I’m just a nonconformist. I’m told I’ve always been like that, as my father sometimes reminds me of how I insisted on wearing trousers and a skirt and mismatched shoes to school. I’ve always been happiest doing what comes naturally to me instead of trying to fit someone else’s mold. It should come as no surprise, then, that this spills over into my parenting.
The past few days I’ve found myself being harsher with the children at Mass, trying to be more forceful about keeping the kids extremely quiet (no small feat with Charlotte), only to feel horrible about it the entire time. Normally, I take a more laissez-faire approach to parenting, and yet also have very high expectations of my children. While those positions may seem contradictory, they aren’t really, at least not in my mind. My high expectations refer to things that I know they can do, and then I just relax about all the age-appropriate behaviour. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that trying to force myself to parent a different way has just stressed me and upset them needlessly.
As I realised this, in the middle of Mass, I prayed about it and asked God for wisdom. The words that came back to me were from my conversations with Fr Theo, who told me never to worry about bringing the children, but to bring them and sit in the very front, remembering that Jesus said to bring the children to Him. And then I had peace about that. I realised that being harsh wasn’t helping any of us, and certainly wasn’t instilling a love of the Mass or showing them the love of God. Thus I resolved to go back to what I’d been doing, reminding myself that Charlotte’s still having a bit of a hard time with my pregnancy and the lack of milk and that I should therefore go easier on her. I firmly believe that they will learn if I just keep bringing them, reminding them of expectations, setting the example, and, most of all, loving and trusting they will receive grace by being in the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
I know my take on it doesn’t conform to the ideas that many have that children shouldn’t be heard at all at Mass, but I needn’t worry about others’ opinions, just God’s. I must continually remind myself of this, as I’m all too aware of the negative opinions of others when Charlotte is louder. Since she’s only two, this is quite often, though most of her exclamations are quite Catholic, actually. This actually reminds me of a post I read a few days ago, and I recommend you read it, too.
I have to remind myself, too, because sometimes I can get caught up in the attitude of believing I’m not getting anything out of Mass because I must police the children, but, really, if I’m not getting anything out of being in the very Presence of my Lord, then that’s my problem, not theirs. Yes, others matter too, of course, but at the same time, children are learning what to do, while adults can control their attitudes and reactions to distraction.
In the meantime, I’ll continue with parenting in the way that works for us, for the good of my children and myself, and trust that they will learn from observing. I will also remind myself of the graces we all receive from being with Jesus in the Eucharist when I start forgetting what I’m doing and why.