How to Get Through Mass with a Toddler
When your kids aren't little angels...
After two plus years as Catholic parents, sometimes my husband and I are lulled into a false sense of security. "He was such a good boy today. Maybe he's getting more mature and it will be easier now." Ah, the peaceful Masses.
And then there are days when my child wants to drop the kneeler every ten seconds -- "THUNK!" -- wants to flop on the floor and yell, "Nigh night!" at the top of his lungs. Or, my personal favorite, his unending, inexplicable, and of course loud, "Meow!"
Is it all just luck, happenstance, our fate in the hands of our two year old's whims and moods? I like to think not, and perhaps my sanity depends on the idea that I can influence the outcome with a few precautions:
Hold that kid as long as possible
No one told us this one, not before it was too late and we'd been setting our baby down on the pew to play around for months. It seemed like a good, innocuous idea at the time, but before we knew it this kid was grunting to be set down all the time and there was no going back. Now I look around at other people's well-behaved babies, cuddling in the parents' arms, and I think with a stab of regret, "That could have been us..."
Even now at age two, I do find that holding my kid for short periods of time serves to distract him from whatever imaginary ailment was making him yell down in the pew. That is, until he gets sick of being held: "Grunt, grunt!"
Even though our kid is two years old, we still drag a diaper bag along with us to Mass. Honestly, since he's out of diapers in the day time, this isn't strictly necessary for us, except that his diaper bag houses 4+ stuffed animals, a plastic cow, and a small plastic firetruck. If you have a kid that's into stuffed animals at all, these are obviously a great choice for Mass because they make no noise. His truck can be a little noisy, but since our church has padded pews it's doable.
For now, this small arsenal of toys is what works for us. But as he gets closer to three, I am determined to wean him off bringing so many toys and instead:
Try to spark interest in the Mass
On days when my son asks to be picked up so he can, "see-uh" the priest doing things at the altar, I feel like we're making some definite progress. Obviously, parents can only expect so much devotion from a toddler, but I am of the mind that it's never too early to start. So lately when he starts to get antsy, I try to redirect his attention. And it's surprising the things he finds interesting. Right now, the part where the priest washes his "fingees" is a big highlight for us.
I'm hopeful that this interest and attention will increase through the next few years. For now, we're getting through one Mass at a time with plenty of shushing and an arsenal of toys.