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To help! My toddler keeps making noise in church

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As we sat down to mass last week, I couldn’t help but cringe. My toddler was so excited to notice everyone sitting behind us that she started to greet us and call “Hi! Hi!” across the pews.

Getting little kids to mass is tough at the best of times, but especially so when they’re at that difficult age between a baby and a toddler. Some people refer to one-year-olds as “tabies” because they are a cross between a baby and a toddler. They’re too small to listen to you, but big enough to run, scream and do mischief.

And it’s really difficult to take a “taby” to mass. The little babies at least keep quiet. But a one-year-old desperately tries to climb and jump all over the pew and run down the aisle, and has absolutely no idea about the need to be quiet in church.

I’ve been having a hard time getting my taby to church lately, and I thought maybe some of you might understand.

This might seem like a really silly problem to have; after all, it only lasts a year or two, right? But this short developmental phase really adds up when you have lots of kids! And my toddlers have all been very talkative, eager to sing at mass and greet everyone in sight.

So what if your baby babbles non-stop during mass? Here is what helps me.

1Accept that they act as God created them

God created toddlers to be loud and active. It’s okay if your toddler is his sweet, active little self at church. I sometimes bring quiet toys for my toddler, but most of the time I just let her stand on my lap or hold the bench behind me and let her do her thing.

Singing, dancing, and vocalizing with music are all appropriate developmental milestones for this age group, so it only makes sense for your baby to do these things at mass.

It’s another matter if your baby is crying; I take my children out if they cry or scream. But most of the time, I’m trying to get rid of my feeling that my baby needs to be perfectly quiet every moment of mass, and let her babble on her own. That’s how God made her right now, and frankly, we wouldn’t get a minute of mass if I took her out every time she peeked.

Recently, an elderly woman sitting behind me got up and moved to another bench after several minutes; clearly, my baby’s babbling and attempts to climb onto the bench were a distraction for her. I was a little hurt at first, but then I realized she had found a good solution. She has as much right not to sit behind a distracting baby as my baby has the right to be at mass. So remember that people can always walk away if your toddler is really distracting..

Most of the time, though, people seem to really enjoy hearing my baby at mass. I can’t tell you how many times someone came up to me afterwards and said something like, “It was so sweet to hear your baby sing during mass! or “I love to hear a baby in the church!”

Many of the churches in my urban neighborhood are totally baby-free; the pews are full of old people, and most of the time my baby is the only baby in the whole church. While it’s a sad state of affairs for the church here in Chicago, the silver lining is that most people are thrilled to hear my baby babble during mass.

2They’re not as loud as you think

I will never forget a funny incident from my childhood. My siblings and I were rowdy at Mass, and my parents whispered that we should behave like children from another family, who were seated several pews away. After the mass, the parents of the other family came and revealed that they had told their children to act like my siblings and me, because from where they were sitting, they could not see or hear none of our shenanigans!

What I learned from this incident is that most people in the church are seated too far away to even notice if your child is loud. Several times I apologized after mass because my children were noisy, and the other person said, “Oh, I didn’t hear anything!”

So just focus on keeping things as calm as possible and don’t worry about what people think of your baby’s chatter. Honestly, if people notice your baby, it should be to thank God for the gift of their lives and for attending mass.

3Most people are so happy to see and hear your baby

I know I’ve said it before, but it’s really true. Several priests told me that they liked to hear my babies “participate” in the mass in their own way, and I try to keep that in the forefront of my mind when I’m embarrassed by their chatter.

I think of the saying: “If the Church does not weep, it is dying. My baby may be the only one in the whole church making noise, but thank goodness she’s here!

You know I mentioned that time a woman walked away from us at mass? Yes, I was embarrassed. But after mass, a man came and told me firmly: “Thank you for bringing your children to church. It’s so good that they’re here.

That really sums it up best. Yes, it is good that they are there. Thank goodness for babies babbling in church. May our churches never be empty of them, as long as there are churches and babies in them.

FAMILY AT CHURCH