It’s touching. You just hold onto your kids. You hold him in your arms. You settle him in your lap. You snuggle them close. You whisper what’s going on at the altar. You nibble the baby’s ear and tousle the toddler’s hair. You lift the kid high, her feet resting on the pew, to see the altar boys process, to see the Consecration.
You don’t need special, silent, Catholic toys. You don’t need mess-proof snacks. You just need to be ready for a full upper body workout. (Remember, people throughout history have endured much worse for the privilege of the Eucharist.)
There’s no way around the work and there’s no way around the distraction. You won’t hear a whole homily while your kids are little, or a full reading, although you can read them in advance of Mass, in the sleepy early morning while you nurse the baby.
You’ll evaluate your kid’s behavior by his age and his character. Is she misbehaving or just exuberant in her shouted ALLELULIA, two beats late? Maybe your kid will be wiggler or noisier than your friend’s kid the same age. That’s ok. God knows the kind of kid he gave you. (Also, remember the time-honored Catholic tradition of the doughnut bribe.)
Church nurseries and children’s church and crying rooms make sense for Protestant worship, which is primarily intellectual and demands concentration. But Catholic mass is all about incarnation, about bodily worship: bodies kneeling and genuflecting, eating and drinking, eyes on the real body of our God who was once a squirmy little boy at his mama’s breast. So the imperfect, earthy worship that is the only kind possible in the presence of children fits here, as incongruous as it may seem in the hush of solemn liturgy.
How do you manage more than two kids, when the adult-arms-to-wriggling-kid ratio exceeds 1:1? That, you’ll have to tell me.