Wednesday, August 3, 2011
To Crying Room or not to Crying Room?
I've just read a great article bringing to light how sad and depressing "crying rooms" are in our modern churches. As I read it I couldn't help but think Deacon Greg is right for many reasons.
For the past 4 years we've always had a "baby" and usually two more toddlers at Mass with us. We go every Sunday, and try to go in the week and Holy Days of Obligation too, and I think I can count on one hand how many times we've had to physically remove our kids from the church. The church where we attend Mass is a very small and historic building built in 1919. Even the entryway is tiny and attached to the main part of the Church so taking the kids to the back is rendered useless as well.
But this doesn't mean the babies are completely silent and holy through every Mass. Usually at least one makes noise through a large section of the Mass, and in the case of my youngest and loudest child, likes to flex his muscle of getting away with as much as possible knowing we can't do too much in a pew! But, although its nothing close to easy, getting your kids used to listening to you in Church and behaving semi-civilized for about an hour is achievable. We've definitely had Masses where the temper tantrum has lasted a couple whole minutes and you can feel everyone looking at you wondering why you can't get your own child to be quiet! Our current priest sometimes stops his homily and asks Luke to lighten it up a little. (Going to Mass every week AND sitting in the front row AND making a lot of noise is definitely one way to have your priest know the names of your kids!)
But I've also been pretty strong in not wanting to take the kids out completely unless absolutely necessary. I think it teaches the kids first of all, that if they pitch enough fits, cry enough or be generally unpleasant they get to go run around to their hearts content for the rest of Mass. That'll take years to get out of their systems once you've let that go on. And I think that the only way you get kids used to being in Church and thus fostering a life-long interest and attachment to actually going to Mass, is to keep them there from the start and showing them that its important. We're not here to play, or eat treats, we're here to listen, pray, etc.
As for the mom's viewpoint, I think many women feel as if they're expected to take their children out as soon as they begin to make noise. I understand that feeling but also don't believe that the small normal sounds small children make are harmful or detrimental to the general population at Mass. Churches should be embracing the beauty of babyhood and children. Churches should be supporting and encouraging young mothers to bring their children to Mass no matter how much noise comes with them. The benefits for both mother, child, and family are too great to ignore in the back of the church somewhere.
That all being said, its tons of work bringing small children to Mass and getting them to behave. We always try to have them well rested and fed so that the chances for huge meltdowns are limited. I've gotten so used to always dealing with a child during Mass that strange looks from some people a couple pews over don't bother me, but I know it can be detrimental to others who may be new mothers, or not too comfortable in church themselves. If we truly want to open our faith to youth we've got to start at infancy, the infancy of the new child, but also a burgeoning family that should be welcomed into every celebration so they may be able to receive the graces of the Eucharist and in turn our Church will continue to grow.