Last night I was in Mass, completely distracted by the family in front of me. I do not hate children, nor do I have a problem with the occasional crying baby or fidgety kid…but this was something else entirely. These three made Huey, Dewey and Louie look like saints and could not stop dropping hymnals, lobbying for restroom breaks, sliding off the pew, banging their heads, poking, pushing, prodding each other, and of course there was that exciting round of Pass the Baby between the parents. To be perfectly honest with you, I never did figure out what the Gospel was about thanks to this group the only part of the homily I caught involved a story about beer, cheese, a German lady and a campfire, but I suspect there was a theological lesson in there somewhere…either that or a really bad punchline.
Now I appreciate the old adage “If you’re church isn’t cryin’ it’s dyin'” as much as the next person, but come on, when you’ve got a three-ring circus happening in the pew, no one’s having a good time. It made me wish more than ever that Catholic parishes had nursery rooms or Sunday School classes where kids could be dropped off and picked up at a parent’s leisure. My dad’s church had them and, quite frankly, I liked that a WHOLE lot better than sitting in Mass with my mom where everyone was taller than me, I didn’t get to participate in “snack time” and no talking was allowed. In Sunday School we sang, drew pictures, heard stories, ate cookies. I’m telling you… it was a heavenly experience.
Yes, Catholic churches have a “cry room”…a windowed space that for some reason reminds me of an aquarium or a People Exhibit at a local zoo…and some do have a children’s liturgy on Sunday, but the sheer volume of Masses that occur at a Catholic parish on a weekend make this impossible for every service. As a result, Mass goers in special VIP sections of the church are often treated to a unique brand of dinner theater which features an assortment of interpretive dance and and mime performance and can only be pulled off by the six-and-under-set.
Now I was never that bad but I will say that I had my own brand of Pre-Mass and in-Mass entertainment that had a good-long run at my childhood parish. It was always low key but very effective and it kept the boredom from settling in. Generally speaking, it was also the kind of shenanigans that typically flew right under my mother’s radar (bonus!) While I have never shared my secrets before now, after last night, I feel I must spread the word so that others may learn from my knowledge. If you are a parent, or a particularly precocious child who can read and understand my blog, may I suggest the following activities:
- Bug your mother for change so that you can light a candle. (Ordinarily playing with fire is forbidden so take this one while you can!)
- Braid the bookmarks of the hymnal together. (This works especially well if there are multiple bookmarks in the hymnal otherwise some odd re-arranging must occur.)
- If you are in the second grade or older, go to confession. (This not only kills time, but gives you an excuse to chat with someone.)
- Ask your mom for a mint. (She always has them, don’t let her tell you otherwise.)
- Read the Bulletin (Especially during the homily)
- Stand on the kneeler to see better (Every kid does it…it’s OK! But don’t jump on it. Let’s have some class.)
- Stare at the ceiling fan and then look away, noting that it always appears to rotate faster in your peripheral vision. (I have a feeling every adult is going to try this now that I have brought it up. LOL)
- Tug on your mom’s arm until she let’s you put the envelope in the collection basket. (No one will believe that you really tithed, but you will feel oh-so-impressive)
- Stare at the brightest stain glass window for 30 seconds then close your eyes to see a “ghost image” of it in your head.
- Bring along the Mass book you received for First Communion and note that the word “lived” is “Devil” backward and look for other words that may have backward messages in them.
- Play Guess the Saint with the statues then ask your mother who they are. (Delight in the fact that she doesn’t know either.)
Trust me, there is some Tomfoolery you CAN get away with in Mass, but subtly is the key here.You do not want to go for broke only to cause people to hate you prior to the Sign of Peace. As a former child myself, I can assure you, they aren’t giving you a big smile, they are gritting their teeth and biting their tongues to keep from telling you what they really think!