We arrived just on time this past Sunday for our normal Mass time and decided, well I decided, that it would be a cry room day. I just wasn't ready to leave Church in a mood less than wonderful if W wasn't feeling the be semi-still for at least and hour routine. We walked in to an empty cry room which was odd in itself but I thought, well this could be nice.
We found ourselves settled in as the procession began, and The Sheriff climbed up onto one of the chairs. He sat for a second but wasn't content. As I helped him up to look through the glass, he pointed that tiny finger and said "in," "in urch." Cowboy looked my way, and we both laughed as we realized that he did not think by being in the cry room that we were attending Mass and indeed, in church. Who was I to stop the Lord's calling of a little one into his Presence right? So in we went into the main part of the church.
We squeezed in beside a woman who didn't want to lose her end spot on the pew. Before you judge her (because yes I did in my mind the entire beginning of Mass! Shame on me!), the first time Cowboy had to get up with W she not only said, "no problem" as he made his exit but kindly asked if we'd rather sit on the end when he returned. It wasn't in an annoyed manner either. She was just one kind soul looking out for the sanity of a couple of young parents I think, and W did us proud when he impressed all of the ladies around us by exchanging "Peace" at the appropriate time. Our distractions were forgiven.
To be fair, he wasn't too "bad." Granted, he didn't sit on our laps listening attentively or allow us to hold him when it was time to stand. He played with a small page of Thomas stickers, the old college IDs I keep in a small wallet that also houses all of those store cards to get discounts or whatnot. He also flipped though his Bible a couple of times all the while occasionally looking up to check out what was going on. But for about 45 minutes, he was quiet and content.
At 45 minutes, though, all bets are off, and it's unfortunate that the most prayerful aspect of the Catholic Mass often begins about this point in our church. So one of us gets up with W a few times and we always manage to somehow make it through. I think that's what matter--making it through and doing it again next week.
Jacob and I have differing views on toys/books for Mass, and I'm coming around to see it more his way -- don't bring them! But for now we usually bring one book and maybe some stickers along with our snacks and whatever else I might dig out of my purse in desperation. This has proved much better than bringing a small bag for W which he thinks holds infinite amounts of toys and wants to search through and dump it out the entire time. Problem solved.
I also want him to associate going to church with that feeling of contentment, and if at this moment in his childhood he needs something to occupy his attention in a huge room full of hundreds of people where he isn't totally sure what to focus on even with guidance, then I say ok. Church shouldn't be an hour plus of us trying to contain him and shush him and lose our own patience trying to get him to sit or stand. Why would he want to do that once a week?
There will be a time for that. He will understand one day.
Speaking of "one day," I also thought before walking in Mass that we'd stop by the nursery after and pick up a registration form. It's free after all. I've just got to fill out the paperwork. I thought maybe that's the best place for him to be and we can "teach" him when he's a bit older and understands more of how he should behave. I am by no means saying that keeping your child with you or sending him/her to the nursery is better. After Mass my heart was peaceful at the thought of having him with us in church, no matter what effort it took. He's just shy of 2 but is at the age where he's taking so much in and learning acceptable behaviors. He won't get it right every time, but he can start figuring it out.
For me and for our family, I feel called to keep The Sheriff with us at this time in our lives. That may change. Perhaps even next Sunday! Totally kidding.
Writing this post will help me to remember at that 45 minute mark, the innocent face of a child wanting to go "in" Church and be just where God calls him: into His Holy Presence. And it's our responsibility and blessing to help him get there each week. I also glanced back at Allie's post full of excellent tips on children in church. I'm looking forward, now that W is a bit older than when I originally read it, to making some daily prayer time which will help him carry the meanings he does start to find at Mass into his life.
And if we're all lucky (and well-behaved) there will be many rides in the Jeep "parked" outside the church in the play area.