Make babies, but don’t bring ’em to church

7 Nov

That’s pretty much how Andrew and I are feeling about our church right now. This is not the first time a Catholic church has made us feel this way either. We’re disheartened and it all stems from the perceived attitude our church has toward children.

Here’s why: after church today, we were very nicely told that, “Father doesn’t want the children to color or draw in church anymore.” The usher said even the most neat kids can accidentally color on the pews. Ok, sure. But now what?

Coloring has been the one way we’ve been able to keep Nate calm, quiet and well-behaved in church. He colors during certain parts of church and participates in the prayers, peace and singing. He’s too little at four years old to be able to pay attention – it’s hard enough for some adults to – and there’s no children’s liturgy or nursery at our church. He’s supposed to just sit there without making a peep for an hour. Right.

The congregation has already been continually reminded about the “cry rooms” for noisy kids. You might as well not even go to church if you have to be in there. You can’t hear anything that’s being said and kids get the idea that it’s ok to talk loudly in church.

It’s just so disheartening because we are trying to do something positive for our family, as a family. They should be encouraging that, not making it more difficult. You’d think they’d be happy that a young couple is bringing their children and their monetary support to the church. I mean, they have this big “Catholics Come Home” campaign going on now and they are always reminding us that the children are the future of our faith and we need to be tithing as the Bible says. I know it’s wrong but, right now, I feel like making my children the future of another faith and informing this church that my tithe is going to find a place that practices what they preach. (We were born and raised Catholic but I went to Greek Bible school, a Baptist Pre-School and adult Bible study and Nia went to a Methodist Pre-School. We are not boxed in our denomination.)

I just want to be a part of a church community that is genuinely happy that youngens are in the pews or at least provides a Sunday school/nursery where they can learn about the Bible age-appropriately. Somewhere where I’m uplifted and leave feeling a little better about things. Not helpless and unwanted – for coloring inside or outside the lines, no less.

*Editor’s note: Since I wrote this, I’ve received a few comments/concerns and I’d like to clarify that my feelings are not directed toward the entire Catholic faith. We’ve been a part of some wonderful Catholic churches that never made me cry after Mass. The cases I’ve written about don’t always reflect the priest’s attitude either. Once it was an usher. Another time, a member of the church – a church we loved. The last priest of our current church was great toward children, actually picking Nate up and playfully throwing him in the air after Mass. He gave high fives out to the kids as Mass ended. Nate was happy to go to church and wanted to pay attention to what Father was saying. The funny thing is, Andrew and I actually enjoy/learn from our current priest’s homilies. We even recently signed up to volunteer. We are trying and will continue to try – and hope for understanding.

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14 Responses to “Make babies, but don’t bring ’em to church”

  1. betsy November 8, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    I really loved this post, Nicole.

    • nikkival November 8, 2010 at 8:52 am #

      Thanks, Betsy. I’m really struggling with what to do.

      • betsy November 8, 2010 at 8:57 am #

        My initial hotheaded response would be to find another church. Your post did a good job explaining why banning coloring from church is unreasonable. Does the rule underscore a value of property over families? Tough situation.

  2. creationbydesign November 8, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    I agree with the pastor here. I went to Mass as a child with my family (6 kids) every Sunday and never had any crayons — never would have dreamed of it. We had prayerbooks, or just picture books of the saints. We were taught that Mass was a time for prayer, not for playtime. We wouldn’t dare play (or talk-back or disrupt the adults). There would be big price to pay if we did — that’s called discipline (a relatively unknown word these days). Yes, this is even when I was just three years old. If your child is disruptive, just be polite and remove the child from the pew and stay in the crying room until the child is ready to be quiet again. We have families at our Mass with 8+ children and there is never a problem. No crayons, no snack-time in the pew, no temper tantrums, no running up and down the aisles. How is this possible? It’s pretty simple — the parents and families in our parish take Mass seriously. The children understand that at a very young age. What’s more important, Holy Mass or a night at the symphony? For the experience of some children, the symphony must b e more important because there is no way that children are permitted to talk, play or disrupt the performance. Why? Because people take it seriously — they focus. That’s what we’re supposed to do at Mass. But instead, most parents want Mass to resemble a visit to their play-rooms at home – complete with entertainment for adults and kids.
    So, perhaps it might be good to ask yourself where the problem really is here. With the Church or with certain attitudes that we might bring with us to Mass?

    • nikkival November 8, 2010 at 10:39 am #

      Thank you for commenting and reflecting that point of view. I actually agree with you on several points but I am also insulted by several as well. I don’t expect to be catered to/entertained at church. I also don’t want to feel unwanted/judged unless perfectly disciplined. That’s truly wonderful that your parents and others are able to raise their kids to act as such during Mass. I was looking for help, not ridicule and shame.

