Taking kids to Church is hard. There’s getting everyone fed, cleaned, dressed, and out the door on time. Then, of course, there’s the issue of noise. Kids aren’t very self-aware, and if yours are like mine, they enjoy the echo of their own voice in Church.
Parents need to do their part to keep their kids under control at Mass. Having a bag of quiet toys, sitting near the front, and intervening in sibling disputes before they get out of hand are great ways to be proactive. There are even times when a child needs to be taken to the narthex for a few minutes to calm down or stretch their legs.
To be sure, there is a problem with children making noise while in Church, but it has little to do with the children themselves. The actual problem is how we respond.
The way I see it, the sounds of children at Mass is the voice of a young and growing Church. My daughter, Felicity, loves to call out to Fr. Gus. She’ll stand up on the pew and say, “Hi Gus!” repeatedly until he greets her back. It’s actually rather cute and we make sure that she has a chance to say hello before the Mass begins. But, if during Mass, she loudly asks me, “Where’s Gus?” I don’t shush her. I get her to where she can see him, and then all is well.
Felicity also has a tendency to sing loudly, but only after the song has ended. How wrong did it feel for me to tell her to quiet down as she loudly proclaimed, “Alleluia?” Very. So I let her go for a moment or two, and when she didn’t stop, we went to the back.
Occasionally I’ll take Benedict and Felicity to daily Mass. We sit in the front pew, but that’s not always a foolproof plan. I can feel the cold sweat building up as they make noise and the lector is quickly drowned out. But I know, this is where they need to be. I do my best, and that is enough.
If we keep our kids away from Church when they’re young, how can we expect to tell them that it’s important when they’re older? Parents, do your best, and recognize that there’s a limit. Parishioners, give the kids (and their parents!) a smile and a wave, and be joyful that the Church will continue for many decades to come. Who knows, you may be creating a welcoming environment for the priest who will baptize your first great-grandchild.