In case you’re new to this controversy, it’s yet another way good people waste time on the internet: getting huffy about how others attend church with their kids. For reference, my kids are 7, 5, 3, and 14 months. The 7 year old always goes, but it depends with the others.
We can all agree to this: attending Mass is a profound privilege and the most important part of our week! We aspire to be reverent, to worship, and to not detract from other’s experiences of the same.
We struggle to agree on children’s place in all this: they should be in the cry room; they should be in the front row; they shouldn’t come until they’re old enough to behave like adults; they should come and behave as they’re able to and we should welcome them despite their struggles.
Our family has done it all: parents splitting up to go to Mass alone; me solo with all four kids; older kids with us; toddler at home; front row; back row; middle row; books and coloring; nothing; bribes of donuts; threats of trouble, etc.
My experiences has taught me that nothing is more humbling than expecting and demanding that my small children behave a certain way in public. Especially in a public place that should be quiet and reverent.
What works for you this week might not work next, same for this year to the next. Maybe you’re embarrassed and stopped going to Mass because your spouse isn’t into it anyway and suffering through temper tantrums and dirty looks is too much. Maybe your nine kids behave like angels and the older help with the younger. Maybe you’re desperate to actually pray during Mass and leave the little kids with a relative so you can have an hour of peace.
Let the children come to Jesus.
Please, be sympathetic if you think a family isn’t shutting their kids up and they should. Maybe one of them is on the spectrum and they’re doing their best. Please, be kind to the mom whose three kids under three are crawling around and crying and she’s not taking them to the back. Maybe her postpartum depression is crushing her. Please, don’t turn around and glare if two kids are scuffling in the pew while their mom is trying to discretely feed a younger sibling. Maybe it’s hard to feed a baby in public.
If you think people aren’t being reverent at Mass (repeatedly) because of how they allow their kids to behave, first pray about it and then talk to your priest. Please leave the family alone. They’re probably exhausted and trying their best. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.