Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Cry Room

Two weeks ago I did a post about Fr. Anthony, our beloved pastor, and the wonderful homily he gave to our parish. Today I'm going to do another shout-out to Father. I figure that we all spend plenty of time complaining about the bad priests out there, why not devote another post to praising the good things our priests do to shepherd the flock.

Father has this wonderful little column, Pastor's Corner, in every bulletin where he instructs the faithful on all kinds of things, from his interpretation of the latest Vatican promulgation to recent happenings in the pro-life movement. Today's column was a true gem, addressing all sorts of Church etiquette pointers for the many parishioners who are regularly challenged in this area (I too need the regular reminder to turn off my cell phone at the start of Mass!) As I glanced over Father's various "tips" I saw this:

"Crying Room"
We are blessed to have so many children in our Parish. They and their parents are most welcome to participate fully in the celebration of Mass. The community needs to be patient with parents trying to teach their children how to behave in Church. Parents need to be mindful of how and when to teach such lessons. During the celebration of Mass, the Crying Room is intended to serve as a place of refuge for parents whose children need to be removed from the assembly. It is NOT an alternative seating area where adults can talk or children simply play or munch on cereal. Therefore, parents with children who are able to be seated in the Church are kindly asked not to take up the space in the Crying Room from those parents who may find their children need a "timeout."

Well said, Father. I am overjoyed to have a Pastor who communicates so clearly how I should approach the Mass with my children. He wants them in the church, experiencing the beauty of the liturgy. He wants the other parishioners to respect the learning curve of my children. As a parent, he wants me to discipline my children with grace and in a manner that respects other parishioners. If in-church discipline fails, he wants me to remove my children to the cry-room for a timeout. This is the battle plan.

Anybody disagree?


Lara said...

VERY well said. I couldn't agree more!

Juris Mater said...

We've been at a different parish a bit recently, and it's been wonderful to see an almost-empty cry room that is occupied only temporarily by freaking out young kids. Also, the baskets in the cry room are stocked with Children's Bibles and other Catholic kids books. What a refreshing change from the usual cry room, littered with juice box straws and cheerio crumbs, stocked with Barney books, and occupied by everyone from late-arriving adults in jogging suits to 11 year olds chatting while they try out cheerleading moves and play handheld video games.

This is a really wonderful pastor, too, to assure parents that he supports their efforts to teach their children to behave in Mass... as in, a few noises are OK and a part of the learning process. It really, really does pay off, but it's always much harder to teach when the parish community seems less tolerant of a few noises here and there.

Hope you've all had wonderful Sundays!

Kerry said...

oh my gosh, I have VERY fervent ideas about cry rooms!! I love what your priest said! I get very upset (and find myself thinking really mean thoughts!) when people use cry rooms b/c they are late to Mass, or simply zone out in there...
(I find myself thinking "why am I the only one singing or saying the responses??)

However, I do use the room basically to "corral" my toddler..any open door and she's wandering out of it.

MomVee said...

Our church has no cry room, just a narrow back passage that's already pretty full of ambivalent adult standees. Most months of the year one can take a disruptive child outside, and I actually think fresh air is a great way to "reboot" crying or shouting children.

What an exceptional pastor to speak out and involve himself in this issue.

AR's & J's mama said...

Praise God for this priest! What an amazing insight. I come from a parish with no cry room. I also am married to the youth minister of our parish, who is extremely oversensitive to our children making noise. At the first sign of disruption, he insists that we take them to the narthex, where people are not participating in mass, have full blown conversations, and think they can come over to us and discuss how much our children have grown. I am going to have my husband read this and hopefully he will understand what I have been trying to discuss with him for 2 years! Thank you for posting this!!!

Apostle On Water said...

