I love my pastor's homilies. He shoots from the hip and minces no words. His message came from today's Gospel reading that as parents we are the tenants who must produce good fruit (Matthew 21:33-43). He commented that the kids are wanting to serve, but parents are preventing it. "Parents, they can not drive." He commented that when we fail to tend our gardens properly, they yield bitter fruit. Likewise, when we fail to teach kids the things they need to learn, our own children also become bitter fruit (aka brats). Sometimes, weeds overtake the garden and our kids choose their own path that we wouldn't have chosen for them.
Twice last week, it was suggested to me to use the cry room on both Saturday at the vigil Mass, and then Wednesday when I went to Mass because I was seeking some time of peace on a difficult day. The message was not received well, and I physically bit my tongue to avoid making more problems for myself. I was angry, hurt, frustrated, and felt unwelcome in my own home. So, today, I brought it to my pastor's attention after church, wishing I could have caught up to him before Mass because this would have been related to his homily today.
I feel like a bit of a tattle tale, but honestly, the pastor needed to know this was happening. If the two individuals said it to me when my family has served as liturgical ministers, they were going to say it to others. The first is unfamiliar with my family since it was a different Mass than we normally attend. He was polite and I want to believe he was well-intended, but the second being familiar with us may not have been. They are also older, from the generation that was raised to be seen and not heard. There is a time and place for children to be seen only, but it's a short list.
As I suspected, the pastor did not disagree with me. He even said "how else will they learn?" My kids get louder, more disruptive, and more distracted by the other unchecked kids running around in the cry room. Plus it has a tile floor, making the noise reverberate. No thank you, my kids have my permission fidget all they need to, so long as they're quiet and not getting overly disruptive to the prayers of those around them. I will not be taking them to the noisy room, but instead, will continue to remind them to be respectful of those around them, be quiet in the presence of God in church, and set the example for other parents in teaching their children. If I have to take them out of church, there are consequences for junior, and then - this is key - WE GO BACK IN THERE.
This goes back to my beliefs as a parent that we are raising our children in preparation for the adult world. When my kids are somewhere with me, they must behave appropriately even when they are bored, don't want to be there, or don't like the place. There is also time and place for children's fear to be addressed, but in this instance, my youngest 3 kids have been coming to Mass with me since birth after I learned the hard lesson with the oldest 2 with regards to church. It's not an unfamiliar or unsafe place that would merit a freak-out from my neurotypical children. After what feels like a million years, the kids start figuring out how to participate in the Mass, how their actions impact others, how to adapt to their surroundings, and how to deal with things they may not like.
Perhaps my kids being difficult is divine intervention to get that person behind us to get out of their own heads for a minute and pray for peace to come to the frustrated mother who can't seem to get the pre-Kindergartener to stop doing obnoxious things in an attempt to get mom's goad, or the baby who's figured out his voice carries very well given the acoustical design of the sanctuary to not be quite so loud till he's back outdoors, or for the older sister who is being annoyed by the pre-Kindergartener because button-pushing is a favorite activity. Perhaps, the bouncing kids are supposed to be a reminder to the estranged grandparents that it's time to reach out again to their child in an attempt to mend the fence. What ever the reason behind the lessons presented, they are being presented because that annoyance is supposed to teach something. Instead of clucking or ostracizing, pause a minute, and listen to God's whisper, and find out what message you are supposed to be receiving.
I am keenly aware my kids are disturbing the peace. I live with them. Peace comes about midnight when they're all drooling on the pillow, and even then there is no guarantee it will remain till sunrise. As a mother of an interfaith marriage who wrangles her children at church solo, I want nothing more than my children to be quiet and not disrupt your time at Mass. Because when they do that for you, they also avail it to me. And by the time my nest is empty, someone near me will have a full one, and the shoe will be on the other foot. I hope I can remember the challenge, and offer prayers for peace for them, and not cluck at them.