I had a blast on my first Facebook LIVE video. Sorry for all the rambling and baby swooning. One thing I’d meant to address was what a beautiful surprise and addition Charlie has been to our lives. I was far into the writing process for Getting Past Perfect when I discovered I was pregnant, and admittedly, it rocked my world that I’d finally made peace with and grown accustom to the way my life was rolling along and my family size (a few years back I’d really wanted another baby, but it didn’t happen). God has such a wonderful sense of humor because here I was writing a book that talked a lot about letting go and letting God and not allowing fear to erode your joy, and I was faced with a surprise pregnancy and a whole host of conflicting emotions. Yes, I loved my baby fiercely, but I was afraid, too. I also was sick and throwing up daily the entire pregnancy and had one brief hospitalization for preterm contractions (that thankfully didn’t cause any cervical changes), so I sank a little low during those nine months.
A few weeks ago one of my close friends and I were together, and I was delighting in Charlie and telling her how this has been the most blissful postpartum period I’ve ever had, and she said it was just so beautiful because she remembered me telling her I was pregnant with a tremble in my voice and tears in my eyes months earlier. I almost feel guilty because I’ve felt so happy and at peace during this early newborn phase. This hasn’t always been the case. I had really bad postpartum depression after one baby, and I experienced some milder baby blues after another. With my first I had baby mania and was really manic in a lot of ways – trying to do everything and going a million miles a minute – but that wasn’t healthy either. Charlie is a chill baby, but it’s more than that. I’m wiser, too, and I know how fleeting this all is. I also just seem to have a nice cocktail of hormones this go-around. That’s something I can’t control. Finally, I nap with the baby – it’s taken five babies for me to consistently heed the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps – and getting more sleep has made a huge difference in my outlook and mental health. I have to take care of myself and preserve my energy for all the busy schlepping I do with the older kids.
Oh, and I mentioned during my FB conversation that I’d share a photo of what I was wearing just before I went on camera. Here’s a typical #OOTD for me right now:
Kale t-shirt paired with Umbros circa 1989, and slippers
Now without further ado, I could not track down an archive of an article I mentioned during the FB LIVE event about helping little ones behave at Mass, but I did find the draft saved in my documents folder. A mom asked how she could keep her toddler happy at church without turning over the altar. :-) I mentioned during the interview that some of the tips I used to share have not worked so well with Thomas. For instance, I used to be really adamant about not using cry rooms or nurseries because then how would your children ever get used to being in church and behaving? Then I had Thomas, and he has spent entire services either sniping on the floor or flipping up his sisters’ skirts while he maniacally and loudly laughs. He’s made tons of progress and is doing much better now, but it’s taken a long time to get to a quasi-peaceful place, and I still don’t bring him every Sunday like I should. He does attend Mass weekly at school and does so much better with his teachers and prayer partner than he does with his own family.
One of my favorite Thomas-at-Mass-anecdotes is when he asked where Jesus was. I whispered that Jesus was within him in his heart, but that He was also present in the tabernacle and the Eucharist. Thomas asked what and where the tabernacle was, and I tried to quietly point to it and explain it. Later when we were going up to Communion, he shouted very loudly, “Jesus in the tackle box!!!”
Oh, sweet Jesus, I know you understand these sparkly, loud children well.
Remember, Christ didn’t just say, “Let the little, calm, quiet, docile, and blindly obedient children come to me.” He said, “Let the children come to me!” That includes the ones who are loud and looking for Jesus in the tabernacle (or beneath their sisters’ skirts). One of the best things a priest ever said to me after thanking me for bringing my little ones to Mass was this: “Construction is noisy, and children are Christians under construction.”
Here’s my old article, but take everything with a grain of salt:
Any parent knows Mass with defiant toddlers, wiggly preschoolers, and teething babies can be anything but peaceful.
Yet, even though celebrating Mass with little ones underfoot may sometimes leave something to be desired, you are being spiritually fed. And so are your children.
“[Baptism] places an indelible mark on the soul and opens the child to receive spiritual graces,” explains Melanie Bettinelli, a writer and mom of two young daughters who’s expecting a baby in July. “Spiritually, children are already equipped to ‘get something’ out of Mass, not by me but by God. I firmly believe they do receive graces by being at Mass and that I receive graces by bringing them.”
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” So let them come to Christ, using these “survival” tips
Choose your seats wisely.
Although some parents prefer sitting in the back where they can make a quick exit if necessary, many find sitting up front is key to keeping kids’ attention. Another tip? Use peer pressure to your advantage. “We like to sit behind families who have well-behaved kids a few years older than ours. My daughters really look up to the older girls, so they mimic their Mass behaviors,” says Deidre Mundy, a mom of three little ones.
Beware of cry rooms.
If your child is being disruptive, it might be tempting to retreat to a cry room. But you might want to consider heading to the vestibule instead. “Cry rooms are usually pure chaos and aren’t really a valid option if you’re trying to teach your child proper behavior,” says Mundy. “It’s like saying, ‘You’re behaving badly, so I’m punishing you by making you spend the rest of Mass at the playground.’”
Make sure their physical needs are met before Mass.
“Low blood sugar makes kids crankier, so feed your small children a nutritionally dense, high-protein snack before you leave the house. Cheddar cheese or peanut butter usually works for us,” Mundy says.
Bring along a kids’ “Mass survival kit.”
But do your best so steer clear of bringing a bag of toys to entertain your kids.
“I don’t bring toys or food,” Bettinelli says. “Babies can play with a plastic rosary or flip through a board book about the Mass or saints. I want them to learn that Mass is not a time for play but prayer.”
Make prayer a way of life, not just a once-a-week event.
We can’t expect children to behave as pious as saints if the extent of their spiritual life is Sunday Mass. “Find ways of making your faith a part of the fabric of your daily lives. Especially engage children’s senses, with pictures, statues, holy water, and rosaries. Children are tactile and interactive,” Bettinelli says. “We’re so lucky as Catholics to have a liturgy that is so physical and so engaging and to have so many beautiful ways of making faith concrete and physical.”
Bettinelli also suggests encouraging children to use their body to worship. At home, practice the Sign of the Cross and genuflecting.
Since children learn through repetition consider occasionally attending weekly Mass as Lerin Wheeless, a mom of four does. “Though it’s not easy, I know making Mass a part of our lives and daily routine is important enough for me to keep trying.”
Encourage children’s participation to the best of their ability.
“We usually let our toddlers and preschoolers hold the hymnals for the family. We make sure every child gets a coin to put in the collection, and we teach them to shake hands politely,” Mundy says. This makes children feel like they’re a part of the celebration instead of just hapless bystanders.
To be human is to be fallible, and children are little, naïve humans. Even if you do everything right, they’re going to sometimes stumble (and scream). When they do, know you’re not alone. “On really bad days, I say a prayer to the kids’ guardian angels or pray a few Hail Mary’s. Jesus was a wiggly-legged toddler once, too,” says Mundy. “If I have to, I take the kids to the back – where I bless them with holy water before and after their timeouts.”
Finally, remember God’s graces abound even amidst the chaos of parenthood. “I’ll be the first to admit Mass is not a restful experience like it often – but not always – was before I had children, “ Bettinelli says. “But I think God works through my obedience to Him, and perhaps a more restful experience would not be nearly so beneficial to my soul.”
Adds Wheeless, “Instead of looking at Mass as a time where I can quietly pray and worship, I look at it as a time for me to instruct my children. I know we receive special graces just being there together.”