By: Patricia Gonzalez
As a young mom with 2 girls under 2 years old, going to Mass is an entirely different experience from when I was without children or as a single woman. My time at Mass used to be an hour of stillness, reflection and praise. It was a sacred moment of grace, during which I would try to give my undivided attention to our Lord. I looked forward to my daily Mass, and saw it as a time to for me to refocus and reenergize for the rest of my day.
When I started having babies however, things started to change. As infants they were fairly manageable at Mass, because they would sleep through most of the hour and I could easily pacify them by breastfeeding.
Once my babies turned into toddlers however, my experience of Mass was no longer the peaceful hour I remembered it to be. Instead of solemn moments of prayer, Mass now comprises of chaotic moments of me trying not to lose my temper. But I’ve learned to work around that, and here are my tips for bringing small children to church.
1. Read the readings in advance. Reality check, there is no way you will ever be able listen (and absorb) the readings and gospel while you are trying to make sure that your toddler doesn’t hurt herself, or distract those who are sitting next to you in the pew. Thus, my husband and I have started the habit of reading all of the readings and the gospel either during our morning prayers, or in the car on the way to Mass.
2. Choose where you will sit wisely. As a single woman without children, I usually chose the pews closest to the alter. Once my toddlers started walking however, we began moving farther away from the front (lest one of our toddlers decides to run up to the altar during consecration). Choose locations where your small children have ample space to move around without bothering those who are trying to concentrate on Mass. Locations to closest to the exist are also quite convenient, in case one of them decides to throw a tantrum during the priest’s homily.
3. Bring small toys and small snacks. While I wouldn’t recommend this as a long term solution, small toys and discrete snacks (like biscuits or cut-up pieces of fruit) are very helpful for encouraging children to sit still and be quiet. The disadvantage of this would be determine how and when to begin teaching your children that this is inappropriate behavior in church.
4. Go to Mass during naptime. This has been our best bet yet. It is super easy to concentrate on Mass and manage kids….while they are fast sleep!
While these tips may be helpful, I think the best advice that I got for bringing small children to church is to keep a healthy sense of humor about the entire situation. I needed to learn to accept that life is different now, and that includes my prayer in experience of Mass. But it might also help to remember that certainly doesn’t make being there any less valuable.
Patricia Gonzalez is MOMCENTER’s Editor. She has two adorable daughters–ages 1 and 2, and is married to a man who inspires her to be a better woman everyday.
She is a woman on a mission, and believes that motherhood is not limiting, but empowering. Join her on her journey by following her on instagram at @patriciaogonzalez.