I’ll never forget a homily I heard many years ago (for you non-Catholics, a homily is what we call the sermon at a Catholic Mass). We were members of this church – had been for several years. Our eldest was attending school there, and we attended church services regularly as a family. Our family at that time included a three-year-old “wild thing”. The priest announced he was going to speak about “bringing your children to church” and I sat back, smiling smugly to myself. I expected to hear him speak about how important it is to bring your children to church on a regular basis, to make it part of their lives from an early age, to make them feel at home in God’s house. Um, no.
Our pastor proceeded to explain what a distraction and annoyance children were to other parishioners: How babies crying, toddlers making car and kitty-cat noises while playing with their soft “church” toys, and pre-schoolers wiggling and kicking the pews in front of them were simply not welcome. He suggested that since our church did not have a “cry room” where parents could take disruptive children yet still be able to see and hear the service themselves (this idea had been “nixed” in the recent massively expensive renovation) that parents of young children should only attend the ten o’clock Mass on Sundays, and should take their children to the nursery before services began. I think it was probably two years before we attended church there again. I left that day feeling as if I’d been slapped in the face.
I’m a nurse, and at that point in time I was working every weekend. The only Mass we could attend as a family with my schedule was the noon Sunday Mass, and obviously we were no longer welcome there. I had been serving as a lector, my husband had been serving as an usher, and our whole family took our turns as gift bearers. I took us off all those lists. We started attending services again a couple of years later (once our “wild thing” had settled down a bit), but it never felt like our “church home” again. Believe it or not, several years passed before enough other incidents had occurred (including a fairly horrific period of bullying our youngest suffered at the school) and we officially left that parish. But that day, that homily, was the first sign that we were not where we were supposed to be.
I hadn’t thought about it in a long time, but this article brought the memory flooding back. Yes, it focuses mainly on the trend toward making particular blocks of time and certain areas “kid-free”, and I have to say I agree with that to a certain extent. I remember an anniversary dinner my husband and I celebrated at an outrageously expensive and wonderful restaurant. There was a family a few tables away with several children. All of the kids yelled and threw things at each other throughout the meal, climbed over the back of the booth to annoy the diners next to them, and ran around the restaurant. If I’m paying a hundred dollars for dinner and have hired a sitter for my kids I damn sure don’t want your brats ruining my night out because you’re too self-absorbed to control them or keep them home. Those are the two options as far as I’m concerned.
Both of our children went through phases (a pretty long phase with the youngest) when we did not take them to restaurants. They would not behave, simply did not have the self-control at that developmental stage. So we stayed home. If we’d been fortunate enough to be able to have a sitter, we’d have gotten a sitter and had a date night. If you’re in a movie and your kid is making so much noise they are annoying the people around you – take them out. They’re not ready for going to the movies yet. In short, if you’re in a situation where your kids are ruining an experience someone else has paid money or made a special effort to be present for (I’ve had some bad experiences at free Shakespeare in the Park performances, too) be courteous and take them out. But if they are somewhere that is supposed to be kid-friendly (church, duh) and they are just being kids then be proud of yourself for introducing others to experiences they haven’t had yet or had so many years ago they’ve forgotten about them. Children are blessings and should be treated as such.
I’m linking this up to Pour Your Heart Out at Things I Can’t Say, as well as to Wordful Wednesday at Parenting by Dummies and Seven Clown Circus.