When our children were little we were Protestants (dh still is). Our church "nursery" generally had kids up to about the age of 11 in it. Parents dropped kids off there after Sunday School and there was someone to watch the kids while the parents went to church unimpeded by children. My husband and I went against the tide. We diligently took the kids to church until they got beyond their tolerance point (with my dd that was sometimes not more than 2 minutes into the service). Then (at least while they were under 3)one of us (usually me) took them out (cheerfully) and stayed with them in the nursery. There was an intercom so that you could hear the sermon, but usually there was too much noise going on. Most weeks our kids made it through most of church and my son regularly sat all the way through long before he was 3. DD took a few months longer. What's really interesting is that nearly all of the kids who spent their first few years in the nursery are now non-church attenders, while my kids are both seriously devout Catholics.

I honestly believe that my husband hit the nail on the head when he said that parents simply don't want to be bothered to parent their kids in church, but that it is an important part of parenting. I like your priest's approach to things. The age that we found a challenge (requiring the Sunday toy bag, items from Grammy's purse, a switch of holding adults, etc. and generally a trip to the nursery) was from about 12- 28 months. After that they were generally more able to quietly entertain themselves. Before then it was easy to nurse them to sleep for most of the service. With discreet nursing dresses no one even knew what they were doing, people just knew our kids were quietly attending church with us.

We did find with our toddler daughter that the span from breakfast through Sunday School and church was simply too long for her to go without eating. Her daddy came up with the brilliant idea to bring her a sandwich to eat between Sunday School and church when she was around 3. After that sitting through church became much easier.

I think the hardest thing for my daughter actually was that most of her friends were allowed to go to the nursery. What helped us was that we had the whole back pew to ourselves and our extended family (grandparents, aunts, occasionally an uncle). It was special to get to be held on auntie's lap, so it made things easier.

I do wish that adults in church would be a bit more tolerant of kids, but I also wish that some parents would be a bit more vigilant. We've seen cases where the parents had kids who were clearly being disruptive (and I'm not talking about 2 year olds here, but school age kids) where they really needed to sit between a couple of fractious kids, but instead simply tuned the kids out.

Liz said...

Whoops the last comment didn't come from apostle on water. He's my soon to be son-in-law who apparently logged onto blogger on my machine yesterday, and then didn't log off before he left. Consequently, my comment got entered under his name. Sorry about that.

Bethany said...

I love the fact that your priest is welcoming of children during mass. Our oldest child decided to sit us in the very fist pew yesterday at Mass and my husband remarked that he is always worried about the children distracting the priest. After mass, our pastor told us that he appreciates the children sitting up front so they can see what's going on and become more involved in the celebration. When children sit in the back, especially in a large church such as ours (we are members of the diocese's Cathedral parish) they can't see very well and become much more easily distracted.

I'm curious as to how all of you ladies (and some men) view the common practice of the "children's liturgy of the word" where the children are pulled out of mass to approach the Word of God on their level, so to speak.

B-Mama said...

I hate to rain on everyone's parade to say that since moving, we have been putting our boys in the nursery provided by our parish. :( We had tried all winter and spring to endure Mass with two wiggly, loud, and rambunctious children and finally, called it quits. At least for the time being. To have seen how uptight and irritated the kids' behavior was making my husband, you probably would do it too. He *never* gets angry with the kids... until Sunday Mass would roll around each week. I think we both felt like heading to confession after each service! We would then find our anger lashing out at one another. Not good! Our new parish offered our solution--a well-run nursery for children to age 4. I know GG (hub) attended nursery as a child (as did I in my protestant upbringing) and we are very committed Catholics today. I think much more goes into making holy children!

Very soon, though, we will be transitioning our oldest, 3.5, back to Mass. He was definitely getting it, but having his brother around was the worst kind of distraction. Not to mention, the only way we could get the kids through the liturgy was with drinks and snacks. We felt more irreverent having them there than we do now, worshiping just the two of us.

Right or wrong? I don't know. But the past month of Masses have been very meditative and peaceful. Just some thoughts to add to the mix.

Lara said...

