Let me set the scene for you. Every Saturday afternoon Carlos and I rush around the house getting ourselves, Rey, and Vincent ready for Mass. This entails making sippy cups for Vince, a bottle for Rey (possibly feeding him if he decides he’s hungry before Mass), packing a zip-lock baggy of goldfish and other assorted snackies, turning the house upside down for the quietest toys for Vincent, and looking for my sunglasses that are never where I should logically put them. It’s never a pretty or calm scene as we are leaving the house for church.
As we were leaving Mass on Saturday, a fellow mom in the children’s chapel (aka “cry room”) turned to me and said, “Oh my goodness, how old is he? He was SO good during Mass! I just can’t believe how well behaved he was!” She was referring to my 20-month-old toddler, Vincent. All I could muster to answer was, “he’s 20 months old, thank you.”
What I really wanted to say was, “giiiirrrrrrrrrllll. If you only knew how he acted last week!” Because the truth is, Mass is a weekly struggle for us. It’s getting a newborn and toddler ready and out the door on time. It’s occupying a very active toddler for at least an hour with no screens and no crazy toys that light up and make noise. And it took a while to find a service time that not only fit with our schedule, but also Vincent’s nap schedule and his accompanying attitude before and after nap time. It took some trial and error but we found a time that works for our family as a whole – and we know it’s subject to change as our newborn, Rey, gets older.
As a wife and mother, I have very high expectations. Motherhood has taught me to take the ups with the downs. But it’s something I’ve had to work on. I forget that Vincent really has no clue what’s going on at Mass but it’s our responsibility to teach him. It’s our responsibility to teach him how significant everything is at Mass. I’ve pored over numerous articles on how to get your children to behave during Mass, and how to involve them in an age-appropriate manner. It wasn’t until I truly started participating in Mass and involving him in my Faith life that Vincent became more involved in Mass as well – I had to give him something to get involved with.
The “cry room” at our parish is a glass-lined box of a room. The door says “CHILDREN’S CHAPEL” but we all know it’s called the cry room. It boasts a very heavy door that slams every time you need to dismiss you and your child for a “talk” in the hallway – as a way to bring further attention to your current situation. If the church is cold, the cry room is hot. Sometimes the lights get turned off if you’ve got a toddler and you’re sitting right by the light switch (not that we’ve ever done that before or anything). The chairs have seen better days, I think they retired from public school about 20 years ago but their yellow fade seems to add a nice ambience to the room. If you choose to kneel during Mass, that’s on you – we have no kneelers, which is fine because it’s not built for the anatomy of pews – but if your knees can take that then you are obviously a hardcore Catholic. I’ve never kneeled before in the cry room – between the hard floor, lack of kneelers, and pregnancy, there were too many excuses to not kneel.
In the last few weeks I’ve started to kneel as a way to give Vincent something to observe, emulate, and give him something to get involved with. I also give him our money for the collection plate and let him place it in the basket when the collection plate finally makes its way to the cry room. We do our “beads” a few times a week and I strongly suggest these rosaries because they can take just about anything (FYI we don’t even get through a decade, so don’t go thinking that that happens). During our walks, I play a rosary podcast out loud on my phone – I know Vincent probably can’t even hear it over the nature sounds but I like to think he can. He uses the dog’s water bowl as holy water and will do his sign of the cross, I’m guessing whenever the Holy Spirit leads him to the dog bowl – yeah, let’s go with that. Our nightly prayers consist of him listing off all the names he knows, and CoCo (the Disney movie) always gets prayers first. Prayers for CoCo are fine, but why do they have to be first? (Toddler logic).
What I’m trying to get at is: small things can make big differences in your children’s faith lives. A routine is monumental at this stage anyways, but a Faith routine can be even bigger. When we would skip Mass, it meant that Vincent missed out on an opportunity to learn about Jesus and the Mass we get to celebrate with Him. So sometimes we have to grin and bear it through Mass (and bribe Vincent with plenty of goldfish), and we aren’t always the best at involving Vincent and being understanding with him, but I think the important part is that we’re trying.
We aren’t perfect by any means and I wish I could tell that mom from the cry room this past week about how long it’s taken for us to get to where we are. But the truth is, next week (or any given week) we will probably be combatting a screaming newborn and a bored toddler at any moment during the Mass. I think the bottom line is: if you want your children on their knees before God, you better be on your knees before God as well(but if your cry room doesn’t have kneelers, then that’s on you if you decide to kneel)!