The Truth about Toddlers and Church

You know, after almost 11 years of parenting, I’ve finally got it down.  My kids all do their chores without complaining and each and every one of them, particularly the toddler, loves to participate respectfully throughout the entire Mass every Sunday and…

Oh, I’m sorry.  Hadn’t you heard about today being opposite day?

Guys, the munchkin is turning two at the end of the month and apparently she just gotten the memo, because the child has taken to driving us NUTS.  And she knows it!  She. Knows. It.


The other day our eldest, who is almost 11, was reading her a sweet, little, pious, book .


“Dada and pretty windows and a baby.”




“I hear music and mama talking to me”


Well, then…


“I read a book and run around!”

“Don’t you pray?”

“Uh, no.”



Dwija Borobia lives with her husband and their four (soon-to-be-five!) kids in rural southwest Michigan in a fixer-upper they bought sight-unseen off the internet. Between homeschooling and corralling chickens, she pretends her time on the internet doesn’t count because she uses the computer standing up.  You can read more on her blog house unseen. life unscripted.


Dwija Borobia lives with her husband and their five kids in rural southwest Michigan in a fixer-upper they bought sight-unseen off the internet. Between homeschooling and corralling chickens, she pretends her time on the internet doesn’t count because she uses the computer standing up. You can read more on her blog house unseen. life unscripted.

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  • Oh my gosh.  That first picture of the baby is killing me.  The look on her face?  Yeah, perfect mixture of amusement that you’re expecting her to behave in Church combined with sweet condescension that her mother is feeble-minded enough to even consider such an expectation.

    I see it every Sunday on my almost-two year old’s face.  Only it’s decided less sweet and far more maniacal.

  • Amdomd98

    OH MY GOODNESS!   I remember bringing my sweet toddler to Mass!  AND a backpack with crayons, colorbooks, crackers, juicebox, stuffed animal, blanket, and the ace in the hole M&Ms.  Is bribery a sin? 

  • Ada

    “I read a book and run around.” Haha! A+ for honesty, though! 

  • I remember those days, with a four-year-old and a one-year-old and a newborn, trying to nurse more or less discreetly while keeping the other two quiet!  Unlike most families I know we always sit close to the front.  At least they could see what was going on and were less bored that way.  Also I would whisper them stories about the stained gladd–St. Patrick and the snakes being the favorite!  Your little girl is SO adorable.

  • If it is, I’m in HUGE trouble!

  • It is literally what she does, too.  Stage whisper “And the piggy says oink…the cow says moo.  MAMA, I’m ready for donuts!”  Commence careening around.

  • Ann

    LOL, I can so see that in every child I raised or am raising. They don’t start out understanding or devout, not even a little.  It takes time, teaching and eventually it might take root.  My eldest who really learned the catechism, documents and even a bit of canon law is currently working weekends and not attending Mass which bugs me no end, the next in line who was not so diligent in learning Church teaching from me, who isn’t always as orthodox as I would like, goes to Mass and speaks up pro-life even when she knows it will get her lambasted by her peers.  You never know.

  • JD

    Oh, you speak such truth! Thankfully our church has an entire section dedicated to “Families with small children” and we all get to be noisy together!

  • Where are you people whenever I get the courage to drag the entire brood to Mass??? Whenever I show up it’s a church full of elderly, well dressed never-marrieds, and nary a family in sight.

    Ok, that’s not true, right? Right? 

    Just pray for my husband’s conversion and better work hours so I don’t have to keep doing this alone…. please?

  • Cathmom2five

    You had me there in the beginning. I was like “What?! How did she figure that out in just 11 years!?”. Funny Woman. 🙂

  • Claireoneill

    I don’t understand the need to take toddlers to Holy Mass. I have 4 extremely well behaved and involved Teens and one 22 yrs. old. They never miss Mass and they all have ministries they are involved in. I did not begin taking them to Mass until they were in kindergarten and could follow directions and sit still. My husband and I attended two different Masses. Mass has always been a privilege in my home and the kids left out couldn’t wait until they could attend. I taught them at home the scripture and lessons for each Sunday. Yes with my youngest two boys I did have moments when they attended together so one went with dad and the other went with me.

    Today we still attend as many Masses as necessary to make sure all of the teens can do their friend things, attend to their ministries, their jobs and still attend Mass. This has my oldest who is currently training to be a freight train conductor working shifts finding a Mass time he can make or if Sat/Sunday Masses can’t be made he takes himself to daily Mass during the week. Mass should never be a trial but a privilege and as for the power of families going together and receiving grace- God has never opted us out but rewarded us with strong children in the faith that love Mass. 

