Another Health Kick post (but I mean it this time!)
Today's REAL accomplishment is that I did not raid the Easter candy

Big fat complainy having your kids at church post, I'M SORRY

This is the day that broke me. This is the day that sees me giving up on any sweet soft-focus ideals I had or have about being a Nice Catholic Family. This is the day where I am blinking back tears during the consecration and deciding that IF and WHEN I decide to come back to Mass I am going alone. And this day wasn't especially or significantly terrible, it was just the latest in a Long Series of Sunday Mornings where I emerge from the church feeling the need to hide, crawl under the covers, drink myself into a nice cheery stupor. 

Oh God I even feel too broken down to write this post. I'll come back later. GAH.

All right. It is much much later in the day. I have exercised, I have eaten an entire chocolate bunny (hey, at least I exercised), I have Mad Men to look forward to after the kids are in bed. Everything is better. But I'm still going to write a Woe Is Me blog post. 

SO YES. Church. I cannot do it. 

Here is what I told Phillip last Sunday: "We are not doing that again. We are either going to the early Mass or we are going separately so someone can stay home with Emma." And he said, "Okay," because really, even if he would have liked to say something else, he knew that moment was not the right time to say it. 

And again, my kids are not SO horrible. We don't ALWAYS have to take Emma out (just most of the time). My kids aren't ALWAYS fighting with each other or noisily rummaging through their bag of un-church-like goodies or asking me how many songs are left. And no one has ever EVER said anything negative about my kids in church. Not even when I am fully expecting and braced for it. Even this morning when we happened to sit in front of what seemed to me to be a Particularly Holy family and I thought FOR SURE the dad was BEYOND ANNOYED with my 18-month-old who needed snacks and pacifiers and books and shrieked about not getting all the pencils and enevelopes and CLAPPED WHEN PHILLIP ASKED HER IF SHE WANTED TO GO HOME, the dad grinned at Phillip and said, "Oh no, no, not a bother at all, not at all." GOD BLESS THOSE PEOPLE. 

But for me? For me it is EX. HAUSTING. I am frustrated, embarrassed, angry at my kids for not being perfect little angels and mad at myself because my parenting has not developed perfect little angels. I can't hear. I have no idea what the readings are. I haven't the slightest idea what the homily was about. That entire hour is taken up with Managing Movement, Noise, & Making Sure The Baby Doesn't Draw On Everything In Sight. 

This morning I suggested we go to one of the churches I'm interested in, not least because we could go to a 9am Mass. The 10 at our church seems to be too late for Emma (she usually goes down for her nap between 10:30 and 11) and the 8 at our church is asking too much of my Just Wants To Relax on the weekends husband. So off we went to the 9 and I was excited because I am excited about a new church and we even found an old friend and everything seemed great except NO, Emma was STILL AWFUL, the kids were STILL arguing over a book about dragons (and you guys, who brings a book about pagan legend dragons to CHURCH? I mean, I probably got my first Bad Parent label right there.) (The book is cool though. I'm just saying.)

Afterwards our old friend, who is single and childless and (I thought) for SURE reminding herself to never sit next to us again, was SO NICE and encouraging and said exactly the right things. But I still had to stop myself from crying in the car. It just feels so POINTLESS. 

I mean, I don't feel like a very awesome Catholic to begin with, and now I can't even get through Mass without wanting to send my kids to Siberia? 

Anyway, I've been thinking. I'm thinking it is (about!) time for me to let go of thinking my kids should be in church with me every single Sunday, on excellent behavior, learning by osmosis. It's not realistic. Not my kids, anyway. They LOVE Sunday School. They are BOOOOOORED at Mass. And you know, I was bored at Mass until I was a grown up, and shoot, sometimes I still am. They aren't old enough to go to the Children's Liturgy of the Word (the chunk of time where the grade school kids get to have a kid-appropriate lesson during Mass) and they're too old for childcare. But this is just an in between time and I need to drop my Children Who Sit And Stand And Pay Attention expectations. Does that sound horrible? It does to me, in a way, but right now I am feeling like If At First You Don't Succeed, Lower Your Expectations. My Protestant friends would never expect their similarly-aged kids to sit through a long talky liturgy. They go do kid stuff! And plenty of my Catholic friends are the same. I don't have bad kids and every little annoying thing they do in Mass makes me think I have Bad Kids and GAH. 

