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.