It’s ‘What I Wore Sunday’ circa. 2007. Me in my twenties, Addie, 4, Byron, 3, Edie, 1.
The dress: Thrifted. You can see another picture of it here, so you know I still break it out occasionally.
Why the trip down memory lane? I wanted to reflect back this Mother’s Day on my time as a younger mom, overwhelmed by young children at Mass, and offer some support to other moms who feel like this will be them for the rest of their lives.
Believe it or not, you don’t need to do anything differently. The real work belongs to the rest of us.
See that squirmy kid in a tie? He screamed for the first two-years of his life every time we stepped foot into a church. That ratty green blanket went with him everywhere, but did little to control his unruly behavior that often left me at the back of the church, or outside or in tears. Today, he can help serve a Latin Mass.
That pouty girl in pink? She’s now a responsible 10-year-old who can hold babies, escort younger siblings to the bathroom, hold doors and keep the little ones in line when Mama or Papa need to exit the pew.
That wee one in purple refused to sit through a Mass in the Church, preferring the comfort of her Mama and baby brother in the cry room and pitching tantrums whenever we tried to make her sit with her Papa. While she still loves to snuggle close to me in Mass, she’ll be receiving her First Holy Communion next spring, without my apron strings attached.
Me? I’m still in the cry room with a very chatty two-year old, but even Fulton sits through 90 percent of Masses now.
The madness will end; I promise you! Even as you keep having new kids, the older ones will finally sit still, stop throwing up all over your Sunday dress and actually make things easier for you.
Hang in there! When the family in front of you keeps turning around and shooting you glances, I know this was the week the baby decided to start cutting teeth. When someone tells you how to discipline your kids because “you’re obviously not doing enough at home” I know you’ve been up since 4 a.m. with morning sickness and only manged to drag yourself to Mass by God’s grace. When the usher comes over and asks you to move to the lobby with your family, I know you’re doing your absolute best. Even if it’s not enough in that guy’s eyes, or that family’s or whomever’s, it’s enough in God’s.
I know that when you’ve got more kids than hands and more in diapers than not, Mass is hard, and rather than assume you’re lazy, or lax in your parenting or just plain inconsiderate, I’m going to offer to hold or watch your child. Maybe they’ll scream louder, but I’m going to smile and tell you it’s okay, don’t worry about it. I’m going to offer you words of encouragement when I see your child make it to the Gospel without screaming the word poop at the top of his lungs. I’m not going to compare your four-year old to my four-year old and make a cutting comment to another mom, because I know next week it might be my child who has the melt down, or slams the kneeler or rips a page out of the hymnal.
I may disagree with your parenting style, but I know that after wrestling two screaming kids through an hour-long Mass is not the time to offer you advice. I’m happy you came to Mass with your kids and so is God. You and your family are a blessing to our church and a witness to what being open to life really means. And if you’re there begrudgingly, only to humor your husband, I’m going to overlook the way you allow your child to run wild, and try to say a kind word to her and you so that you don’t prevent your husband from coming. I want you to know that you are welcome here too.
I’ve met moms whose children have disabilities that make it hard or impossible for them to sit through Mass. I’ve met moms with disabilities who can’t chase their children or haul them out of Mass fast enough when a tantrum strikes. I’ve met moms in bad marriages who drag all their kids to Mass alone because there is no one to help them, and only opposition at home. What cross are you carrying to Mass today? Let me help you. Just ask.
Next time I hear a child disrupt Mass, either sporadically or continuously, I’m not going to judge that family or assume I understand their situation. I’m going to pray for them. I’m going to remember how it feels when nothing works and I feel like a failure. I’m going to pray that family doesn’t get discouraged, encounter someone uncharitable, leave Mass early or stop coming altogether.
I’m going to stop worrying about what other families are doing with their kids and focus on my family. I can’t control other parents or children, but I can guide my children and hopefully be an inspiration or support to others.
And so, young mothers, do not be discouraged and experienced mothers, do not discourage. Let us love and support one another for all are welcome here.
What is the mark of love for your neighbor? Not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the benefit of the one loved, both in body and in soul.
~ St. Basil the Great