I’ve been a bit busy lately wrapping up projects, putting up the garden, and getting our school year underway. In light of this, our youngest, Michael, has agreed to be guest blogger for a day. Thanks for filling in buddy!
Let me introduce myself. Here on Mom’s blog, you know me as Michael, but in our home, I’m referred to as “Buck.” Sounds sort of cowboyish doesn’t it? Maybe it all started back when I began riding our couch like a bucking bronco or climbing bookshelves as though there were a stray calf waiting to be rescued at the peak. It could also be because on a daily basis Mom finds me spraying cleaner from a spritz bottle like it’s a hot 6 gun and I’m in a shoot out with the black hat in town. It is also a known fact that I enjoy “branding” our walls with crayons and markers.
Mom and Dad waited to find out whether I was a boy or girl until the day I was born. There must have been something prophetic about my entrance into the world because at the tail end of labor, Mom nabbed Dad by the collar, jerked him in close and eeked out, “This one’s a boy!”
She, of course, was right.
I started out sweet enough. Mom even prayed that I was “healthy” because I didn’t cry much those first 6 weeks. Well, God has a sense of humor, because right around the time she uttered that prayer I sort of “woke up”and I’ve been, shall we say, fussy ever since.
By the time I arrived, my parents thought they had parenting somewhat sorted out. I thought to myself, “Alright, let’s just see how smart you are.” Turns out they actually do know a thing or two, but I find it quite amusing to keep pushing boundaries to see how far I can go before the hammer comes down. I’m hoping someday they’ll give up and give in and I’ll actually get to do all the things I’ve been just dying to do. What is so bad about drawing on the walls with a Sharpie anyway?
High time I get down to the real meat of this post. The other day I overheard Mom sharing with Dad how some lady was complaining that she couldn’t get her 18 month old to sit through Mass. “Said lady” was even considering giving up going to Mass as a family until said child outgrew this inconvenient stage.
Let me give it to you straight, lady.
You are 100% capable of sitting through Mass with that diaper clad monster of yours and on top of that, you can even enjoy it!
People term their child “strong-willed” or “independent” and then use that as a sorry excuse for bad behavior. Guess what? I, Buck, am as strong-willed and independent as they come. So if, I, Buck can make it through Mass so can Little Jane or Little Jimmy or Little Mass-Monster-Whatever-Their-Sweet-Little-Name-Is.
Mom says she has gone over this all before, but apparently, it hasn’t sunk in yet. Let me give you a little refresher, but before I do, I better preface my instructions with a little love.
First of all, if you are fine with your darlings being a little rambunctious during Mass, that’s okay! I’d much rather have a few rambunctious kids at Mass than not see those little faces there. I share my wisdom with those who wish Mass were a bit easier with littles.
#1 Get rid of the toys, snacks, sippy cups, books, and whatever else you have in that suitcase of yours.
These props you are providing Little Jane just complicate the whole affair. Little Jane will not only make a ruckus playing, eating, and “reading,” but eventually she’ll lose interest and will be clamoring for some new distraction. If you bring a bag of distractions, you’ll spend your time at Mass negotiating toys and snacks and Little Jane won’t even get that there something quite special going on.
There is also a very noticeable depreciation in toy suitcase contentment over time. I’ve seen it happen many, many times. Tragic really.
By all means, allow a little chew toy for the baby that is teething – ’cause let me tell you, that is a painful experience! Mom has even let me and my siblings have Cheerios when we are under a year old and there just wasn’t time to tank up properly before Mass. See? It is possible to be strict but sensible! However, once baby hits about 15 months old- shweet!– out go the props.
Now that I’m 2, I like to hold the missal or the hymnal and sing or pray along. Mom says that’s okay too, because I’m copying my siblings and trying to participate as best I know how.
#2 Make Mass a more pleasant experience than being taken out.
When you take Little Jane out of Mass and then let her play in the back, just what do you think you are teaching her? This is amateur mistake Numero Uno!
Instead, find a quiet place and sit your child on your lap and just hold them still. When they insist on getting down, wrap your arms around them and give them a big, firm bear hug. A firm swat to the bottom is sometimes in order too depending on how “strong-willed” that tot of yours is. I figured out quick that it was waaaaaay better to be in Mass than out back.
Even little babes should be held instead of allowed to play when taken out of Mass. Get the message across that watching Mass is so much more interesting than being held and staring at blank walls.
#3 Talk it through.
I don’t like when people whisper about the lunch menu all through Mass and I don’t like when I hear parents “talking” their child through the Mass so loudly that everyone can hear. I guess I’m there for Jesus and I don’t need to know that they are planning a roast today or hear other people’s dramatization of the consecration.
Mom has this way of situating me so my ear is right next to her mouth. Then she just kind of whispers to me to keep my attention, but at the same time no one else can hear. I always know when the consecration is coming up, because that is when Mom makes me put the missal away, props me on the pew back in front of her, faces me toward the altar, and then starts whispering in my ear. I haven’t got the mystery of the Mass all figured out yet, but something special is going on up there I just know it. Even I, Buck, actually watch, sit still, and listen.
Mom doesn’t whisper to me all through Mass – that would get boring fast and would lose the overall effect. She figures the consecration is one of the most important points of the Mass, so she focuses on that.
Mom also helps me cross myself, shake hands at the peace, and say “Lord, hear our prayer” (even though I just say “Whoad, pwayah”).
Let me qualify this whole post by saying that getting your child to sit through Mass doesn’t necessarily mean getting them to sit still through Mass. For this 2 year old, that ain’t about to happen and mama knows it too.
Mom and Dad pass me around between them. I can look at the books. (The ones in the pew. Remember Mom doesn’t bring a toy suitcase.) I can sit in a lap or on the pew, and stand or kneel on the kneeler. I can even swing my legs a bit as long as I’m not clunking them on the pew in front of me. Sometimes I sing or pray and I’m totally off from the congregation, but I’m not doing it to be annoying. I’m genuinely trying to figure out how I can be a part of the event.
There really is a lot of leeway, so don’t write Mom telling her she is a cruel mother. Hogwash! Discipline is tough up front, but in the long run I end up a lot happier than those kids whose parents cave in after a good sniffling whine. What’s that Bible verse Mom tells the big kids?
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.“
Don’t expect to never have to walk out again. Don’t expect a kneeler, hymnal, or missal to never go crashing to those reverberating church floors.
It really isn’t about perfection. It is about teaching Tyrannical Tate that he doesn’t get to dictate what the family does or make his parents or pew neighbors miserable. My mom still gets distracted from the Mass a lot, but we are all there together.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.” (Paragragh 2205) Doesn’t it just make sense that we offer the sacrifice of the Mass as one?
(P.S. Much to my dismay, my mother hasn’t taken many pictures of me when I up to my normal tricks. Could it be she is too busy disciplining me? You will have to settle for only one tearful image along with several others just for fun.)
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