Okay, so I know I’m supposed to be staying away from here, but I actually have some silence right now and I have some thoughts loudly ticking in my head that just have to get out. Faith & Family recently reported it was reprinting an old article of mine that included tips on attending Mass with young children. You can read it here. I can’t even recall exactly when I wrote the original article. I do know I wrote it after I wrote an article for Crisis Magazine about why I believed young children belong at Mass – something I still passionately support and believe in. That said, upon perusing the tips over at Faith & Family I started to slowly nibble on some humble pie. Although I still believe in the tips the people I interviewed offered and my own tips I shared, I do know that putting them into practice is not always easy. Attending Mass as a family has become increasingly difficult as we’ve added more little ones to our brood. I don’t have things all figured out; I never will.
Likewise, the point of the article was to encourage and perhaps help, not condemn or pile on guilt. Some of the comments saddened me because it seemed that moms were feeling guilty or frustrated after reading that article. I hate it when I inadvertently discourage moms.
But here’s the thing: I have four kids now. Even when I had only one child, going to Mass wasn’t easy, and I didn’t always follow the tips I shared in the article. They’re not rules. They’re suggestions. What works for one family, one child, etc. may not work for another. I get that.
Consider my own situation now. Do we always attend Mass as a family? No. Do all my children behave like perfect angels when we do? Heck no. Do I find myself pining for a cry room at my smallish church where everyone can hear the smallest utterance from my children? Yes. Does the fact that I have three girls mean that Mass and life in general is easy and peaceful? No. My 2-year-old is in to everything. She’s feisty. She’s also still nursing and when we go to Mass and she sees me cuddling with her little brother, what do you think she wants? Mama’s milk. How do you think she asks for it? Very loudly. When I gently tell her, “Not now,” and try to hug her instead, how do you think she responds? By crying or screaming or tearing at my clothes with depserate, little paws. If I try to give her more attention, then my 4-year-old gets jealous and starts acting out. It all snowballs. The oldest, meanwhile, can’t really pay much attention because she’s trying to help out with her little siblings. My husband is wondering why I want us all there together so desperately.
I’ll tell you why, and it doesn’t just have to do with the reasons I enumerated in my Crisis Magazine article. It’s more selfish. I need the graces. I’m not a particularly patient person. Oh, how I wish I just was naturally patient and loving and gentle all the time. But I’m not. Yet, having my kids in the place of Love personified where I will receive Him and be healed and restored is very, very fruitful for me because it is so very hard some days.
After the Faith & Family article, Angela wrote:
“The most important thing I wanted to establish in my children’s hearts was that God=LOVE. They needed to feel loved at Mass—not scolded, not miserable. It was worth sitting in the hall for 15 years and missing a lot of what was going on at Mass in order to have my kids feel happy about being there.
My advice is: do whatever it takes to make them feel loved at Mass, and therefore loved by God.”
That’s beautiful, wise advice.
Yet aside from my own grace acquisition opportunity, there’s another reason I *try* to bring along everyone to Mass. Remember every family is different. My husband is not Catholic. I’d love to tag team, but that wouldn’t work. If I don’t rally up the troops to march to Mass as a unit, he doesn’t go, and I believe he, too, receives graces being there. Nearly every Sunday I’m tempted to leave my 2-year-old behind with him, and lately she has been staying home more, I sadly admit. It would be so much easier, but then my husband wouldn’t make it to church with me. I so long for us all to one day feast at the Lord’s table, so I keep trying to get us all there.
Also, when I wrote the tips, my husband was working a lot of weekends. I had no choice of whether or not to bring the kids. Either we all went, or I was denied the Eucharist.
Finally, I don’t want to pick fights, but I do sometimes get weary of others suggesting that it’s easier for me because I have three girls. In fact, I get tired of moms saying any other mom has it easier whether she has one child or ten. Our own temperaments and our children’s temperaments really play a big role in how things unfold at Mass and everywhere. I’ll tell you I have one child who reminds me more of a boy than a girl. She’s having a dinosaur party (it was pirates last year). She’s broken three bones and also was behind her sister getting stitches after she inadvertently smacked her in the head with a Wii remote. It could be argued M.E. broke her leg because of this child pursuing her as well (the pursuer confessed she was pretending she was a lion chasing her prey – AKA her little sister). Just recently I caught this child putting crayons in the hollow stick of a stick horse she’s supposed to ride (like a dainty princess – ha!), saying she was loading her gun. Yesterday she was using the same stick horse as a sword. She’s active and fidgety, always climbing our walls. She was not easy to take to Mass when she was little, although she’s wonderful now and seems to have a great love for the church. “I want to be a nun,” she told me yesterday. (Don’t be too impressed: She also said she wanted to be an artist and an archeologist.) I don’t take credit for any of this, but I also don’t think that it’s because I have girls that we can survive (notice I didn’t say thrive!) Mass. I’m not even saying that people were suggesting that. I’m probably being too sensitive and need some more humble pie. I just hate all the boy-girl stereotypes (even though I’m using them saying my daughter reminds me of a boy sometimes). It’s just there have been several people who have told me that I’ll really see how tough it is now that I do have a boy in our family. But, my dear friends, mothering has not been easy street for me with these lovely, little girls. I have one child right now who is driving me to the edge. I’m not handling it well, and I’m at a loss of what to do. And she’s a sweet girl.
I’m not sure what the point of all this is. This blog is my space, so I have license to ramble, pontificate, and woefully waste time. I guess I just want others to know that all that I write really is meant to share what has worked for me or perhaps to just allow me to work through my own struggles. If it makes you feel like less instead of more, then please forgive me and don’t read my words. I also just want to remind all moms that mothering gets easier and harder as they grow. God keeps giving me lessons in humility by entrusting me with these wildly different children who are constantly growing and evolving. In return, I invite others to share a slice of humble pie with me and to not be so quick to assume things about my family or my situation. Let’s pray for each other!