'Good' days at church are when she doesn't scream more than once or twice, we don't have to get up to take her out of the pew, and we walk away from mass with at least a partial understanding of what the message was. 'Bad' days are when she screams to be let down, has to be taken out of the pew multiple times, and we feel like we did nothing but manage her behavior (so we have no clue what was really talked about).
We have a strong stance against using the cry room because it seems to be a crutch for many families, and some parents even appear to use it as a place to let the kid run amuck beyond normal "ancy" behavior. I also worry that it is a petri dish for germs. Oh, and it gets loud with all the crying, I don't think we'd be able to pay attention anyways. Long story short, the cry room is not a place for us to take baby G for the whole mass. We have used it as a band-aid for a minute or two, but this past weekend we spent from the homily on in the cry room. I hated it. I actually thought to myself that I would rather have not gone to mass than be in that hot & cramped room. I know you may be saying...didn't Jesus put up with a lot more than an annoying cry room? Yes he did! I just feel like I'd be doing my faith a favor if I figured out a way to get more out of mass like I did before having a toddler.
We also refuse to bring snacks to mass. I know that she is young & not receiving Eucharist yet, but I still think it is terribly disrespectful to have any kind of eating during mass. I don't have a problem giving her a snack on the way to mass, but inside? No way. I'm not passing judgement on those parents that do, I just cannot allow myself to let baby G think, even for a minute, that eating at church is acceptable in our family. I also think it is another thing that could turn into a crutch, because she would come to expect food at mass & that'd be hard to break. Snacks, no matter how non-messy they seem to be, end up getting smushed on the floor, stuffed into pew-backs, or crushed in the crevices of the pew. I have nursed baby G at mass when she was younger, but I think that's a bit different because it was a necessary part of her survival. Even as a one year old she knows the difference in nursing for sustenance and snacks as a means to 'tide' her over (or, shamefully, distract her while I accomplish something).
Here's what we have tried, although it isn't very effective:
- Bring her favorite quiet toys
- Bring quiet toys she hasn't played with in a while
- Bring several books
- Attend mass at varying times to see which seems to work the best for her mood (it doesn't seem to matter, as long as she isn't tired or hungry)
- Allow her to stand in the pew and walk around between us (but that often makes her mad because she can't go outside the pew)
- Let her go between the two of us as she pleases because it keeps her from screaming
- Smile, wave, babble at the people around us (sorry, it's better than her screaming though!)
- Quietly point out neat things around the church
- Sway to the music with her
Perhaps we are doing all we can for now, but it sure is exhausting and we would love to go back to enjoying and getting more out of mass. I'm considering putting her in the nursery once a month just so my husband and I could pay full attention for at least one mass a month. I'm also considering attending alternating mass times so we can both pay attention during mass. The downside to both of those options is that we are not attending mass together as a whole family, which is something I really want. Mass is a place for us to celebrate our faith, feed our Catholic souls, and hear God's word. The sooner she learns how to behave in mass, the better. I have no clue how to do that, though. So if anyone has tips for getting a VERY spunky kid to behave in church, please PLEASE share them with me.