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On taking your child to Mass.

And after this my complaints about Samuel's admittedly very minor (5 year old) behaviors are both ludicrous and petty. But then we all have our own matters to contend with. We often attend mass with a family who has a daughter with SID (sensory integration dysfunction) which is along the spectrum of autism. What mom has to go through on a daily basis is grueling, but in the case of this child has achieved nearly miraculous results.

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Taking kids to Mass isn't so hard. Getting ready for Mass and actually getting through Mass is the difficult part(!) My two boys are 8 and 9 years old now, and it's a breeze. But there were days when we wondered just why we made the effort to get to Mass.

What really helped us was our church's Children's Liturgy of the Word - the Liturgy of the Word geared towards 4 to 7 year-old kids. My wife and I actually became leaders of that group - and I can tell you those kids (sometimes 110 or more at a time) blessed us more than we did them. But I think the kids got a lot out of it too - we were able to get creative and really make the Word come alive for them.

Aww, I was being whiny. Something about being up after you want to be asleep-- if you choose your bedtime yourself, you can merrily stay awake until the wee hours. If your bedtime is chosen for you by a child, hah, you're the grumpiest bear in the woods.

Five year olds are great. Mine, unfortunately, has a very ego-centric view of the universe. And he can whistle. Combine those during a Mass . . . you don't want to know how embarrassing that gets. The poor lector didn't know whether to blush or scowl when he wolf-whistled as she approached the ambo . . . .

Save your stories. You can use them to embarrass him later, when he's dating.

Noisy small children at Mass are not a distraction to me, they are music to my ears. These noisy bundles of energy are the Church of tomorrow, and I applaud the parents for bringing them, in spite of the embarrassment they may feel from the dirty looks of some selfish people around them. I pray that they maintain their patience and keep bringing them. It would be nice if a priest made mention of this sentiment once in a while, though I can only recall having heard it said once in 33 years of attending Mass.

I also believe that the noisy children should remain in the main assembly and only taken to a "cry room" as a last resort. Even then, it should only be until the child calms down, then it's back out with everyone else. Quite often, cry rooms are where parents who have given up take their children and let them run wild. I don't think that should be the point of them. Go to the cry room, quiet down, then go back to your original seat in the congregation.

If you know your kiddo is a squirmy type just by their nature, sit near the rear so as not to disturb those who are bothered by such things. On the other hand, if your child acts up mainly because they are just bored, sit near the front, so he or she can see what's happening. You can explain it to them as it's going on or after Mass. There are also some great age-appropriate picture books explaining the Mass to preschoolers and kindergarten aged children available at Catholic booksellers and Amazon.com. If they have a better understanding of what's going on, they are more likely to get "into it". This latter example is the experience I had with my son when he was a preschooler and kindergartner. He used to try to match up the parts of the Mass described in his book, which we always brought, to what was happening in the church at the time. Face it, if you had to sit still and be quiet for and hour and had no idea why or what was going on, YOU'D be bored and fidget too!

I was a REAL handful as a toddler and preschooler at Mass, but my parents hung in there, as tough as it on them was at times. Eventually I got the hang of what was expected for behavior, and realized that acting out wasn't going to get me out of it, which was my goal. (For many savvy kids, even little ones, their "acting out" is mainly so they can get out of going to church.) I very gradually started listening more and fidgeting less. Once I was old enough to start school (parochial) and got some formal instruction on what this whole "church thing" was all about, I was never a problem again. (I'm sure C.C.D. has the same effect on a child if a parochial school is not an option.) I attribute the steadfastness of my parents for instilling in me the importance of regular Mass attendance at that very young age.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 22, 2003 8:33 AM.

Know Your Limitations was the previous entry in this blog.

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