It's NOT a post reminding you about how it's okay for kids to make noise during Mass - others have said it much better than I can!
Nor is this a post about cry rooms, pro or anti.
Nor is this a post with a magical formula to help you get your kids to behave during Mass. Believe me, I've read way too many posts with "The Answer" and nothing has worked for us.
"Sit in the front" they say. Ah yes, and then leave the 2-year-old and 4-year-old up there alone while we each take a yelling twin to the back? And at a church in the round, what's more conspicuous than the front?
"Keep children on your lap until they're at least 3" they say. Yes, but what if we only have two laps and 3 children under the age of 3?
Here's the thing: I have no answers. BUT I have some tips that sometimes work for us, and if they work for us sometimes, maybe they'll work for you sometimes?
They might be no-brainers, but maybe you'll learn something new! So share this with your friends with young kids, and share your strategies with me!
Where to sit?The front might work for you. The back might be better. The middle might be best - try different things out and see what works. But regardless of where you sit, try these tips:
Get to Mass early!
It's hard. I get it! And sometimes it's impossible. But if you can get to Mass just 5 minutes early, you can usually stake out a pew without too many other people around. THEN you're giving fair warning to anyone approaching: Danger, small children in this pew!
If they choose to sit near you at that point, it's their own fault. They were warned, after all! And often you'll get the other young families, or sympathetic old people. So if they glare at you, just assume that it's just a curious look, and they don't realize that their "at rest" face tends to look rather judgmental... Don't worry, there's a surgery for that now!
|Sometimes they can't help it!|
Look at your seating arrangement! Are you separating your bickering children or letting them sit next to each other to fight? Older children need to stay put - there should be no seat shuffling unless there are extreme circumstances. In the event that John Paul and Cecilia end up next to each other, it's only a matter of time before they start fighting over who gets what book or crayon or wipe or whatever they choose to fight over.
If you have a roamer who's afraid of strangers, sit on one end of an already occupied pew - if you block your roamer (Cecilia, in our case) from the aisle, there's no way she'll venture toward stranger territory at the other end of the pew!
Accept help from strangers! There's a nice old lady sitting behind you who has been flirting with your babies all Mass long. Suddenly it happens - your 2-year-old skirts past your defenses into the aisle and starts walking towards the front, taking her dress off in the process (yes, this happened to us). That old woman is itching to hold a baby, and if she offers, accept immediately!!! Maybe you'll make a friend who's willing to help with your kids every Mass!
(Incidentally, if you know any old ladies or the like who want to help with our kids, we live in Northern Virginia - please send them my information!!!)
What to Bring?
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But be smart - please don't bring a bunch of hard plastic train cars that will be dropped with a loud clatter over and over! A soft Noah's Ark toy works really well for young babies, or soft rubber teething toys. Anything that, when dropped, WON'T roll to the front of the church!
Oh, and my contribution to What We're Reading Wednesday this week!
I try to keep our Mass book separate from the usual home selection so that they remain a novelty for as long as possible. I love this series:
Lift-the-Flap Bible - Bible Adventures & Lift-the-Flap Nativity are also awesome! The flaps are super-sturdy, and there are so many that they keep young ones entertained for quite a while.
Print some mass-themed activity pages! John Paul (age 4) LOVES these. If you can, bring triangular crayons so they don't roll away if (when) they're dropped. John Paul loves his MagnifiKid, too.
We've had good luck with bible-themed activity books at the Dollar Tree. And it looks like you can find them on Amazon as well - I might try this one for John Paul.
When we know Mass will be particularly long (Christmas & Easter especially), I try to get something extra-exciting like a sticker book. John Paul was PERFECT on Easter because of the resurrection sticker book he got in his basket!
I'm adding these to my wish list, that's for sure:
Unless your child has serious health issues that make it necessary to go no longer than 60 minutes without eating, PLEASE don't let your children eat in the pew.
They ALWAYS drop something (and then my kids find old stale cheerios on the floor and eat them, or find a fruit snacks wrapper in the hymnal holder and wonder why THEY didn't get fruit snacks?). And if they're old enough not to drop something, they're old enough not to need to eat. I cram them full of food before Mass. Nursing babies can nurse until they're old enough to make it through Mass without (which depends on the baby). Sippy cups with rubber bottoms *can* be okay, depending on the baby.
What to do:Discuss proper Mass behavior frequently. Discuss consequences for inappropriate behavior frequently. FOLLOW THROUGH with your consequences (our kids must apologize to Father for bad behavior after Mass, forgo any treat, and are sent to their rooms upon our return home if they're really bad).
Bribe if you need to, and if it works for your children. Money to put in the poor box, a doughnut after Mass, getting to go say a special prayer at the altar rail...
Auntie Leila recommends engaging children in quiet time each day in which they are required to sit in one place in order to prepare for situations such as Mass.
Wear a baby, or be ready to - if you need to take a toddler out and can't leave your husband with two infants and the other toddler, it's very helpful to be able to slip a baby into a stretchy wrap or buckle the baby onto your back in an Ergo so your hands are free if said toddler needs to be dragged/carried out...
|If you need to wear two babies, you can try that too!|
Don't get too wrapped up in regressions - sometimes John Paul is terrific for weeks at a time and then has a truly terrible Mass, at which point I often start despairing that it's just so hard to take our children to Mass and we must be convincing all the young couples not to have children because they're all terrible. The same thing that worked last week may not work this week - such is the rule of children. Roll with it and hope for better behavior next week!
It gets the kids in the mindset that Mass is something special. It makes your family look like you actually put effort into your appearance, and therefore any misbehavior isn't your fault, since clearly you at least have enough control over your children to get them dressed properly. And it will make you feel better about things, because who doesn't feel good when they look nice?
|If we can get four children under the age of 4 dressed and ready for Mass in time to leave by 8:15, you can too!|
What do YOU do?
What are your best tips for getting through Mass with multiple young children? Specific products that help? Strategies that are no-fail for you? PLEASE share! If you've found the magic formula, I'd love to hear it!