep them under control than if I just left them alone! Aha! Revelation! I’m the problem!

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