Dear Mom in the Pew

Dear Mom in the Pew in Front of Me, the One with the Rowdy Kids:
No, I am not going to write about how much your kids disturb me during Mass.  I’m not going to suggest that you take them to the nursery (we don’t have one anyway!) or sit with them in the cry room or tag-team with your husband so that you don’t have to bring them at all.  I’m not going to criticize your parenting or tell you to feed that baby with a bottle when you are at church.  And I’m not thinking those things either.  Nor are most of the parents in this congregation.
It doesn’t bother me when your kids make noise.  They are just kids and an hour is a long time to be quiet and sit still.  When your three-year-old escapes you and runs up onto the altar, I’m just glad it’s not MY kid–because it just as well could have been.
What I want to tell you is Thank You.  Thank you for bringing your kids to church–both for them and for the rest of us.    Thank you for being open to having a large family.  Thank you for nursing that baby when she needs to be nursed; and you really don’t need to worry so much about that blanket–if I am staring, it’s only because of fond memories, not judgment.
If kids are not welcome in a Catholic church, there is something wrong with that church.  Jesus loves the little children.  That’s not just a song; it’s in the Bible too–and if you look up, right over your head, you’ll see that scene in a picture on the ceiling.  “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not.”  That’s what He said, and what all of us should be saying.  So thank you you for your little visual reminders, these “least of these” that Jesus wants us to love as He did.
If during Easter Mass some cranky submarine Catholic turns around and tells you that your babbling toddler is “ruining it for everyone else,” (and yes, this once happened to me) I want you to know that if he thinks that he doesn’t know what “it” is and he is the one who is ruining things.  I’d rather be like the woman who after a Mass during which my children were even rowdier than usual turned around and patted my arm and said, “It gets better.”
Because 18 years ago–yesterday–I was sitting in that pew with three rowdy children aged four and under (actually not in THAT pew–you are already smarter than I am by choosing to sit up front where the kids can see instead of in the back so that you can make a quicker getaway!).  I have been here almost every Sunday for over 22 years, and for years on end I couldn’t listen to the homily, couldn’t even pray.  This six foot muscly fellow next to me, the one who read the first reading today–he was the babbling toddler who was ruining things for everyone else.  These two younger ones weren’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye, and now the youngest will make her First Communion next week.  They sit quietly.  They make the responses.  Some of them even sing.  And I listen and pray.  It goes so fast.  You think people are just making conversation when they say that until IT GOES SO FAST.

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Emily, Jake, and Teddy – Easter 1995

So ten years from now–tomorrow–there will be big quiet kids in your pew and you will be able to pray again.  No one will be staring at you except to admire your lovely family.  You will be the one smiling indulgently at the cute toddler playing peek-a-boo with you over the back of the pew.
Until then, remember, you are doing a wonderful job.

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This post was originally part of the Dear Mom Meme hosted by The Mom PledgeIts goal was to help spread positive mom-to-mom messages across the web!

I’m resharing this post today as part of #WorthRevisit Wednesday.  Check out the hosts’ blogs here and here for more great posts that are worth a second look!
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97 thoughts on “Dear Mom in the Pew

  1. efloraross

    I love this. Great message! It brought back memories of my childhood, sitting in the pew next to my parents and trying so hard to be quiet and still. I couldn’t wait for children’s time, when we got to go up and sit with the pastor. Then we went to Sunday School and have fun! 😉 Thanks for joining in the Dear Mom Meme!

  2. God bless you! I’m “a mom in the pew” right now, and while I try not to let the disapproving stares bother me, I still find Mass exhausting at times – and I even send my youngest to the nursery! I had someone tell me (after I apologized for my children being loud) not to apologize and that when you hear the little children in church you know that the church is growing. I always, always, remember his wisdom and the kindness he gave me that day.

    1. It’s marvelous how a kind word helps so much. It’s so much nicer to build people up instead of tearing them down. I remember well those exhausting days, and all the little tricks I had to employ to keep my kids mostly quiet. I know it’s hard when people stare, but as long as you aren’t letting your kids run wild you are not the one with the problem!

  3. Kathy Jenkins

    So LOVE your message Leslie! This is one of the things that most impressed me about the Church when I became convert in 1980 (in the Midwest)…the respect for the parents of small children and large families in the Catholic church! I observed folks who showed such pleasure toward the children, and it REALLY spoke to my heart. It was their inclusion and tolerance for the children during the service, even when they were a bit rowdy, that was a tremendous witness to me of the love we are to have toward one another in the Church. And this behavior was so target with the scripture when Jesus said to allow the little children to come to him…Thank you so much for this wonderful message…of all the people I have met in the Catholic church here in the South, I have been most impressed with you and your family!!!

  4. I was that mom in the pew yesterday—20 or so years ago. Thanks for being kind to me in retrospect! When I see a parent who is having trouble, I tell the parent what a beautiful family he or she has. Sometimes I do that even when the parent isn’t having trouble. The smiles they give me are amazing, and it’s even better when they then tell their kids lovingly what I said!

    1. That is so kind of you. As I said in my post, I have never ever forgotten that one act of kindness and the parents you are being so nice to won’t forget it either. In church of all places we should act with love.

  5. I’ll vouch for Melissa above me to say that she always had kind words for me and my rowdy boys after Mass. There’s really only one person who has given me the evil eye and made comments to me about my children. WE sit in the same place surrounded by the same loving families every week. That *other* lady can avoid us very easily! The people around us love us! In fact, I can’t honestly remember the last time my nine-year old daughter sat with us. She sits with her brother’s godfather. A man we purposefully added to our family because of the love he showed for us and our children.

