Sunday, September 10, 2006

Dad in the Pew

Today at Mass, for the second time this month, there was a Runaway Toddler.

I can't figure out why parents of very little ones always seem to sit on the Tabernacle side of our church, which because of its odd design, is the farthest from any doors. Our pastor or deacon announces before every Mass that the priests' sacristy, as well as the vestibule, are available for families who need to remove their children from the sanctuary for a few moments. But the parents of the Runaway Children seem to sit the farthest away from the areas where they could take their children for a little break. (Let's face it, new walkers sometimes just need to get up and walk around a bit, and then they're ready to be back in church.)

Our Tabernacle is on a large platform, 6 inches or so higher than the floor of the rest of the church, on the right of the altar but on a separate platform. There are also a statue of the Blessed Mother, a kneeler in front of the Tabernacle, and usually some flowers. And today there was a toddler, dancing on what she clearly thought was a stage, with her sippy cup, during the Creed and the Prayer of the Faithful.

My husband mentioned later that the child's mother seemed more willing to let the child dance in front of the Tabernacle rather than risking any scenes when she tried to take the little one back to their seat in the pew. (The last Runaway Toddler was finally captured by one of my fellow Secular Franciscans, who's a grandmother and wasn't afraid to block the aisle and grab the child before he made a clean break for the altar....)

He's thinking of asking the pastor if he can write a short piece for the parish bulletin, with some "helpful hints" for parents of toddlers. And he's got lots of practical experience. For most of my children's lives, I've been part of our church's music ministry. People who see my husband in church with the kids, by himself, every week, probably think he's a single dad. He has willingly sat with the children Sunday after Sunday while I sing with the choir. Once in a while he'll go to an early Mass by himself, and THEN go again with the whole family and sit with the kids. It's important to him, and to all of us, that we're in church TOGETHER...even if Middle Sister and I are with the choir and it's just him and The Boys in the pew.

I hope that Father D. will allow my husband to share his expertise with the moms and dads who are bringing their little ones to church and who are so clearly upset when their children act up. Because the last thing any of us wants is that these parents become discouraged and stop bringing their children to Mass. A few words of encouragement, and some tried and true tips, might go a long way in putting them more at ease.

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