You have to take it as it comes and keep your sanity. I think bringing your older son back on his own might be just perfect for him to learn how "big boys" behave at mass--just in time for him to teach your younger son. :)

Elizabeth M said...

I wish our pastor would say something like that publicly. I know he likes children at Mass and doesn't mind normal noise. The adults who come in late and leave after Communion are a much bigger problem!

We don't even have a cry room in our church though. I think he did it deliberately (he's our founding pastor). We have a large area around a baptismal font in the back, and a hallway along the back of the church has a bench on the wall and large windows into the main church. The PA system is piped out there too. So, it's not a closed off cry room, but if you need to take a disruptive child out there, you can. It doesn't help with corralling them though!

My sister lives in the South and her old parish had the nursery during Mass. I know she misses it, but I do think that at least once the children are 3-4, they have to start learning to behave in Mass. That way, as they get a little older, it's easier for them to learn to follow along and participate in Mass.

But even with school-age kids, there are the distractions.

Once your kids are old enough to need a little less attention, there's nothing wrong with parents occasionally attending separate Masses. Sometimes the schedule just works out that dh and I need to be at different Masses, so we either each take a child to a separate Mass, or one takes both and the other gets Mass alone. That is always good too!

Right Said Red said...


Are you sure you and hubby turned out so well? j/k haha

But seriously, I feel for all those mamas of young boys, especially when preggo! I think a nursery is a bit different than a cry room, but I just happen to think that once a child is over 2 they need to be taught how to sit still in Mass. Sometimes the presence of a nursery has the effect of making other parishioners less tolerant of children in that they think kids belong outside the church. This is why I LOVED what father wrote, he let us all know what his expectations are, which is HUGE.

Anyway, Juris Mater, I would really love to have you write a post describing the scene of a church cry room on a particularly bad day. It would bring me GREAT amusement!

Kate Wicker said...

Thanks be to God! What a wonderful priest! I've been thinking a lot about this topic being the mom of two antsy, little ones.

Likewise, I've been taking a lot of heat since I wrote an article about how I prayerfully came to the decision to discreetly nurse my baby at Mass - if the need arose. Many of the people commenting seemed to not only turned off by nursing at church but also by children being in Mass at all.

However, in support of my article someone wrote about a priest that encouraged parents to bring their young children to Mass and told the rest of the congregation to remember that construction can be noisy and children are adults under construction. I loved that.

Honestly, I sometimes try to go to Mass alone sans the kiddos. It's much easier and I get a lot more out of the celebration. However, it's also selfish. My number one job is to nurture souls for Christ. The door to the Body of Christ was opened at baptism for our children. We must keep that door open by regularly having our children participate in the liturgy - even when that makes it harder on us.

I once had a non-Catholic ask me why I brought my children to Mass and especially up to Communion to receive a blessing before they could truly understand what's happening. I explained that not only am I teaching the young ones how to behave in Mass and how to approach the table of the Lord, but I also feel it's important to bring them to Christ even at a young age. Mass is a celebration and most parents celebrate kids' birthdays even when they're too young to do anything other than meltdown before the cake's even been cut. Why, then, wouldn't I bring them to the most important celebration of our lives?

Thank you for a great post. Sorry for rambling on so much, but as I mentioned, this topic has been on my mind a lot lately.


Right Said Red said...

Thank you Kate for your comment. I think I read your article on nursing in Mass and I remember really liking it.

Claire said...

I was going to refer to Kate Wicker's article in my comment and lo and behold--there she is!
I also have been thinking ALOT about this since reading her article and I think that priest is right on.