    1. That’s lovely! We, too, have our regular pew! And most people are kind. It seemed like the older folks were the grouchiest–as though they might have forgotten what it was like to have little kids. Or maybe theirs were just perfectly behaved? LOL

  6. Karen

    Leslie this is beautiful! As you remember we always sat close to you and your family at church. Most of the time sharing a pew. Until your children and mine got so grown up and your family started using two pews if you were all there together. I miss those days. I some times had a rowdy boy (LOL), I know you can remember that. It was a relief sometimes to finally see Mass come to an end. Our boys would go outside and run until all three were stinky from sweat. I could live those days over and over again because we were all there together. My two oldest have jobs now and most of the time have to be at work during Mass times on the weekends. I would love to live those days again. I miss not having all of my family there with me at Church and miss seeing all of your family together as well. I enjoyed seeing all of your family together during Christmas break. Your Emily has gotten even more beautiful. I love you and your family! Karen

    1. Karen, you are so dear to say all those nice things. Time goes by so fast, too fast. I remember the first time T really noticed ya’ll–Mariah was a newborn baby then. 🙂 I miss those days too. Emily, at least, will be back for good in a couple of weeks!

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  8. This is such a lovely and well written post and something that all mothers, whether they have lots of children (I have 4) or not need to hear. Thank you for your kind, welcoming and truly christian comments 🙂

  9. This is so beautiful. I have been that woman with the rowdy kids at church. I got plenty of nasty stares, enough for me not to go back. I wish more people were as welcoming and inviting as you are. I also wish I didn’t care as much about what people think about how my kids behave. Work in progress:-)

  10. This story makes me so teary eyed. I get so nervous going places, especially quiet places like church. I know kids are kids (especially toddler sized kids), but it doesn’t feel easy to calm a two year one with judging eyes staring back.

  11. I love this! I honestly can’t remember anymore if I was annoyed at people with loud small children but now that I have one of my own, I can honestly say that I get it. If a kid is rowdy, I get it. I understand that it’s hard to keep them occupied for 24 hours a day. I hope all moms who have been through this are as understanding as you are.

  12. My hubby dropped some of the kids off at the door because it was raining last night when we got to church for Holy Thursday. I was in a separate car and not there yet. He said he walked in to see our 3-year-old jumping over the back of each pew, working his way forward to our usual spot! I would love to think that there was even one witness to this that wasn’t completely horrified! Thanks!

  13. I love this!!! It was great!! So needed too… I have so been that mom with the rowdy loud kids, and I have often wondered what other older women were thinking so this was so nice to read!!

  14. Leslie, this is really lovely. So many parents need words of encouragement in just this way. With my little man I can sometimes encounter parents who’ve forgotten what it’s like to have all their hands full.. and be in need of a few more. Thanks for being one of the ones who helps instead of hurts!

  15. 2patkath

    I am sure that is an encouragement to young families. I remember those days so well. Thanks again,
    Kathleen Fridays Blog Booster Party

  16. From the front pew, this Catholic Mama with three rowdy kids says: THANK YOU. We’re so fortunate that the majority of our congregation welcomes little ones–even when they’re “vocal!”–but we’ve certainly been to a Mass or two with those cranky submarine types and it is less than comfortable.
    (love the part about you watching the mom nurse her baby; that was me nursing last year, and now I’ve grown into the watcher with fond memories this year. Wow to what 1 year can do!) xo

  17. Amen!! For me, the children BELONG in the church. They are the future of the belief and they must be accepted. God’s house? You bet’cha! And in God’s house they are CHILDREN! Good for you!!

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  19. I love this. I was the self conscious mom in church a couple of weeks ago with my now 11-month-old. I did end up taking her to the nursery – more for her than anyone else as she wanted the freedom to crawl everywhere – but I still think it’s important even at that very young age to let them get a feel of what church is. Shared!!!

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  22. everydaythoughtsbybrittany

    I really needed to read this today. Yesterday marks the first Sunday of Lent and I took both of my littles with me to mass – without my husband, who unfortunately had to work. My boys are four and one-and-half, they don’t want to sit still, nor do they want to remain quiet. The nursery was closed and I only have two arms and one lap. Each wants to sit on my lap, give me kisses, and be held, it’s physically demanding and humanly impossible to please them both simultaneously. One of the kids needs to go potty during the Gospel reading and the other had a dirty diaper shortly after. I was exhausted and frankly, I don’t know if I was able to listen to, or participate in, any part of the mass. I found myself questioning why I even go when I get nothing out of the experience except frustration and my kids so clearly don’t want to be there. I know I need to lead by example and that it will get easier but right now I’m so far in the forest I can’t see the sky. Thanks for the encouragement!

  23. F. Anderson

    Fifty-plus years ago, I was that young mother. I started mass in a pew, then moved to the back of the pews, then out into the vestibule, then outside, where I waited on the porch. Nothing I could say, nor the time left in the universe for me to pray enough to get divine intervention. I had 3 little ones, all only 13 months apart, and I’m so enthralled with the little ones who are there “entertaining” us all. I, too, welcome them and their wonderful parents.

  24. This is awesome! I love kids in church! It makes me so mad when people assert Church is for adults or expect small children to act like adults. How will they learn if they are not there?

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