    • Joe November 8, 2010 at 10:42 am #

      Nicole, this is a tough subject. I both disagree with creationbydesign and agree with them. First, I always took my kids to mass. I sat them right in the front row. That way they could see what was going on, and be involved (as possible by their age). I did demand (yes, Demand) that they behave appropriately for their age and church behavior. I am a firm believer in the idea that children will live up to your expectations. I you expect them to behave well in church they will, if like your pastor thinks, that they will miss behave, then they won’t let you down!
      Also Father has forgotten that a quiet church is a dead church! I want my parish to have some wonderful level of noise and excitement. The “distractions” of children are a blessing to a parish community. I am sure that the scripture tells us to “bring the little children unto me.” It doesn’t say,” bring the well behaved children unto me!” So to answer creation, no the problem isn’t with you or your attitude…it’s with them and this particular priest. Next Sunday go and sit right up front in the first pew, and expect that Nia and Nate will do their very best to behave.

  3. creationbydesign November 8, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    I was looking for help, not ridicule and shame.

    I can understand that, but I wish you wouldn’t title your post with a ridicule of the Church which gives the impression of an attitude that everybody has to cater to you (or that our pastors are cruel hypocrites). I realize that you may not have intended that, but please don’t let your rage at others spill out on the web and be a discouragement to those who are joyfully raising children to obey and observe proper reverence in church.

    I apologize that my prior comments were hurtful. I didn’t know what your response would be — clearly, you’re not a person who is seeking to spread anger against the Church or your parish and you are trying to be faithful. I don’t want to sound like this is an easy task at all. Again, I apologize for the insult. There are many Catholics who have no openness to the importance of the Mass, and thankfully you are not one of them.

    • nikkival November 8, 2010 at 11:44 am #

      You are right that my title is spiteful. I wouldn’t say I have rage, it is more disappointment and confusion about mixed messages. It is the way I feel about this situation and like I wrote, I am disheartened. Our last priest would give high-fives to the children and make us feel genuinely welcomed and cared about. I am having a hard time adjusting to the change. I am not a hateful person. In fact, I’m the opposite. I don’t want to let my church/others down and I’m overly sensitive. I also seek to understand where others are coming from, even if I disagree. Again, thank you for your comment and response. I appreciate the discussion.

  4. betsy November 8, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    I don’t think God minds if the kids color in church. In fact, I’d be willing to bet God just appreciates having them there. 🙂

  5. Karen November 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    Nikki,

    I miss a locked blog, don’t you? I stopped writing now that Vox is out of business. All of these strangers come on our blogs and comment. Theydon’t know how faithful you are and how respectful and wonderfully behaved your children are.

    That aside, I agree 100% with your original post. I grew up Catholic and we behaved most of the time at mass because my mother would punish us if we were bad. I get tired of threatening my son. Times are different now. My son is in pre-school/aftercare and is expected to be well behaved. He is in sporting events and expected to comply and on Sundays, he is expected to sit and reverently listen to mass. The bible is tough for adults to understand. If the church doesn’t make an effort to help children “get it” they are going to be bored. Boredom breeds misbehavior.

    In my home church, we had a “family mass”. The mass allowed for children to go and sit around the priest during the Homily. We loved it. The priest would make us part of the lesson that was the week’s message and we were part of it. I have yet to find that again.

    Keep looking. You’ll find a match. It might not be a different church, it could be a different priest.

    • nikkival November 8, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

      That is beautiful, Karen. You make great points. Thank you for this.

  6. Ginger November 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    I loved this post too, although it broke my heart to read it and some of the comments from people who don’t know you at all. I know how important a church family is to you and how much you all have been wanting to feel welcomed at your church. And I would share your frustration with the coloring ban. At our church they actually provide crayons and coloring sheets that relate to the lesson being taught that day. I don’t know that Camille has made the connection with the sermon and the picture she is coloring, but I sure made the connection that my church was happy to have my child in the pew.

    I still remember coloring in church when I was growing up, and it doesn’t always mean the child is not listening. I actually think I listened better when my hands were busy. I remember one Sunday afternoon my Dad said he didn’t think I’d been paying attention during the service because I was too busy coloring. But after I accurately recounted all the points of the sermon, he never complained about my coloring again.

    Wish you were here and could go to church with us – we’d be so thrilled to have you all.

  7. Allison November 9, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    Sure church service should be taken seriously but with joy in our hearts. Does anyone really think that God is looking down thinking “Could they not just shut those kids up? Really, they have to be colouring during My Word being spoken?” Jamie was in church service with us his entire first year, as Aaron has now been. And some Sundays Jamie doesn’t want to be in the nursery with the others and sits with us, colouring, looking through the hymn book, waving at Grandma back in the choir. And for most, these actions and quiet whisperings are a joy to behold – a young person in church hearing (even if subconsciously) the Word of God. There are kids his age who visit on occasion and who are terrified when the organ begins to play. Jamie is used to it and sometimes even dances to the hymns. If he were ever to get really disruptive, we would take a walk outside the sanctuary with him, although I can’t imagine him being that loud or hyperactive. Children are the heart and joy and future of the church, no matter what denomination you belong to. And God certainly doesn’t want you upset by church. We’re supposed to be uplifted by it.
    You know you’re always welcome at our church. Lutherans aren’t too far from Catholics 🙂 Dad is a pretty mean preacher. And he likes to hear kids, as long as they don’t try to upstage him!

  8. nikkival November 14, 2010 at 11:04 pm #

    I just wanted to thank you all for sharing your thoughts about this subject and let you know I wrote a new post about it – https://areyouzhazha.com/2010/11/14/perseverance/

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