Like, it would be TOTALLY FINE WITH GOD AND EVERYONE ELSE if I started going to church by myself on Sunday nights. You know? I don't have to model this Nice Family. I don't have to look like I'm doing a good job. I don't have to make sure my kids look cute. THAT IS NOT WHAT CHURCH IS FOR. Or if we didn't all go together. Or if we didn't go to the same place or if I put the kids in childcare ANYWAY or we alternated staying home with Emma. I am not a good enough Catholic to be thankful I am there to receive the Eucharist. I am mostly sitting there thinking THIS IS POINTLESS WHY AM I HERE.

So! Room for personal growth, etc. Not denying that. 

But honestly I think my Other Not So Positive Church Feelings have been playing into this. I feel disengaged from my current parish for a dozen different reasons. I already know that we will be going somewhere different this summer (after my committee term is up). I feel disillusioned about certain things, annoyed with others, frustrated and tired and unwilling to invest. I am a terrible terrible parishioner right now. So I feel bad about that, but also NOT bad because DUDE, I have been a GREAT parishioner for a LONG TIME and I have good reasons for moving on. I just can't move quite yet. And I have to manage all those thoughts while parenting three small people who would REALLY like to be eating their doughnuts and running around the church parking lot. 

BLARGHITY BLARGH SBCBS@OURoiawjogasdkvjn;aowireutteuASDLV:AISURPOGUPA!!!!!

Also! Those of you who feel compelled to tell me I have the wrong perspective on church and it's not about what I can get out of it and Jesus said let the little children come and all that, I know. I KNOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW. Please let me have my immature, terrible Catholic, pissy mood please. SEND CHOCOLATE BUNNIES.

 

 

Comments

Kelley

Oh Maggie sending hugs. I SO get this. We have a 1 year old, almost 3 year old and a 4 year old. Just recently I started staying in the nursery with the 1 and almost 3 year old and my husband sits with our oldest in main body of the church. He does MUCH better (and so do they) without all the distractions and a little seperation during Mass and we all go up as a family for communion.

I have struggled with this as well but I have realized now is just going to be a bit harder for awhile and this is the best way to do it. We usually go to 9am Mass (which is hard because the baby is tired and ready to nap) but the 11am is too late for the older 2 who usually have lunch and naps all by 1pm ( they are up 6-6:30!)

Anyway, just remember...no one's family is the perfect Catholic family (I know you know that!) and you are doing your best.

Jesabes

I am with you, OH HOW I AM WITH YOU. We have childcare at my church, but Paul, especially, has trouble with it so we don't feel right putting him in there for 2 1/2 hours so we can go to church and adult Sunday school. Therefore we bring the kids with us to church (AT 8AM, which is not cool with ME but Thomas does not care), then send them to childcare while we go to Sunday School. It sucks. I have told him MANY, MANY times I will not do this one more time. WHY am I getting out of bed just so I can go and not hear a word? Blargh. It is getting better, though. 18 months was the absolute worst.

Becbky

Why are you torturing yourself? Seems like nobody is getting anything out of this exercise in futility! Our church has a great children's program and EVERYONE (especially, I imagine, the people who sit around us) is happy with this arrangement.

My daughter loves it there and they always incorporate a children's lesson that goes with the week's overall theme for the adults too. If that's not the option you want (and honestly, I'd send all 3 kids there!), then I would totally go alone on Sunday nights.