    My mom and dad raised us this way and it works. I need my time with God and the kids they grow into it but they need to be ready for it. The idea of families all attending together is a more modern push and often it robs the parents of much need quiet time with God. I don’t mind kids at Mass but why give up precious time with God. My time at Mass when my own were little was a whole spiritual retreat every week that kept me going and my kids are “the beloveds” of the parish as my pastor calls them. They suffered nothing negative by having to wait. My husband and I have received many graces. My kids understand Mass time is God time and family time is Sunday morning breakfast right after 7:00 AM Mass when those two bad boys whom couldn’t sit together now serve together almost each week, and unless the train job gets in the way it is the time when we are all present to one another as a family.    

  • I can not tell you how often we end up in the family room at church because our toddler can not make it through the service. It’s just not the most productive toddler zone.

    I thought perhaps I had totally misread you in that first paragraph!  You scared me!

  • Kaity

    It’s your right to voice your opinion and mine to disagree. While I do think you have a good point(i.e. Mass as a privilege) it would seem that bringing those under 5 would be a great way for them to get to know God in His house. I’m 17 and my parents have been bringing me, as well as my 7 younger siblings to mass since…well…forever. No, the toddler does not always sit as quiet as they want him to,but never has it been allowed to be play time. We go to the earliest mass on Sunday (8:00 am),surrounded by older folks and my family often recieves compliments on how well behaved we are. I do agree that it is VERY important for mom and dad to get that spiritual retreat, but if it’s that important to you why not an early week day/night mass?

  • momto8blog

    My older kids would fight over who gets to take the bad young one out.

  • I remember that book. I bought it when I was first pregnant. I had visions of my little angels sitting next to me and quietly reading it while I listened to the Mass. Somewhere along the line it was ripped up, half eaten and thrown at my head. Oh, well. At least I am in good company. 😉

  • I think each parent needs to do what they feel is right for their family. I swore I would never leave my kids home while I went to Mass but four kids later my husband and I often split up Mass times and leave the two youngest ones (ages 11 mo & 2) at home since one of us is literally spending the majority of Mass outside in the Mission garden. (There is no baby room at our parish.) By the age of 3 or 4 (depending on the child) then we expect them to go to Mass too. To compensate I’ll bring the non-church goers to the Chapel during the week to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and get a feel for being quiet in church. I think God looks more at the heart and intention of our actions and when kids are at Mass we are given an opportunity to show charity, patience and understanding, whether we are quieting a child or listening to another parent do so.


  •  There is NOTHING like a board book to the temple to snap you back into reality!

  •  Hahahaha!  Oh Leslie…so glad you survived that near heart attack.

  •  Lisa, I swear there is a “kids” Mass and  “not kids” Mass at every parish.  At ours, Sunday at 11 a.m. is filled with kids, so that’s the one we go to.  9 a.m.?  Not so much.

    And yes, you are in my prayers.  I’ve gone alone a couple of times, but rarely.  I love the feeling of “we’re in this together” that comes with hubby and me  managing the mayhem together and I hope you can have that soon!

  •  I love going to Mass with my husband.  That aspect of it, of our family being on a journey together, even if the journey is rough sometimes, absolutely outweighs, for me, the potential convenience of splitting up.  Then after Mass, we sit together and chat with other parish friends while our kids all play together.  I know we wouldn’t have built such strong friendships in such a short amount of time if it weren’t for that.  I also think it’s a testament to living pro-life to not hide the rambunctious children away at home (“Hey, us pro-lifers deal with just as much crazy as everyone else!  Don’t be afraid to hop on board the crazy train!”).  God loves them just as much as He loves me, so I’m happy to bring them to His house.  I’m so glad your system works for your family, Claire.  This just happens to be the one that works for ours.

  • I love that you figured out what works best for your family!  
    We’re still working on that over here.
    My husband and I struggle with the “Mass is best spent in personal time with God” vs. the “God called us to generosity of spirit as expressed through our family, and so we’re called to public worship as a complete unit.”

    Mostly, we play it on a week-to-week basis, do we got together and struggle heroically, or do we go individually?  So far, what God asks us to do changes every week.

    And further kudos to you for raising kindergarteners who can not only follow directions but sit still!  Shoot, I’m in my mid 30s and STILL have trouble sitting still for an entire Mass.  

  • Nanagdaddy

    Although I’m not Catholic, I too had a problem with my son from ages 2-7. Some Sundays I could have sworn he was demon possessed, and people around us would have agreed! There would be an audible sigh of relief if he happened to lay down on the floor under the pew in front of us and went to sleep. Children are all different, Jesus loved the children, and I feel quite sure that He saw a few spirited ones while He was on earth! My previous minister said often, “I never want to be a part of a church where children are not welcome, where there is not laughter in the halls, and the sound of children and babies in the pews.” In saying all this i want to say to you, let her learn to love God and being in His church in her own way. They grow up too fast. The little terrorist referenced above is now 33 and has two of his own.