They said:

Don’t give your children books or sultanas or small toys to take to Mass. They’ll always want them. Make your children sit still and pay attention. How else will they learn what the Mass is all about? How else will they learn how to behave?

I ignored what they said. I did what I had to.

I looked along the pew this morning. Not one book or sultana or toy in sight. Instead: heads bowed in prayer, voices raised in song, everyone sitting still, everyone paying attention…

I guess they were wrong.

I wonder how many other things they have got wrong.

Listen to your own heart. Listen to your children. Do what you have to. Don’t worry about what they say. Don't worry about what they think. They aren’t important.

I wonder exactly who ‘they’ are…

PS: Of course, this post is not really about toys and children and Mass. What we have done with our family is not the issue. You might have different ideas than me. It's the principle that's important...
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  1. I felt so encouraged by this, Sue - thank you for posting it.

    As you know, with me being the only Catholic parent in our family, I've always taken our children to Mass alone and we've had our ups and downs at different times. Mostly, it's been good but, during difficult stages, I've had to try whatever works to keep peace for ourselves and other parishioners.

    Most people have been incredibly kind and welcoming but there have been one or two, over the years, who don't appreciate the little childish disturbances. When this has happened, I've had to compromise between the needs of our family and those of other people and, sometimes, this has meant going to the cry-room or letting a child crawl around our particular pew. All of our children are reverent and respectful, now. The two year old still sometimes has to go out - mostly, for loud whispering - but he is starting to copy the others. He genuflects and copies as we pray and kneel, etc.

    I really think you can only do your best and what works for one family might not work for another. In the end, they seem to imitate the reverence modelled by their parents and siblings, or, in some cases I've seen, their grandparents.

    Thank you for encouraging people to feel comfortable with their own hearts instead of feeling stressed by other people's expectations.

    Love you:-)

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    1. Vicky,

      You have summed it up well: "I really think you can only do your best and what works for one family might not work for another. In the end, they seem to imitate the reverence modelled by their parents and siblings, or, in some cases I've seen, their grandparents."

      I guess when I wrote the post, the point I was making is that we are bombarded with well meaning advice about a lot of things. We worry we are doing the right thing. In the end we should just follow what we feel is right for our own families and not worry about what anyone else thinks. I was warned about so many things that didn't actually happen. I could have chosen a different example: "They said never breast feed your children to sleep or they will never learn to go to sleep on their own" or "They said do not carry your baby around all the time or they will never want to be parted from you" or "They said do not let your children sleep in your bed or they will never learn how to sleep on their own." The benefit of getting older is being able to see that some things just never happen. And in the case of going to Mass, all our children are reverent. They grew past the book and sultana stage many years ago on their own.

      btw, 'they' isn't anyone in particular! I am not pointing the finger at anyone. I wouldn't do that.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

      God bless!

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    2. Yes, I agree, Sue. The 'they' is just symbolic. Like you, I don't mean to criticise any other opinion. In my case, it's been hard to stand firm at times because I've been on my own at Mass, and it's very helpful to hear someone say that it's okay to just do your best.

      God bless:-)

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    3. Vicky,

      Yes, we all try and do our best. It's been good to share with you.

      Love you too!

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    4. Vicky,

      I should have said I admire you very much. I know how difficult it is to cope with lots of children for the short time of a daily Mass. I can only imagine how difficult it must be coping with lots of little ones for Sunday Mass on your own, week after week...

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    5. Sue, You are very kind and understanding, as always. Thank you! {{{}}}

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  2. I still take sultanas with me to church. Didn't do me any harm. I try to share them with other parishioners but they just move away to another pew.

    I remember as a child all that running and playing with toys in the aisles in church. My parents always embarrassed me. Why couldn't they kneel and pray like everyone else?

    God bless.

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    1. Victor,

      Maybe in your case, 'they' were right!

      You have made me smile: that image of you praying while your parents run up and down the aisles... Thank you for sharing that!

      God bless.

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  3. My favorite "they" saying - "You're going to regret this!" Intoned with deep concern at the very ignorance that would keep us from setting up a nursery ;-) Or the unshakable conviction that the dc are going to be clingy and dependent because we carried them in sling and nursed them whenever =) Btw, I had to look up sultanas *g*

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    1. Beate,

      We also ignored the well meaning advice about babies needing their own beds and I carried our babies for as long as possible. The boys continued carrying their younger sisters long after they got too heavy for me. Despite all the warnings all the girls did learn to use their own legs! Clingy? No. Loving? Yes.

      Sultanas? I wonder what you call them. I will have to google it too! I find language differences so interesting.

      God bless!

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  4. Dear Sue,
    I think the thing to remember is to be firm in what it is that YOU have decided to take a stand on and then not be intimidated by those 'theys'
    Each family is different and I think it important to know your own heart and what to compromise on, but only if you think so NOT because you are being forced into it by others
    God Bless
    Gae

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    1. Gae,

      I agree! I did find it difficult though to take a stand and follow my heart when I was a younger mum. What if 'they' were right after all? That's the beauty of getting older. I can look back and see what is really important, what works and what doesn't.

