Dear Parent of a Child Who Is Less than Best at Mass,
Please, take heart! You are not alone, and, things do get better. Trust me on this. I know.
Six years ago, I was in your shoes. My oldest son seemed totally Mass-averse at times and, all too often, I found myself red-faced with tears, anger, or embarrassment at some point during Mass, flustered that I could not pray and worship because of my child's behavior and my own reactions to it - not to mention the reactions of some of the judgmental people around us.
Praise God, there were kind, understanding, and helpful people around us, too. Seriously, the ushers who would catch my son for me when I was hugely pregnant and could not stop my son's dashes quickly enough were Godsends to me. So were the elderly people who would smile at us, the priests that continually welcomed us, the strangers who handed us tissues, offered an encouraging word, and, occasionally, even held a child in their arms while we wrangled siblings or took care of boo boos borne of Mass behavior gone awry. (Slips, spills, and - ouch!- cracking body parts against pews and kneelers.)
Indeed, God is good - all the time! - even when children are crazy at Mass and parents are struggling.
God simply does give us the children without giving us the grace to parent them - and the help we need to do so, too.
That help may come from the hands of a fellow parishioner. It may come from a fire burning inside of you in reaction to a comment. It may come from many places... but, I dare say, the most vital place it springs forth from at Mass is from sharing in the Eucharistic Celebration itself.
We are strengthened every time we participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Yes, even when our own personal sacrifice seems to grow tenfold from having to deal with challenging child behaviors throughout the Mass.
Indeed, I am fully confident that God smiles on us every time we bring our children to Mass and that He must surely hold a special place in His heart when He sees the struggles we go through to bring His little ones to Him with all their vim, vigor, and vitality.
I am even more certain that God grants us huge helpings of mercy and grace.
That mercy and grace can go a long way.
I know. I have experienced it.
Boys that are a handful at church can grow to love Mass and seek to serve.
The same boys who once were the ringleaders of sibling shenanigans in pews can become trainers in service, resulting in others boys eager to serve.
Families, like mine, who were well known for their crazy young ones, can grow into one of the "older" families at church, with our tweens befriending wild wee ones, lending a smile and a hand, and, in turn, having our "older" family grow in heartwarming acquaintanceship with "younger" families.
I know this. It has happened.
This morning, as soon as my family had genuflected and filed into a pew, our sacristan came to us and asked if our boys would substitute for absent altar servers. With joy, both my boys immediately went to do so. At the same time, my daughter turned and greeted some of her favorite youngsters - two super active and sweet children whose parents and grandparents have become church friends of ours. Shortly thereafter, Mass began.
Peaceful. Prayerful. Gratitude-inducing.
The hour or so of Mass each week six years ago often seemed so long, and I wondered if things would ever get better.
They will for you, too.
Dear Parent Who May Struggle to Keep Kiddoes Under Control at Mass. Don't worry. You just get them there. Then, let God do the rest.
He's go this. He's got them. He's got you. He has a plan for the future you cannot yet see, and it is better than you could ever imagine.
Trust, and just keep going to Mass with your children.
Love, Prayers, and Encouragement,
A Mom Who Understands
P.S. Many folks understand, like Tommy who wrote to the Dear Lady Annoyed by (His) Kids at Catholic Moms, Anna over at Aleteia, and Kendra over at Catholic All Year. Click through and read their thoughts. Let them bolster you up. Know you are never, ever alone - God is with you and parents who get it are, too!