I have two things to add to what has already been said which has all been very good:
1. Yes, adults need to consider that children are growing and learning and do not have the resources yet to keep themselves sitting still for a whole hour (or more). Adults DO have the resources to draw on to find the patience to deal with the little noises and commotion of little ones. You can do it!
But more than just "waiting it out", it is also an opportunity for contemplation for everyone in the pew, just as it is for us mothers at home.
We mothers know this already: the value of our children is not only for what they WILL be one day in the future, but who and what they are today. If we are waiting for them to grow up, to quiet down, to develop longer attention spans, we are not learning from that needy nursing infant, that toddler who doesn't know to wait until AFTER the Consecration to have that diaper changed... These little ones can be for us reflections of the Divine Child right now. As mothers, we know that we have opportunities to contemplate this in a very real way every day. And through our families, the rest of the Church can as well.

2. Since reading the comments over at Kate's article, I have also been thinking about this so-called division between the "single Catholics with no children" as some readers identified themselves, and the Catholic parents. Maybe this is wrong. Maybe we are all parents, we are all in family together. Are we a pro-life Church? We are all parents to the children in the sense that we make a place in our hearts to welcome all of the children of all the world, as messy and disruptive as they can sometimes be. All life is sacred, maybe especially the needy, clingy, messy and disruptive kind. Is there any kind of life that isn't?

texas mommy said...

We have no cry room as the average age in our parish of 15,000 is 2. So it was highly impractical to wall off half of the church for toddlers. Our priests firmly believe that children belong at mass and every few months remind the congregation that children are not a distraction, but a blessing to the parish.

That said, though I promised never to do so, we have put Dash in our church nursery for the last month. The 18 month old is the one who should really go in, but since he passes out all the time, it is really hard on the nursery workers to have to deal with him the whole time when there are a bunch of other kids around. I'm not really sure how to manage 3 under 3 at mass and pay any attention, so this is our temporary solution. Like so many things I had definite ideas about before actually being a mommy like putting kids in the nursery for mass, sometimes you just do what you have to do.

Maria said...

How wonderful that your pastor published this in the bulletin! Our parish priests constantly tell us mom how much they love children in Mass, but it would be nice for everyone else to hear it, too.

I think nurseries can be helpful for that very tough 12 - 30 month range where the child has very, very little impulse control and no notion of volume control. I find it important to go to Mass as a family, but often can't face the prospect of dealing with the young toddler for an hour - especially when pregnant. By letting the young toddler go to the nursery during this difficult stage, the family as a whole usually does much better at Mass.

Kate - I just read your article last Sunday and was very sad to see some of the nasty comments in response to it. I don't know how folks think the vocation crisis is going to be resolved if they are so insulting to devout mothers and their children.

Joanne said...

It sounds like you have a wonderful Pastor in that father Anthony. I am biased because that is my son's name and so I like him already!

My husband and I attend Mass separately, we don't have a cry room and I just don't see the point of taking a 6 month old and an autistic 3 year old to Mass at this point. We are hopeful that when our son gets older he will behave better in Mass, but in the meantime, we just go separately. I'd like to go to Mass with him but man - it's just way too hard and crazy!

Drea said...

I have a 5 month old baby girl and other than the 1st Sunday after her birth, she has never missed Mass. We always attempt to sit in the church, near the cry room just in case. Even though our daughter is so young it is very important to my husband and I not only that she learns from the very beginning how to behave at Mass, but also that she can participate as much as possible from the very beginning. Right now, that means "singing" with the choir, and being in daddy or my arms while we stand and kneel. Although I hate to see parents use the cry room as an excuse to let their child misbehave, it bothers me even more when I see perfectly well behaved children stuck in the cry room. These children should be, and are perfectly capable of, participating in the mass rather than being made to be seperated from the rest of the congregation.

CradleCath said...

Ack, I wish OUR church had a dedicated cry room! As it is now, the Adoration Chapel doubles as the cry room (minus the Blessed Sacrament, of course!) The Chapel is off to the Gospel side of the nave, separated by sliding glass doors so that the parents can still see the Mass service. Still, I wish we had a dedicated cry room. That would spare us Adorers from sitting on formula and baby food stained pews... ick. Maybe when we have our renovation later this summer, they will add something. Hopefully not on the same side as the Choir, though!