      Yes, we have different families with different needs. Compromise? I've been thinking about this. Sometimes I did things the 'easy' way and those compromises actually turned out to be blessings. For example, I always fed my babies on demand, and they slept in my bed and I carried them around during the day. I didn't have the energy and time necessary to get them into a routine. Looking back I am sure this was the perfect way to relate to my children, seeing to their needs, attaching to them, enjoying them...

      "only if you think so NOT because you are being forced into it by others " Perhaps we let ourselves be forced into methods we are not really happy about because we want to feel accepted. We don't want to be criticised or talked about. It can be a big pressure.

      It's good sharing thoughts, Gae. Thank you for stopping by.

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  5. I am so glad you posted this. It was just what I needed to hear. It is so true..even Catholics "experts" have advice to give and even though it is not bad advice, it can be bad for some families. I recently took my children to a 45 min. Sunday Mass. I felt a bit bad..but what can I do? I knew that taking 3 little children alone to a longer Mass on holy Sunday would end up in many more occasions of sin than to just go to the 45 min. Mass. =)

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    1. Our short Mass msgr. just recently retired. He couldn't stand for very long and thus kept his homilies short - yet they were meaty! The kids would discuss things he said on the way home from Mass - much more fruitful than the 2 hour Mass were all of us are striving not to grumble about the energizer bunny talk that goes around in circles never getting anywhere, or worse, ending up in really sticky places ;-)

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    2. Elisa,

      I always thought carefully about which Mass we'd go to when we had babies and toddlers. Some churches aren't baby friendly in their design. Some Masses are just too long. It seems like common sense to me to arrange things to suit the needs of your family. To me, 45 mins still sounds a long time to juggle babies and toddlers. I do admire mothers like you and Vicky who are doing your best and coping on your own.

      I agree with Beate about how short doesn't necessarily mean second rate. I used to feel guilty about making things easier for myself but I also looked at it as making a sacrifice. I was seeing to the needs of our children. There were certain things I couldn't do though I felt I ought to do them. I used to stand outside the church in the cold with a restless toddler, listening to Mass through the doorway thinking how easy it was for those without little ones. But I am sure God gives extra graces to parents to make up for the fact that they can't pray properly, can't attend the longer Masses or the special celebrations such as the Easter Vigil. (Yes, I admit it - I just couldn't cope with babies who couldn't cope with the extra long Mass.)

      Thanks for sharing, Elisa and Beate!

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  6. Hi Sue,

    "They" are probably well-intentioned or perhaps "busy bodies" but either way, "they" are not in your shoes and have no clue as to what's going on. You do what you need to do without second guessing yourself because of others. It can drive a girl bonkers!

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    1. Noreen,

      Yes, most people are well intentioned. They probably just want to help when they give advice. And sometimes it is good to discuss and learn from other people and try out their ideas but as Gae, said, we have to be free to do what we feel is right for our own family. We are not all the same.

      Isn't it strange how we can look at other people and think we know what it is like to be in their shoes and really we have no idea at all? Maybe we are all very good at judging a situation and a mother.

      "It can drive a girl bonkers!" I like that, Noreen! It sums it up beautifully.

      God bless!

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  7. It can be so easy to worry more about pleasing other people than trying to please God. When we bring our children to Mass and do our best to teach them appropriate reverence, God is pleased. When our children fall short of the mark or have a rough day, "they" might not be. "They" are so often louder than God in his still small voice but "HE" is the one who really matters. It is His judgment that will make a real difference in our **eternal** lives! Thanks for this beautiful reminder. A lovely, thought-provoking post, as always :)

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    1. Kari,

      You said, "It can be so easy to worry more about pleasing other people than trying to please God." Yes! We worry a lot about what other people think about us and our children and our mothering. I guess we want to feel accepted, feel like we belong, even be admired for the way we bring up our families. But as you said, it only matters what God thinks of us. He understands much better than anyone else our difficulties. It really does not matter what 'they' think at all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Kari.

      God bless you!

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  8. Ahh! Great post, Sue! My daughter couldn't sit still as a toddler and there was no cry room so I always came to Mass well prepared with books or paper and pens. (Thank you, Lord, that she never tried to write on the pews or missalettes!). This worked out well - she gave them up when she was able to pay more attention. It's very hard for a young child to sit still for long; I see very few who can do it. We have Magnifikids here in the US which are a great help too. It's a childrens missal that follows the Mass but much more fun! "They" are not always right ;)

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    1. Mary,

      I agree that sitting through Mass is a long time for a small child. Some people feel they shouldn't bring a child to Mass until she can sit still. St Therese's mother did this so I can't argue! And some people like us, just did what we needed to do so we could all attend together. I guess different things work for different families.

      You said, "she gave them up when she was able to pay more attention." I found the same thing. It was a natural progression. We don't have toys at Mass and our children eventually followed our example. I am amazed at how great is the desire of a child to be like those she loves.

      Yes, 'they' are often wrong which is just as well!

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