Sunday Morning Mass often feels more chaotic than enriching. The “crazy-family” show begins as soon as my husband and I file our two toddlers into a church pew, shaky smiles on our faces. Immediately we remind them: “quiet toys, quiet boys.” Neither the toys nor the boys are ever quiet. We divvy up snacks before the music starts; anything to plug the loud holes in their faces and keep the “quiet toys” from crashing against the pews between every song. A train passes and they both yell “choo choo!” during a moment of silence.
I’m pretty sure everyone in church is staring at us disapprovingly.
Eventually, I resign and stand in the church corridor, not hearing a word of the service, and stare resentfully at my energetic toddler. A priest once found me back there, sobbing because I didn’t understand the point of going to church to just stand in a hall and watch my child run around like a monkey. He looked at me and smiled and said, “But you’re here, and that’s good.” They were simple words, but they made all the difference for me in that moment.
Even during these moments of doubt, not going to church has never been an option for us. We hold on to this deep truth that we are setting a good example for our kids. It’s what keeps us going.
Regardless of your faith, church services can be tough with little ones in tow. They don’t yet understand the concept of “quiet” in certain places, and they certainly have no interest in deepening their faith. So, what are we to do?
I’m still trying to figure this out. But, I can offer some tips on how to keep on keeping on, and temporarily quiet those little trains we call our kids.
- Snacks – I have a couple of criteria for snacks: it can’t be enclosed in noisy packaging and it can’t be loud to eat. My go-to’s are snack pouches like Happy Tots. Leftover waffles/pancakes, large scrambled eggs, or fresh fruit also make good snacks.
- Books and Toys – They must meet the same quiet criteria, but they are harder to manage. Sometimes our kids will sit quietly and flip through a book for five minutes. And other times, they chuck them at each other. There are even children’s books geared toward a particular faith. If you don’t have those, don’t fret. Any colorful book will do the trick! Toys are great entertainment, but are more likely to be loud. Plush toys are a perfect option!
- Sitting closer – This was a hard sell for me. Many older women tell us they would sit toward the front because their children were mesmerized by all of the activities. We don’t sit at the very front, but we sit close enough to be able to point to the altar when the bells ring. But we are also far enough away so that the two-year-old doesn’t end up in front of the audience.
- Forget your audience – Speaking of spectacles, I often feel like we’re a freak show. The truth is, nobody thinks that. Really, truly, they don’t. I’ve only ever heard, “Don’t worry about it! We love seeing little ones here.” They’ve been in our shoes and might even miss it. A lot of our stress is simply self-inflicted.
- Remember why you’re doing this – We go to church with our kids to teach them the value of faith.
What are some of your tips for surviving a church service with tots in tow? Share them below!