No Kids Allowed

photo by Think Stock

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.

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20 thoughts on “No Kids Allowed”

  1. Totally agree with you… why not encourage children to attend important events like church (and temple, in my case) instead of keeping them away. The longer you wait the harder to make that part of their lfie. BUt yes, keep them away from my pricey meals and relaxing movies! haha. Great to connect with you. LOVE your blog name/tagline.


  2. Wow, not being welcome in church??? That is crazy.

    Now, we don’t have our kids in church with us- ours offers children’s church up through 5th grade. And if we want them in service, they are welcome. We usually choose not- just b/c it’s easier for us and they get more out of children’s church than being in the adult service.

    There are situations where kids really shouldn’t be there- we just went out with another couple to a restaurant I won’t bring my kids to until they are teens. But, at family-friendly places, I get so mad if anyone gives a dirty look for normal kid behavior.

  3. Amen, sister. We plan and plan and plan when and where we can and cannot take our loud, energetic, rambunctious boys. If it’s going do be disturbing to other people,we just don’t do it. Period. But church? Really? I would THINK the whole open door policy would extend to kids as well.

  4. WOW. i can’t believe that happened at CHURCH! i’m so sorry!
    and i completely completely completely agree with everything you’ve written here. i love my Lovie and think she’s all that AND a bag of chips, but if she’s acting up, i take care of it- even if that means leaving a place. it’s just a common courtesy (i feel) to others.

  5. I can’t believe I’m reading this, because the same thing happened to me at my church (which is Baptist). A couple of times now, they have written in the program a lengthy set of suggestions for keeping babies/small children out of the sanctuary altogether. I read it with dread, and really felt bad, and I too have not been going back and am looking for a new church where maybe my kids can stay through the first part of the service (singing and such) before being banned to the dungeon where they can’t be seen or heard by all the well-behaved adults.

    I read that article you linked to and a couple of the comments. People throw around terms like “brats” and “temper tantrums,” when a lot of times kids are just displaying normal behaviors resulting from tiredness and overstimulation (or just plain ol’ exuberance). Not to say that there aren’t horribly wild kids out there, but it just seems like so many people won’t put up with the slightest childish behavior and blame parents for “out-of-control” kids.

    I’ve thought for a while now that there is very much an anti-child movement in this country, that is masked because of the “spoiled” children that we see/read about in the news. On one hand, some parents make their kids the center of their life; on the other (much larger) hand, people don’t like children to be around because they resent having to curb their own behavior (bad language, TV viewing habits, etc.)

    1. You make an excellent point! I agree that a lot of the anti-child feelings people seem to have stem from confusion over what is “bratty” behavior and what is developmentally normal. I’m gonna try to restrain myself from hopping up onto another of my favorite soapboxes here, but I’ve even seen this in schools. My youngest was always more enthusiastic, strong-willed, energetic, and vocal than the average kid, but he also tended to be more creative, more sensitive, and braver about trying new things. More than one teacher pushed HARD for me to have him medicated so that he was easier to control during school hours. I had to put him through some pretty exhaustive testing and still FIGHT HARD for his right to develop in his own way at his own pace without unnecessary medications. It eventually involved changing schools. His middle-school teachers can’t say enough good things about him, but I think some of his teachers in those early years are like the grumpy church-goers – they wanted only what was easiest and most pleasant for them, not what was normal for the people around them.

  6. Sorry you had that bad experience with your church. How can they expect you to go to mass every Sunday if you are only limited to one specific time. I don’t think making specific kid friendly times for a lot of things (movies, etc.) is a horrible idea, some parents might feel more comfortable during these times, because it sure can be stressful constantly worrying if your kids are being too loud or bothering others. And if it is properly posted, others without kids can make the decision to deal with all the families or not. But making it ok for kids to go to certain places ONLY during those hours is not fair. I think kids should be allowed at most places any time as long as they can behave, and parents should be held responsible/accountable if they are not. I agree w/you 100% – if your kid is being rambunctious or fussy, the parents should take them out of the room out of respect for others. We also had long periods where we did not take our kids to restaurants at all. Rather than annoy everyone we made meals at home or did take out. Even now, my 5yo does great, but the 2.5 yo needs to get in, get seated, eat and get out. Great post.

