1. They become the center of attention
With kids squirming in the pew comes some attention from fellow parishioners. Whether your kids are doing something cute or naughty, people just can’t seem to keep their eyes off your family. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve wanted to yell,”Take a picture! It’ll last longer!” Don’t succumb to the temptation.
Pro Tip: Remember that your children bring joy to many parishioners, especially the elderly folks. Don’t assume the looks you are getting are negative. You may be inspiring someone who needs it the most.
2. They usually have to ask their spouse what the homily was about
Between breaking up sibling squabbles and walking your kids to the bathroom, you’re lucky if you hear 60 seconds of the homily.
Pro Tip: Read the Magnificat before Mass or even afterwards to get in the readings and message of the Gospel.
3. Their spouse was hoping that they were the one paying attention to the homily
Oops! You assumed your wife was listening to the homily but really she was too busy wrestling with the 2 year old! Again, bust out the Magnificat!
4. They learn to multitask
Between grabbing a kid out of the aisle, soothing a fussy baby, reciting the prayers, singing, kneeling, wiping noses or checking a suspicious diaper, you become pretty good at keeping your head on a swivel and keeping mischievous children in check.
Pro Tip: Be consistent with praises and consequences. If you promised frozen yogurt after Mass for the kids behaving well, then follow through. If you said screen time would be taken away if anyone misbehaved, do it! Kids are experts in exploiting inconsistencies!
5. Their arms get chiseled
Parents are often found in Mass with at least one child in their arms. Don’t think that your child wanting you to hold them stops with the toddler. My wife and I often find ourselves holding our 5 year old, who is not pint-size by any means. With all this carrying your arms get quite the workout. You knew you were getting a spiritual workout at Mass, but who knew you’d also get in an “arms” day?!
Pro Tip: Eat a lot of protein. It supports muscle growth.
6. They develop a strong team
If you don’t want to be taken hostage by your minions, you and your spouse have no choice but to become perfect teammates. You learn to develop strategies to effectively take control of any tantrum or bloodshed. Even a simple look will initiate DEFCON 5.
Pro Tip: Don’t ever let the other spouse drown in the chaos and be willing to give more help. Learn your spouse’s signs of distress.
7. They learn to appreciate alone time with the Lord
When the rare opportunity comes around where you can sneak away from home for confession, adoration, or even a Mass to enjoy on your own, you learn to enjoy every last second. This uninterrupted time with the Lord allows you to look back at your life and appreciate all that God has blessed you with and I’m willing to bet you’ll think to yourself,”I miss the kids”.
Pro Tip: Unless work schedules or whatever else comes up doesn’t allow this, confession should be a family event. My wife and I take turns watching the boys while the other goes in to confession. Also, plan for date nights to include Adoration and Confession, or even encourage your spouse to leave the house for some alone time with the Lord. This will become a very healthy habit for your marriage.
8. They learn to join forces with other parents
Making friends with other couples in your parish is a great way to assemble other reinforcements to help you with your kids in times of crisis during Mass. At the very least, they can offer a distraction with their kids.
Pro Tip: Having these friends is great but don’t take advantage. You don’t want to be that family that people avoid because you pawn your kids off on free “babysitters”.
9. They earn graces
Bringing kids to Mass is a hard cross to bear at times and when you carry it with love and happiness, God is so happy to give you his graces. Even when you feel like you didn’t get anything out of Mass remember that just having your family there means the world to Christ.
Pro Tip: Read and reach out to your fellow fighters! There are blogs, books, magazines and groups dedicated to providing support and encouragement to parents. I know of one great website I’m sure you’ve already checked out! 😉
10. They have the opportunity to teach their children the beauty of the Mass
What greater gift to give your child than passing down and teaching the traditions of the Catholic Church. I know many parents who split up the Mass times and have one parent take a couple kids to Saturday night Mass and the other takes the rest of the kids to Sunday morning Mass. I’ve even known parents to skip Mass completely because the thought of dragging the kids out of the house and “struggling” through Mass was just too overwhelming. Don’t give in to that temptation! Keep the family together and never say OK when one (or all) of your kids want to stay home. That is NEVER an option!
Pro Tip: Take the time to explain the importance and meaning of each moment during Mass. Also, have your older kids follow along in the readings to keep them engaged. This will allow your child to understand why they are there and what beauty is taking place right in front of them.
11. They do God’s work
Your role as a parent is no small feat. St. Bridget of Sweden, when speaking with the Lord, asked Him to give her the hardest cross to bear. Christ said he reserves that cross for married couples with children. Parenthood is humbling, especially during a not-so-great day in Mass. But it is also a very rewarding and important role your children need to see. Pro Tip: Keep up the good fight!