There is no perfect family attendance report... seriously! You deserve one hour of being able to worship without distraction. Anyone who gives you the line of how children need to learn to sit in church and be quiet from the very young ages should feel free to take your kids to the other side of the church and see exactly how that goes!

Meghan

Hang in there and do what works for you st this season. Love, Meghan

DeeAnne

Again, I understand. My church is one of those that has Sunday School but not children's church. They think it's super great for kiddos to be in the general assembly because they have to learn the sit and behave thing anyway, and who knows what they could absorb just being there, etc. I have spent way too many Sunday afternoons in my kids' lifetime being cranky and feeling hopeless and failure-y because I dragged us all to church out of a sense of duty and obligation and not out of some heartfelt love of God or true desire to worship. But eventually I decide it's all ok, because a) God understands, and b) being there was probably beneficial to us in some way whether we knew it or not, and c) there's always another day to get it right. Today wasn't one of those. We skipped both a.m. and p.m. services out of sheer laziness. Anyway. Just keep your chin up, do what works for you and your kids and don't let anyone make you feel like you're wrong or bad. Hugs!

erica

I feel pulled in different directions whenever I go anywhere with Anna and I'm sure it will double once baby #2 gets here. It just seems to be what being a parent is about. I don't do traditional church but I try to go hiking alone 1-2 times a week to recharge myself. It's so important to me to have that time to be alone. I know what you're going to church for is different but I'm just saying for a parent of young kids - that Sunday night mass sounds pretty good compared to bringing the whole family.

Elsha

I feel ya lady. Our kids have Sunday school for the 2nd & 3rd hour of church (well, Daniel goes with my mom) but that first hour, MAN. Most Sundays at least one of us ends up in the foyer, sometimes both of us. And that is WITH my parents help! 4 adults and we STILL cannot manage to keep 3 kids quiet for an hour. Well, sometimes we can keep the older 2 quiet by letting them both play games. On separate iPads. (Heaven forbid they have to share one.) There have been MANY weeks when Brian and I have looked at each other and said, "Why do we bother?" But we go anyway. I assume that someday it will get better. (Please let it get better!)

I do work with the kids (ages 3-12) for the 2nd & 3rd hour (singing! Woo!) so at least I'm WELL AWARE that it's not just my kids who are like that. Even in children's singing time the kids are fidgety and talking and not paying attention. Makes me feel slightly less annoyed at my own kids.

Rafael

What is the name of this 9am Church you found?

Carrie

Hugs- HUGE hugs. We have a nursery at church and classes for the kids, but some kids stay in and fidgit and whine and no one thinks their parents are bad, they just think they have kids. Kids will be kids, no matter how hard the parents try. You're not a bad parent. You're doing great.

Darren

Today during mass Zuzu audibly said, "all done now!" several times starting from about the creed on, as is her wont. She danced in the side aisle during the meditation during/after communion. I saw other, older families pointing her out (I think in delight and not disgust? Wishful thinking?) as she twirled. She didn't loudly say, "Now get a donut!" (our usual bribe for good behavior) as she usually does, so we escaped on that one. All of this while her younger brother was periodically and loudly reminding everybody what he sounds like when he hasn't had a nap in the morning. And I was feeling sorry for my back and myself for having to bounce with him the whole time to no avail. And of course when he starts walking, he will need to go outside during most of mass like she used to.

All to say: we feel your pain. Two things keep me sane about it. First, I remember being single and pre-parental and finding restless kids charming quite often. For real. (Aside: even as a bachelor,I had no sympathy for people complaining about kids crying on airplanes. It's what they do; you know they will be there; bring a pair of headphones or your annoyance is on you. My sympathy was always with the parents.)

Second, our parish priest, God bless him, told us once that taking care of the kids during mass is itself a contribution to the worship of the community (or words to that effect) and a sacrifice offered up to God. That has really stuck with me and I bank on it. That doesn't mean of course that I am serenely and blissfully content with the little tyrants' behavior every Sunday. But I console myself with it afterwards.