  7. I agree with everything, except the church part. Children should be in church as early as possible. We have a nursery and childrens church for the very young ones. They love it. I was at the grocery this morning and ran into Mason one of our youngest in children’s church and he said to me “Miss Bev, will you be my teacher this Sunday”. And of course I always get a hug. Who in their right mind would ever want to miss out on that. Yes, he is a little wild but we get along just fine.

    Great post.

  8. jumping over from PYHO …

    thank you for this! a friend and I were just having a discussion about places of business refusing children … I get it, I understand that there are parents who don’t care how their children behave, but place that responsibility ON THE PARENT. refuse service to THEM, not all of us.

    my children have always been well behaved at restaurants (family gatherings are another story, but eh!) and I don’t feel I should be punished because that couple over there can’t keep their children under control. and more importantly, how will they learn to behave if we don’t expose them? or should we wait until they are 16 and on a date flicking coke from a straw unknowingly at the person across the table? (not that that’s happened or anything)

    1. So true! If we keep the little suckers at home until they are in high school goodness only knows what they’ll think is appropriate behavior in public – YIKES!

  9. You know this post resonates with me, and I can’t express how much I appreciated Father Scott and his attitude regarding children and Mass.

    He would come down pat my Dennis the Menace boys on the head during Daily Mass, and just smile. How are we supposed to lead our children to Christ, if people want them banned from church?

  10. This was a homily at church? Good grief. It would have taken me a long time to go back too. So sorry.

    I too, love my kid more than anything but will step outside so that my two year old isn’t disruptive (I’m thinking mostly of tantrums). I recognize that not everyone understands what is “normal” for a 2 year old but where I live we are routinely sneered at for bringing our kid into a coffee shop or store – even when she is completely quiet and keeping her hands to herself. We have found the “safe” places to go and have eliminated most everything else because it is simply too uncomfortable. Such a shame.

    1. Monica … we actually used to have a coffee shop here in Louisville (or maybe a few, now that I think about it more) that were kid friendly, complete with toys and a children’s area. It was awesome, and more of them need to be like that.

  11. I too totally don’t get the no kids in church thing. If they are promoting religion they should all the more make the place child friendly or they lose the chance of more followers if people switch religion. No wonder it is so hard to get new catholic priest nowadays.

  12. Our pastors have always called the sounds from children “a joyful noise.” While I didn’t feel that way sometimes, it did allow me to feel a little more relaxed with them in church, and we kept going to whichever service fit our schedules better, not just to the one with the nursery. We do feel blessed to have such wonderful pastors.

    As for the rest, sometimes what bothers one person wouldn’t bother another. Curiosity and brattiness look the same to some people, sadly. I was asked to curtail my kids’ behavior several times when I thought it was uncalled for, but other times we probably should have been asked to rein it in!

    A good post!

  13. Bravo! Thank you for bringing this up! My gosh! If CHURCH doesn’t accept your children?? I mean, yes, a screaming infant is one thing, but the quiet rustlings of children…to be told NOT to bring your children to church? YIKES is all I’ve got to say.

    But the restaurant thing…or weddings…when it clearly says, “no children please” on the invitation, but someone is always to cheap to get a sitter, so they bring the monster that runs up and down the aisles on the bride’s day….

    And restaurants. Oh my GOSH. Even at frickin McDonalds, CONTROL YOUR CHILDREN!!! There is NEVER an appropriate restaurant (unless it’s Chuck E Cheese and you’re crazy enough to go there) where children should be free to run amok.

    1. LOL! I have actually bribed my children (I’m talking BIG bribes – video games) to avoid going to Chuck E Cheese and Gattiland for parties and other gatherings. YIKES!!

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