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.
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.