Lindsay

I remember a parent taking their kid out of church once, and the priest saw it and said a little joke about a priest saying once to a parent of a crying kid " oh he's not bothering me," to which the parent replied "I know father, you're bothering him." Heee, twas funny.

I hope you feel better soon enough. Similar but not: I used to fight with my husband to come to church. He would go if his mom asked him but not me. It was always a big cranky thing. Eventually I just said eff it and I go on my own with absolutely no expectation of him coming. Same gist- it is not our job to look like a good catholic couple to other people. We both are where we are and that's that. Anyway removing this weekly fight has helped with the overall enjoyment of church.

Molly

Oh Maggie, I totally have been feeling the same way. It's terrible to be in church and do distracted by your children that we get nothing out of the service. We even left early Easter Sunday because the girls wouldn't sit still. You are not alone, it gets better,etc.

Kate

I go on Saturday night and Jeff goes to the early Mass on Sunday. For us, there is no other way.

(And we only have one child. Who does not yet talk, but is adept at shrill screaming, and thinks Liturgy of the Eucharist is the perfect time to practice that, so. Daily Mass during Lent was a CHORE, and I really should have just given up cookies or milkshakes or coffee or anything but deciding to go to Mass every day, because it most certainly did not help me grow closer to God.)

Honestly, I cherish it even more as it's one of the only hours of alone time I really get during the week. Which is so the wrong reason to look forward to going to Mass, but there it is. (Of course, I'm a terrible Catholic anyhow.)

katie

Yes to Sunday night mass! You deserve that alone time.

Becky

I used to feel the same way about taking Baby Ren to Mass. Even when he slept through the whole thing, I was on alert for him to start crying or fussing, so I got nothing out of Mass.

I just realized that I used to go to Mass alone with my mom until I was probably 7 and my sister was 5. I was a sit quiet and listen kind of kid, and my sister was not. =)

emah

You are not alone. I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old and we TRY to go to mass every other week (I need a rest. Seriously). And it rarely works. We went to Christmas mass with my on-laws, and Margaret announced after the opening hymn that she was "all done with this church thing, Mommy. I want to go home to the fun party." She announced this in a piercingly loud voice in a moment of silence.

So we took her home.

It's too much. I think that God probably knows what little kids are like, and will give you this one. I think that making church horrible for you and your kids now is a lot worse than taking it easy and only going sometimes. You might try to take one kid at a time, if it is important to you that they go? But you could also leave them at home and let it go.

Also, have a hug. God knows I could use one after church. And particularly next week when my daughter is going to be a flower girl in a cousin's wedding, and will probably insist on leaving the church after her entrance. Goody.

Steph

Yes, Jesus DID say let the children come. BUT! That was in relation to the disciples telling the kids to go away and stop bothering Jesus. So, I'm thinking they were acting like kids and not angelic beings of adultness. :)

I am sorry that it hasn't been going well. I'm going to be praying that God gives you peace and clarity on what you need to do for your family.

Steph

Yes, Jesus DID say let the children come. BUT! That was in relation to the disciples telling the kids to go away and stop bothering Jesus. So, I'm thinking they were acting like kids and not angelic beings of adultness. :)

I am sorry that it hasn't been going well. I'm going to be praying that God gives you peace and clarity on what you need to do for your family.

Steph

Yes, Jesus DID say let the children come. BUT! That was in relation to the disciples telling the kids to go away and stop bothering Jesus. So, I'm thinking they were acting like kids and not angelic beings of adultness. :)

I am sorry that it hasn't been going well. I'm going to be praying that God gives you peace and clarity on what you need to do for your family.

Karen

Yep yep yep. We have a 20 month old who is currently in the screaming mode, as in, if you don't let him down to run around he screams. My husband is very very good at disciplining toddlers and has managed to make Good Churchgoers out of our three oldest boys (12, 8 and 6) but the toddler? Makes church less enjoyable for at least one of us. And he has serious stranger anxiety, so you can imagine how fun that is!

