Sheila wrote a great post at A Gift Universe, about her recent experience with taking a toddler to Mass, and how (to be frank) unwelcoming the community was. I started to comment, then kept commenting, and finally decided it was just rude to keep unloading in her combox. Soooo I moved it over and made it a new post. Lucky you!
Ahhhhh, yes. The anti-child pro-lifers. We've run into some of those! I hate that. Hate it. Out of the last eight Sundays, I haven't even been near the Church building past the Creed for three of them. Screaming monster child and I have already gone to sit in the car.
In the Church, interest in what's going out keeps him wanting to head for the front. (No, thank you Helpful Old Lady, sitting in the front does NOT help.) In the cry room, there are four dozen sick children all crawling all over one another and touching things. In the vestibule, there are pamphlets and holy water fonts and people with [silent] infants whom my child wants to touch. Out on the sidewalk, there's a STREET my child wants to run in. So, left with nothing but a writhing 30-pounder, kicking me in the gut and screaming in a genuinely disturbing fashion, I head for the car. Why not try to solve the problem instead of run away from it? Because I'll go to jail if someone sees me give my son the swat on the behind that he well knows means "knock it off." (A swat that works, if I'm able to just give it at the moment, then move right on. No such luck in public, hence Evil Child appears only in public.)
When I'm the only one home that weekend, we sit there in the car until I think the people coming out actually waited for the final blessing (i.e. Mass is actually over), then I drive off. When Joe is home, we wait for him to come out and then ask "how was Mass?" I'm sick of it, frankly, and utterly depressed by our inability to attend Mass as a family. We've gone through stages where we took turns going to Mass, which did bring each adult at least the chance for peaceful prayer, I hated that we weren’t “together.” Priests and adults I love and trust have told me not to worry, that this stage will pass, that we’ll all go to Mass together soon, that I needn’t worry, that this is the first child and the trials of behavior are much fewer with seconds or thirds, that daily Mass is an excellent option for taking my son since it’s short (not as a substitute for Sunday, but rather to give him experience sitting still), etc. But it still doesn’t mean I enjoy this stage, especially since the chance to “trade off” isn’t really an available chance every weekend.
And I REALLY DO NOT ENJOY going to Mass at an exceptionally holy [read = Latin] parish and being informed, variously:
“Of course, if he gets More Disruptive, you’ll want to move him away from the door so he doesn’t echo into the choir loft.”
“Well, thank goodness the Narthex is Quite Soundproof.”
“They do so much better when their parents are reverent.” (I wasn’t wearing a chapel veil.)
“Please remember this is a house of prayer, and reverence should be shown.”
Hmm. My mental vocabulary deteriorates in these kinds of situations pretty rapidly, to the point where it’s a good thing my kid is screaming so loud, or else people might here all the rude things I’m thinking. Believe me, mister, I’ve spent a lifetime sitting behind children 5-9 years old and being continually frustrated, annoyed, distracted, and disgusted by their antics. Game Boys, crackers, cell phones, Harry Potter books, gatorade, manicure kits—I’ve seen it all, entertainment trotted out for and by a class of children who are far and away quite old enough to sit still through Mass. I hate praying and being yanked from concentration by a voice clearly announcing, “I’m bored by this!” And the voice is not a toddler’s. Those children annoy me, those children are the ones whose maturity demands silence, and whose parents are gravely at fault.
But parents of toddlers? Crying infants? What makes us so annoying? Sure, that lady I used to see whose baby cried for the entire Mass, and she never left? That was a little annoying. After all, something was wrong with the baby! Maybe he was dirty, maybe he was hungry, but she sure didn’t do anything about it. I never used to leave Mass when V was a baby, unless it just went on and on and on (and usually ended up being a diaper thing). I’d stand up, rock him, hum to him, give him a toy, swaddle him up, nurse him…any number of things, and he usually ended up spending more time quiet than noisy. Once mobility became an issue, of course, that changed, but in general I still don’t leave Mass for reasons of noise. I leave Mass for reasons of Running To Altar Really Really Fast. (Then, when we’re someplace fun and I won’t let him play, the noise begins.) Oh well. I’m running out of steam and getting frustrated just thinking about it.