Sunday, June 17, 2007

Children in Church

We always go to Mass. We find somewhere to go when we travel, and it is never in question whether to attend when we're home. A person in our family has to be pretty sick to be exempted. Cultivating this attitude has brought many blessings to us. One, we have great friends at Church. Two, we never argue with the children about going. Three, our family worships together, and God has bestowed many graces for our obedience, and the children have learned where our faith falls in our priorities, it is number #1. Also, note, we always take our children to Mass, from the Sunday when our first-born was three days old, to now attending with eight kids, aged 14 down to 18 months. I write this to encourage others to do the same, so what follows are some suggestions to make your Sundays work more smoothly.

1. Start the evening before. Make sure everyone gets a good dinner, a warm bath, hair-washed, nails clipped, a cozy story and an early bedtime. Also, make sure that Sunday clothes and shoes are clean and ready to go.

2. Get up with plenty of time to get ready. The first thing I do is lay things out for a simple breakfast. Also, I pack what we need to go: sippy cups, small religious books, baby sling, offering, and anything I need for someone I may see. Then I get my shower before everyone else arises.

3. After the kids are up, they know the routine, quick breakfast and straight upstairs to brush teeth, wash faces, comb hair and get dressed. They have designated Church clothes, so they know exactly what to where. They must get dressed to the shoes before they can do anything else. During this time, we usually have dad or a big kid minding the kitchen, making sure the little children get fed and the dishes get done. I am directing everyone to their task of getting ready, while dressing the babies. Lastly, I have a few minutes to quickly get dressed.

4. Before we leave I make sure each child gets a sip of water and visits the bathroom. If I lived farther away, I would do this after arriving and before taking our seats. Unless there is an emergency, we do not allow the children to take trips to the bathroom during Mass.

5. Another rule: find your place and stay seated, no musical chairs. It helps not to let "problem siblings" to sit near to each other. Also, keep little ones on your lap. They learn to be content in firm and loving arms, especially when given some hugs, tender kisses and whispers.

6. We don't take our kitchen and playroom with us. The only exception may be a sippy or a little picture Bible for our littles. It is a distraction to have toys, books, papers, crayons, food, etc.. for kids to drop, shuffle about, fight over and eventually become bored with anyway. It is a good discipline for kids to learn to sit still for this limited amount of time. They definitely can do it.

7. Sit near the front. Although it is tempting to hide in the back for a quick exit, it usually invites trouble for us. One, that's where all the kids with the toys and food are, so my kids are naturally curious and distracted by that scene. Also, the children cannot see what's going on. When we sit near the front they learn so much of the liturgy of the Mass and actually listen to the homily and scripture readings.

8. If we must step out with a little one, baby or toddler, they are not rewarded with a nursery or "cry room" experience. They don't get toys or get to toddle about with friends. They are held in my arms in the back of the Church. I may pace about, rock back and forth, or sit and nurse a fussy baby, but they don't get to play.

9. Lastly, praise and reward. Tell your kids how great they were! Maybe they were super polite to an elderly person, or kind to a younger sibling, or very attentive and reverent. Whatever it was find something to let them know you noticed them trying to be good. Then pull out the Sunday treats! We are pretty health food conscious during the week, which makes the donuts and coffee cake we enjoy on Sunday extra special. We also reserve Sunday as a day of rest and family recreation, so the kids always look forward to spending the day together, especially with their daddy.