Little kids. Two year olds, five year olds, seven year olds. Little kids that walk on the kneeler, crawl under the pews and talk all throughout the Mass. Little kids that take the hat off of the person sitting in front of you. Little kids that you LOVE.
Yes, when they hear your last name, some (many?) parishioners start rolling their eyes and make comments like “Oh, you mean the lady with those kids”. Honestly, you don’t mind that comment – it’s tame. You’ve gotten many much worse.
Yes, you arrive a few minutes late with a whispering line of ducklings behind you.
Yes, you spend most of your time trying to keep your kids sitting (or standing, or kneeling) somewhere in your vicinity. You don’t hear the gospel, sit when most people are standing, and wonder whether Mass is meant to be an hour of worship or an hour of distraction.
Yes, when you aren’t busy trying to keep your kids at least reasonably quiet, you’re distracted by the priest’s nose or the thought of what you’re going to make for lunch (oh, shoot – you forgot to get “x” ingredient at the store yesterday).
Is it really worth all the trouble (and gossip)? Would it really be that bad to just wait until they’re 10 or so to start bringing them to Church? You ask yourself these questions EVERY Sunday when it begins again.
Yes, it is worth it. Here are just a few reasons why.
1. God looks at it differently than we do. All too often, we think of God as the Supreme Judge, the taskmaster, demanding utmost perfection or wagging his finger at us. We cringe at every imperfection. He just smiles that we’re there. I’m not saying don’t do your best to pray and focus on adoring him. But don’t get ashamed when it doesn’t turn out that way. Jesus himself said “I call you friends”. We don’t usually mind our best friends being around when we’re tired or distracted, or busy with our kids. We know they’ll understand. God understands too.
2. You’re making an important statement to your kids. You are teaching them from the beginning, that God is most important and that it’s worth putting in a lot of effort to be with him. Also, they’ll remember Church as being an essential part of their routine since the beginning.
3. You are setting an important example for other young couples and singles regarding raising strong Christian families. Yes, maybe the kids are sometimes noisy, messy or wiggly, but don’t forget about all their incredible laughter, smiles and beauty.
4. You’re doing a favor to your parish community. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” You are bringing your children to him. No faith community is complete without the littlest members.
5. It’s a great way to TEACH your children. Teaching happens through guidance, practice and REPITITION. Bringing them to Church each Sunday helps them learn about their faith from a very young age, and gives them the opportunity to keep learning how to behave and practice it. One day, they’ll get it. Bringing them to Church shouldn’t be something that BEGINS when they are old enough to “know how to behave”; it should be a way of keeping them close to God WHILE they learn how to behave.
So go ahead and fill the pews, and don’t mind what people say! God bless all of you who have undertaken the beautiful, but challenging mission of parenting, and are trying to pass on your faith to your children. Have a wonderful month!