Attending mass with a 3 year old

February 15, 2010

Our family typically attends 10am mass on Sunday, as we did yesterday morning.  We barely made it to church before mass started.  We slipped into one of the pews in the typical area where we sit.  As Chris and I sat down, we looked at each other, sighed that we made it, and braced ourselves for another hour of mass.  It is always a feat getting the four of us out of the door at the same time.  Invariably, someone ends up spitting up on themselves, having a blow-out in their diaper, or having a melt-down over something.  Not to mention, often Chris or I end up having to change clothes due to one of these incidents. 

As mass began, it looked like we were going to have a calm morning with our kids at church.  Abby was sleeping, and Brady was silently reading his books.  Woohoo!  Half way into mass though, the wiggle worm came to life.

Suddenly, Brady could not sit still.   It was one of those days where no matter if he was standing or sitting or even being held he was moving…constantly.  He kept trying to talk in his “quiet voice” which ends up sounding like a very loud, hoarse, whisper.  As most Sunday mornings go, Chris and I do our best to keep Brady quiet and still.  There are many mornings that we are very successful at this.  There are many, though, that we are not.  Yesterday was one of those mornings.  No matter what we said or did (we even took him outside for a talk), he just would not sit still or be quiet.

When a day like yesterday morning occurs also, Chris and I end up so frustrated.  People all around us are eying us and giving us the “look”.  This does nothing to help the frustration and doubt we have in that moment in ourselves as parents.  We know we are trying to do our best to keep Brady calm and quiet, but we so often feel we have no support from the community around us.  Frankly, it makes it very hard to keep up the committment to attend mass weekly with the kids. There are days like yesterday, that we want to throw our hands up and say forget it– it is not worth it. 

One day, I think I may hand him over to one of those “lookers,” who are so rarely parents themselves, and say you give it a try.  You get four people out of the house and get to mass on time.  You keep a three year old completely quiet and still for an hour. Oh, and by the way, you try to hear what the priest is saying during the homily, try to hear what the readings are, and  try to hold a music hymnal and a child at the same time when you have a three year old squirming next to you and an 8 month old who is constantly grabbing your hair, mouth, eyes, and ears.   Just once, I want someone to turn to Chris and I and say, “thanks for being here, and thanks for bringing your kids! We know that it is important for you and them to be here.”

It is on days like this that I have to remind myself of one thing:  We are there, and we are as present as we can be to God in that moment.  Our priest back in Louisiana used to say, “Pray as you can.”  So often, when I am at mass with my two kids, I have to repeat that to myself 200 times. 

We showed up– that is sometimes all my “yes” can be to God.   We participated the best we could in our faith community.  I know that being there with my kids teaches them and us about belonging to a community and about the importance of God in our lives.  As a struggling mom, I just wish other people understood the importance of this and would help support Chris and I in our decision to be there and to be present.

What is your “yes” to God today?

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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  1. Ryan

    I had a priest back home that used to say something to the effect of, “I’m glad you brought your kids and do not worry about them making noise. Thank God that these ones have had that chance.”

    I know the stares from other people aren’t the greatest… but God isn’t there just for them. You bringing Brady and Abby to Mass is incredibly important to their faith and to yours as well!

    Tell those people to come see me… I’ll set ’em straight. 🙂

  2. Becky Eldredge

    Thanks, Ryan! I appreciate your words of encouragement and the reminder that being there is important to all of us.

    I’ll send them your way next time!

  3. Lauren Gaffey

    Amen, sister! If Jesus, back in his time, welcomed the children, shouldn’t we be able to do the same?

    I just got out of Mass with an 8 month old who, apparently, doesn’t like penitential liturgical seasons. I wish the “lookers” realized that it is a lot harder on the moms than it is on them!

  4. Marcie

    I haven’t had the blessing of experiencing that discomfort yet, but I’ve seen friends struggle with the same issues you describe.

    I’m thanking God for Fr. Matt, who regularly thanks parents for bringing parents and calls on the community to be welcoming to parents bringing their families!


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