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Our toddler belongs at Sunday Mass! - He's too lively and distracting.

Amanda and Mike are disagreeing about whether or not their 2-year-old belongs at Sunday Mass.

He says: Our toddler belongs at Sunday Mass!

Mike says: Amanda and I both believe that Mass is really important to our family. I think we should go together every Sunday and pray together – as a family. Amanda wants us to go separately, so one parent can stay home with our son. Trevor is lively, but he’s part of the family of God. The people around us should be accepting of that.

She says: He’s too lively – and distracting.

Amanda says: Mike is right – Mass is critically important. But when we go as a family, Trevor is more than lively – he simply cannot sit still or be quiet for more than a minute or two. I’m either cringing at the looks from the other pews or running out into the vestibule with him – and thereby missing a lot of the Mass.

What do they do? This is a tough decision families face when trying to do the right thing.  This is one of those scenarios where there may not be a perfect solution. Having experienced this situation from both the parent and grandparent side, we are sympathetic for the parents who are trying to do the right thing and for the worshiping community who wished the parents would do the right thing!  But let’s strive to reach a consensus between Mike and Amanda.  Both agree that Mass is an important celebration for their family and we couldn’t agree more because the Eucharist is the source and summit of who we are as Christians.  Being able to receive the real presence of our Lord in the Eucharist is a highlight for all of us.  

The question becomes: How are we positioning ourselves to receive Christ in our ordinary life, with all the warts and trials associated with an active child? Is there some predisposed and proper way of approaching Christ in solemn procession with no disturbances or distractions or does it matter to God as long as we make an attempt?  We will suggest the latter is most often the case because we encounter God through each other as family members, be they adults or children.  We will agree some semblance of decorum is appropriate and yes, some degree of respect and reference is demanded, but it is not the law of the church that you be a mature adult exhibiting the proper stoic posture to be in the presence of the Lord.  If that were true, our ‘domestic church’ would be classified as a cross between somewhat-chaotic and totally out-of-control!  

This dilemma reminds us what our parish priest says when there is a vocal or active child.  He says, “I am happy to report we have another new parishioner!”  As a compromise, Mike, Amanda and child, may wish to sit more toward the back of the church out of respect for fellow worshipers.  If it gets to noisy in the back, the able-bodied people around you may be encouraged to move forward if they would like to hear better and be distracted less.  In most Catholic churches there is usually room down front!  Even though we may feel as if we have not gotten much out of Mass when tending to an active child during the entire liturgy, God understands and blesses you for trying. For you, tending your child is your prayer.  God comes to meet us where we are, and as your child grows, he will learn what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior. Trust us, it happens!

Pray for patience, because there are better days ahead.