But, my other three do very well. They ALL went through hard stages, and it WILL get better. One suggestion I have is to talk to your kids beforehand about what behavior is expected and WHY it's expected. As in, no, God doesn't care if kids sing in church when there's no music, or talk loudly. But as I've always explained to my kids, it distracts other people from their prayer and we don't want to do that.

I would definitely leave Emma home. I would, however suggest that when you and Philip split up for Mass that you each take one of the older kids. It will cut down on their fidgeting and fretting, honestly. With just one kid you can relax a little more, the kid will feel like, hey, I'm getting one on one time with a parent, and there's less discipline to worry about on your part. When my husband and I attend different Masses due to babies we try to take as many other kids as will go with us. Sometimes they all opt to go with Dad and then I get Mass by myself! Sometimes.

It will get better.

Karen

Yep yep yep. We have a 20 month old who is currently in the screaming mode, as in, if you don't let him down to run around he screams. My husband is very very good at disciplining toddlers and has managed to make Good Churchgoers out of our three oldest boys (12, 8 and 6) but the toddler? Makes church less enjoyable for at least one of us. And he has serious stranger anxiety, so you can imagine how fun that is!

But, my other three do very well. They ALL went through hard stages, and it WILL get better. One suggestion I have is to talk to your kids beforehand about what behavior is expected and WHY it's expected. As in, no, God doesn't care if kids sing in church when there's no music, or talk loudly. But as I've always explained to my kids, it distracts other people from their prayer and we don't want to do that.

I would definitely leave Emma home. I would, however suggest that when you and Philip split up for Mass that you each take one of the older kids. It will cut down on their fidgeting and fretting, honestly. With just one kid you can relax a little more, the kid will feel like, hey, I'm getting one on one time with a parent, and there's less discipline to worry about on your part. When my husband and I attend different Masses due to babies we try to take as many other kids as will go with us. Sometimes they all opt to go with Dad and then I get Mass by myself! Sometimes.

It will get better.

Julie

I have been frustrated with my church for a while now for not seeing that "Big Church" as I will call it till I die is not a great place for children under a certain age. Childcare during the service is only provided through age 5. After that, the kids are expected to go with the parents with the idea being that the children need to be with their parents in church in order to learn more about God. That's all great and wonderful in theory but not so much in practice. Our 8 year old has ADHD and has a hard time sitting still and paying attention for the length of the service (normally an hour and a half). We have tried different forms of entertainment which have resulted in minor success and some major failures but we still spend most of our time trying to keep him from being a distraction to everyone around us which means we get nothing out of the sermon. I have more than once left church frustrated and annoyed and wishing there was some form of childrens' church that was more on his level. If he was getting something out of the sermon, I wouldn't have a problem with him being in there but I feel it will be a while before he really picks up what the pastor is getting at. Until then, we just have to do our best to not bother those around us. This definitely isn't an easy task. I hope it gets better for you guys and you find a solution that works.

Julie

I have been frustrated with my church for a while now for not seeing that "Big Church" as I will call it till I die is not a great place for children under a certain age. Childcare during the service is only provided through age 5. After that, the kids are expected to go with the parents with the idea being that the children need to be with their parents in church in order to learn more about God. That's all great and wonderful in theory but not so much in practice. Our 8 year old has ADHD and has a hard time sitting still and paying attention for the length of the service (normally an hour and a half). We have tried different forms of entertainment which have resulted in minor success and some major failures but we still spend most of our time trying to keep him from being a distraction to everyone around us which means we get nothing out of the sermon. I have more than once left church frustrated and annoyed and wishing there was some form of childrens' church that was more on his level. If he was getting something out of the sermon, I wouldn't have a problem with him being in there but I feel it will be a while before he really picks up what the pastor is getting at. Until then, we just have to do our best to not bother those around us. This definitely isn't an easy task. I hope it gets better for you guys and you find a solution that works.

