I walk into church with my nearly sleeping baby on my shoulder and silently debate whether I should go into the church or my church’s “cry room.” After my son raises his sleepy head to look around, I anticipate the wiggles to come and choose the room at the back of the church set up for parents like me.
So called, “cry rooms,” afford us a special opportunity to participate in the Mass without fear that our wiggly or crying children will disrupt everyone in the main church. All too frequently, however, the room becomes a barrier to participation instead of a tool to aid in it.
A few simple things may help us to get the most out of this special room.
1. Teach. The cry room is the perfect place to instruct our children about what is happening in the Mass. Even older brothers and sisters can whisper the correct responses to a younger sibling.
2. Example. Adults and older children can inspire little ones’ devotion to the faith by paying attention to the Mass. My older children occasionally stay in the room to help me with one of the “littles.” They will tell them at the Consecration, “Look, Jesus is coming!” Their enthusiasm encourages the younger children.
3. Plan. Bring appropriate things into the cry room. If we need aids to keep our children quiet, saint books or Bible stories are a good choice. Motorized toys, cars or things that make noise will only distract our children, and others, from the Mass.
4. Tolerance. We need to remember that people cannot always stop a child from crying or fidgeting. A kind look, or knowing smile, may keep some parent from feeling like they have to leave Mass. After all, that’s what a cry room is for.
5. Use. The cry room at my church quickly becomes overcrowded and very warm. It is helpful to determine if we really need to be in that room. We don’t want to discourage anyone from attending church for fear they will have to wait outside with a squirmy toddler through Mass.
6. Grow. As soon as our children are old enough to participate in the Mass without causing a distraction, we should move into the main church. We should foster a desire in our children to be included in the larger church. A child who is old enough to receive Communion should be old enough to sit quietly through Mass. Sitting in the big church can be viewed as a coming of age, a privilege to strive towards.
I look forward to the day that I can graduate out of the cry room and into the main church with the rest of my family. Until then, I will use the time to try to teach my children the importance of the Mass, teach them the correct responses and how to behave at church. Say a little prayer for me, please, it’s gonna take some work.
Mary Lou Rosien is a Catholic wife and mother to seven children. She is a frequent contributor to Catholic women's and family magazines. She writes in between laundry, doing the dishes and driving her kids all over town in North Chili, New York.
This article originally appeared in the April 2006, St. Jude's Newsletter, and is used by permission of the author.