I’m sitting here in bed on a Sunday afternoon thinking about how I should be at church today.

I’m sitting here in bed on a Sunday afternoon while my toddler rolls around in his crib not napping because he’s been crazy all day, thinking about how I should be at church today.

I’m sitting here in bed on a Sunday afternoon feeling massive amounts of guilt for not being at church.

I should be there because I should take my toddler to model good behavior.

I should be there because it’s a religious obligation.

I should be there because the fatigue and depression that comes from being at the end of three long days of solo parenting isn’t a good enough excuse for not going to church.


I’ve been discouraged from going by the massive undertaking it is for me to take my toddler to church by myself and get him to not throw a temper tantrum in the pew.

I’ve been discouraged from going by priests who have insinuated that church is no place for a toddler.

I’ve been discouraged from going by priests whose mansplaining how to take care of my children at church has gotten me particularly enraged since they will never know what it is like to have young children of their own.

But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me,” when his disciples were rebuking him for blessing them. Some things never change.

Children belong at church.1 I wish that some priests would remember that. A solemn liturgical environment is important, of course, but I would argue that raising children who will, from a young age, get into the habit of regularly practicing their faith is more important. The last thing a mother needs to hear is that she should be discouraged from bringing her children to church.

  1. Beth Meleski’s recent “Worth a Fig: Harvesting My Children’s Faith” in America (9 May 2016) is a reassuring perspective on children in church, but unfortunately it’s one thing to have other parishioners be welcoming to children and it’s quite another to have the priests themselves be welcoming (or not). 

3 thoughts

  1. Well said. Whenever a baby cries, all attention goes towards the mother, it’s unfortunate really, what do we want? Perfect silence, if it gets out of hand, the priest would most likely be concerned about the noise. A lot of times, we can tune out noise we don’t want, so why can’t we tune out toddler noise, or better still, help the parent cuddle the toddler and dance to a tune in our head. Babies like being carried in the hands and stepping, except they hungry, if not, they don’t want you sitting at all.

  2. For the weeks you can make it: I, for one, kind of love noisy kids in the pews. Sometimes, their cries or laughter reminds me that there is a level of open engagement that’s available to all of us. Especially when their responses seem to fit perfectly with what’s happening in the service (crying while the bread is broken? perfect.). And even when their noise doesn’t match the service, I think it’s good to be called out of my reverent reflections and into cares and concerns for others circumstances. (Also, I really really love watching young humans receive Eucharist. There’s this kind of awe that they get to participate at the big kids table, and I think, oh yeah, I have the same awe that I get to participate at Christ’s table.) All that to say: thank you for bringing your toddler, even (especially?) when it would be easier not to.

  3. Nicely said. This is coming from the mother of Elizabeth whose father would take toddler Liz out of Mass when she began to fidget, which was often. It is not easy, and priests should be the last ones to comment on young children at Mass. Realistically, what is their frame of reference?

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