Crystal Payne

Honestly, you deserve a medal for having made it this long! My kids are the saaaame way...with the added benefit that when I take them I am by myself, with no help. So for the last five years I have had this huge pit of Catholic Guilt in my stomach because I cannot manage the one thing that seems mandatory except for once every few months. It is getting better. Now they are six and three, and they can at least manage to stay in the row, if not in their seats. When my kids were Emma's age, I left every Mass in tears and feeling like a failure. It Is Not You! I made the decision to go by myself most weeks, and wait until CCD age before I insist that they come every week. I think that if that is something you are thinking about, you should go for it. You can even think of it as "you" time, something you deserve and need. Parenting is hard enough!

Christina

apparently you have hit a nerve because 24 comments? DUDE.
also I'm not taking the time to read through them, so please forgive if this is a total repeat.
I could never sit through church with all of my kids, most especially not when they were toddler/pre-school age. I would have said things and thought thoughts that would have resulted in being struck by lightning right there on the spot. (not that God, generally, works that way these days, but believe me, He'd be tempted!) A few of my kids refused to be left in care and so I had to stay with them, but as soon as they could be left, they were. And we were all the happier for it! I totally get the wanting to teach your kids to sit in church thing, but I do think you have to ask yourself why you are there. Yes, there is a matter of obedience. But also? You're there to worship God and just BE in His presence. And I think it's okay with Him if the kids do that in an age appropriate way, with their joyfully noisy friends while adults enjoy one solid hour of true honest to God peace. My advice? Let yourself off the hook.

Ellen W

Church and small children are a struggle, thankfully we've attended churches where the boys could be in the nursery until age 3. On Good Friday I felt like I spent all of my time keeping my 3 yr old quiet; not contemplative at all. Our current solution is for us to go to church while the boys are in Sunday School. Cuts down on the whining but I feel guilty at times that they are not in church with us.

Susie

I don't have much of value to add, but "When all else fails, lower your standards" is an adage that is now taped to my computer at work, I believe thanks to your father? Certainly thanks to you. It is a useful thing to think, sometimes. I hope you find a peaceful solution for this phase :)

Margaret

I wish I had a good answer. I just have all the sympathy for you and the world's busiest 2 year old boy for myself. I could have written this exact post every week for the past year and a half. Mom definitely deserves a post-Mass donut. They are the motivation I use to power through the circus/triage nightmare of taking my family to Mass.

Megan @ Mama Bub

I know this his already been said, but if I had to sit with my children in church, I WOULD NOT GO. There's no way. Not a chance. We have childcare for every age, and I frequently help out in the child care rooms (the baby room is a good salve for baby fever.) For me, just BEING in church isn't the point, and if I had to have my children with me, I wouldn't be getting anything out of church, unless I brought video games. TRUTH.

Sunday

My kids were that bad and worse. I don't know how many times we actually went to Mass when my youngest was an infant, but not many. It was such torture when they were toddlers, banging thier juice cups on the pews, always squirming and making noise. We would sit at the back, to distrub the fewest people possible. I had someone tell me after Mass (on a day when they weren't too horrible!) that it gets better, their kids were bad when they were little also.
When they were 3 and 5, we started going more often, but it was still impossible to pay attention to the sermon. And if my husband had to go in to work on a Sunday morning, we just wouldn't go. I didn't want to try to wrangle both kids by myself. Finally, when they were 4 and6, he was going to be deployed for 6 months. I knew we couln't just skip church for 6 months, so I sucked it up and we went. I brought a church bag with books in it for them to look at/read. That kept them quieter, but still not great. Then we tried sitting in the balcony, they could see what was going on and they liked it up there! That and the donuts after church (that we could only get if they were "GOOD") helped tremendously. When we moved to a different city, they didn't have a balcony, but we sat up front. It was so much better!! Now I know why my mom always made my siblings and I sit in the front pew! I always thought it was so Father could give us the stink eye if we misbehaved!

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