Anyone who had ventured into a church with a toddler knows how trying it can be. I was reminded of this yesterday when Justin and I slept late, missed the 9:00 children’s Mass, and endured the lengthier and less child-friendly 10:30 Mass.
1. Thou shalt arrive early enough to procure decent seats. Particularly ones on the small aisle to the side that abut the wall that prevent the toddler from bothering other people (after all, there’s only enough room for four people there). We violated this commandment and had to sit at the open pew. You know, the one with nothing in front of it to contain the toddler-turned-muppet? At least it was off to the side…
2. Thou shalt bring food and drink. I didn’t really want to be the mom whose child ate during Mass. But sometimes it’s the only way to keep them quiet. Of course, yelling, “Pretzel!” in between the gospel and the homily isn’t exactly ideal, but what are you going to do?
3. Thou shalt bring only quiet toys and books. Even I know this one. And I obeyed it: Smurfs, crayons, books with plenty of flaps to keep Robbie entertained. Unfortunately, they still make a significant amount of noise when heaved across the aisle. And concrete floors covered with thin carpeting still makes quite a noise.
4. Thou shalt not allow the child to scream at the top of his lungs. Duh. But best of luck trying to keep your two-year-old quiet when he starts screaming, “Daddy!’ repeatedly. Loudly. And only at quiet times during church. As a point of advice, trying to stop your child by putting your hand over his mouth only muffles the noise. It doesn’t do much for the volume.
It would be much more appropriate if I could come up with ten commandments for taking your toddler to church. But I’ve blocked the rest of the experience out. Five minutes in, I felt like I’d gone ten rounds in the ring. Robbie did better when people were singing and when I was explaining exactly what was happening. We’ll try again next week. But we’ll be at the 9:00 Mass when there are other kids there and we aren’t the only parents struggling to introduce our children to religion.