This post contains some Catholic-specific terminology because, well, I’m Catholic. BUT this is for ANYONE who has to take several small children to church, especially a church with no nursery services.
You are not alone. There are others of us struggling. You are doing important work: teaching your children about your faith.
Some days, Mass feels overwhelmingly beautiful. I get to take in the sensory experiences of incense and glorious music, follow along in my misslette while listening to the readings and Gospel, fully immerse myself in the beauty of the consecration, and maintain a holy and reverent silence following reception of the Eucharist. Those are days when I get to attend Mass by myself.
The other days, my husband and I attend Mass with our children. And y’all, it’s a win if we aren’t sweating by the end of it. Full disclosure: we have had TWO “unicorn” Masses where all the kids behaved beautifully, and I honestly felt like Catholic Wonder Woman at the end of it — I know now why hubris is a sin; stay humble, people. We do our best to be fully prepared for Mass. We feed the kids a hearty breakfast, we dress them in beautiful clothes, fix hair, insist on bows #southernmama, pack our church bag (contains: diapers, pull-ups, wipes, formula, bottle with water, tissues, quiet church books, Water Wow books, one small toy each, teething rosary, money for offering), and make those who are potty-trained use the bathroom before we leave. While in the car, we talk about behavior expectations and we all practice our Church voices (aka whispers). We walk up to the door, and my 4 year old son opens the door politely and holds it open for us.
Then it begins.
The 5 year old, 4 year old, and 2 year old fight over who gets to dip their hands into the Holy Water first. We walk up to the pew and everyone genuflects and files in. We shuffle kids around because 5 year old and 4 year old CANNOT sit next to each other (a rule put into place about a year ago). Everyone sits and gets passed a Water Wow book (literally the BEST and MOST AMAZING invention / Mass toy ever). We wait to see who 1 year old will favor, mom or dad, and pass her back and forth until she decides.
And then all is quiet.
The processional starts, and the kids scramble to stand on top of the kneeler to “see the parade.” We ask the 5 year old and 4 year old to stand / sit / kneel as the adults do, and they pretty much comply. Then it’s time for the first reading.
All is quiet.
And somebody has to pee (4 year old 98% of the time).
Dad hands 1 year old to me, and takes the boy to the bathroom. 1 year old is not happy because she chose Daddy. She claws at me and pulls my hair until he comes back during the SECOND reading because — SURPRISE! — 4 year old actually needed to poop (aka spent all that time squeezing out the world’s tiniest turd so he wouldn’t get into trouble for faking needing the bathroom). 1 year old is happy with Daddy. We stand for Gospel and sit for homily.
All is quiet.
2 year old “Ma I HONGY!” Sorry, you’ll have to wait until we get home. 4 year old drops his water pen and it rolls three pews forward. Lip hangs and the biggest boudée ensues. Things go pretty well in spite of Pouty Mcpoutface.
All is quiet as the offertory hymn begins to play.
My kids PANIC that they will not each have money for the basket. As a matter of fact, last Sunday we forgot cash so we split two quarters and a dime among the three — 2 year old was NOT pleased she got the dime. Around this time, 1 year old decides she’s done, so Daddy takes her to walk in the back of church.
All is quiet.
Now, this walk is a pretty typical thing, and we try to distract bebe (and prevent a repeat of the running incident of 2015) by pointing out all the beautiful stained glass (“who can find the fish?”) and statues. Well …
We currently have a grabber who is Hulk-strong. As husband was walking by the statue of St. John the Baptist, she grabbed St. John the Baptist’s staff and held on for dear life. As husband continued to walk by, he felt a tug and off popped St. John the Baptist’s staff and one of his fingers, and the flag at the top of his staff spun down to his feet. Husband replaced it as best he could, then got her to another location where she could maybe do less damage.
Meanwhile, in the pew…
5 year old is pouting because I am making her kneel or stand on the kneeler to watch the consecration. 4 year old keeps “whispering” (I’m fairly certain people 6 pews up could hear him) that he is being “20 pounds gooder than Sissy” (20 pounds is his current metric for “a lot”), and 2 year old is making me hold her while I kneel. Husband and 1 year old come back to join us for communion, and while walking up to the altar, 2 year old decides she can “do it myseef” and proceeds to make her own aisle up the middle. We get to the front, and the priest just makes a big ol’ sign of the cross across all of us. He must have seen in my eyes that I would appreciate the additional blessing upon myself, because the Holy Spirit needed to come upon me if I was to be gentle and mild with these children.
We walk back to the pew.
We wrestle 1 year old until the final Benediction, and we are out of there!