Does anyone else want to move to her parish? After I read that article, I felt a mix of emotions; happy that wonderful parishes like that exist to affirm and support young families, sad that Haley's experience hasn't been my overwhelming experience of my church family.
There are many wonderful, loving people at our parish, even the older woman who compliments my children and misses us (and says so!) when we attend a different mass or take a family vacation. We've sat in the front, the cry room, and places in between. I've gotten compliments on my children (deserved and undeserved) and I've gotten quite a few miffed expressions. I'd venture to say my experience has run the gambit of typical parent experiences in Mass. Complete with two toddlers running in opposite directions.
Right now, my family sits in the cry room....because someone is a chatty one during Mass.
|She only likes sound when she's the one making it|
Hubby and I are of different views about when it's time to head back into the actual "grown-up" section of the church. My preference would be to stay in the front. All the time. With toddlers, newborns, pre-communicants, new communicants, and us old hats. However, I understand that leaving the pew forty-three-ish times each Sunday with a loud/angry toddler is not ideal for everyone, so in the cry room, we remain.
Except Haley's article got me thinking, "how are these people ever going to have the opportunity for the grace of accepting/embracing/loving children during Mass if I'm hiding back here?" Really. Have the few angry/perturbed stares and stink eyes been enough that I should hide my family in the back of the church in a sound-proof box? Well, I have been. But I'm starting to think perhaps not.
To cultivate a parish that loves children and values them as part of the church family, the change starts with me. I need to re-evaluate my own mind set. I need to cultivate first an attitude that my children and those loud ones dropping books over there (well, those might be mine too) should be there, deserve to be there, are blessed by being there, are a blessing for being there. How else can I expect anyone else to see them as blessing?
Someone recently mentioned that our parish needs a nursery, so the children can be tended while the parents are in Mass. I love the idea of attending Mass in relative tranquility, but is that what's best for us as a Church?
Jesus said to let the little ones come. I don't think He meant they should come to coloring sheets and wooden blocks, I think He meant that they should come to Him. Will this make Mass as a parent harder? Absolutely. Will I still end up back in the cry room holding a fussy toddler? On occasion. Can I be an example of the blessing children are to our parish? Absolutely, but only if I first see that my own are a blessing. Mass isn't just to be survived with young ones, we're bringing them to celebrate too.
Even if their celebration lacks the finesse we would wish. Even if I end up walking in the cry room or narthex with a fussy little, they're supposed to be there. We're a poorer church for segregating and separating ourselves from our children.
Thanks to Haley's take, I'm going to attend with a different mindset, and hopefully a more open heart. For my children, for other children, for the older folks who might be giving me the stink eye, for everyone.
Once I have cultivated in my own heart a willingness and openness for my own children in the Mass, I feel confident this mindset will allow me to see the openness and kindness of those around me that I haven't noticed before.
I'll also work on being a voice of kindness to others. Pretty sure there's no rule stating that as a mother of young children I can only get the compliments. I need to be a source of joy and support to those around me, as well. Because we're only going to have the kind of Church our children want and are on fire for if we make it a place that welcomes them wholeheartedly.
Children are always, every time a blessing. They are a gift from God, and I'm going to be thinking a little differently about my attitude when I bring those blessings and gifts before our Lord.