On Sunday we changed up our normal schedule. Rather than go to 10:30 am Mass at the church a few blocks away we chilled in our pajamas a little longer and opted for the 11:30 service across town. A plus of waiting would be that the second church has air conditioning and it was close to the mall so I could get a pedicure afterwards. Work has been very busy and stressful and I wanted to treat myself after the successful ending of two high school engineering summer camps for 89 juniors and seniors.
We arrived to church a little late and sat in a pew close to the door. Throughout the service, Xavi was a little noisier than usual. It wasn’t crying or screaming, but noticeable if you were sitting near us or if the church was quiet. Typically, we bring toys, books, crayons and snacks to entertain him. Still, some days he’s more active and noisy. No one has ever commented on his behavior.
Just as the priest was starting the Eucharistic Prayer (in a Catholic Mass, it’s shortly before Communion, everyone is standing and the priest is the only one speaking), Xavi crossed to the other side of our pew and walked in to the center aisle. I walked over to ask him to come back and he resisted a little as I pleaded. Just then, an elderly lady crossed the aisle to whisper to me, “You know, there’s a very nice children’s room.” She nodded back toward the children’s room, also known as a “crying room” in older churches.
I might’ve said, “Yes, I know.” But I’m not sure. I just wanted get back to the other end of the pew where Sean was standing and bring Xavi with me.
The comment stayed with me and made me more upset. Tears of indignation started to well up and I was noticeably sniffling. Sean tried to comfort me, but I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom to try and calm down. When I returned from the bathroom I told Sean I wanted to leave and we left right away. (I hate being an angry crier.)
Sean asked what the lady told me and was indignant too. “Xavi was hardly the only kid in there making noise.” He also noted that she had looked over at us several times.
Since I didn’t talk to the lady, I don’t know her intention. She may have thought she was being helpful, but I felt shamed especially given that she wasn’t sitting near us and went out of her way to inform me of the children’s room at a particularly quiet/reverent point in the Mass. Xavi was just being a toddler and Sean and I were doing the best we could. It also felt weird since we don’t usually go to this church and I’ve never used the “crying room”. I’ve peeked in through a window and it looks fairly small and like a place nursing moms might want to go to for more privacy.
I’m not opposed to choosing to use a room for families with small children. St. John Vianney — the church I grew up in — was fairly modern and didn’t have a separate room. St. Augustine, the church we attended in Culver City, was many years older and had a children’s room. Once Xavi was more mobile, we’d sit in there most Sundays. It was often nuts and sometimes the sound system didn’t work so as adults we barely heard anything except the kids. I also didn’t like being separated from some of the more active parts of the service, like singing. And there was that one time when older kids were not nice.
I see children’s/crying rooms like a nursing cover. No one should make you use one. If it’s your style, then go for it. It’s illogical to expect all parents of small children to hide away. We wouldn’t even fit in there!
I’d rather not use a children’s room these days. I like that Xavi participates in his own way in the service. On Sunday before he started getting more antsy, he tried to sing along to the hymns. It was cute.
I wish I hadn’t let that lady get to me so much, that I would’ve just forgotten her words. But that’s never been my style. I’ve always gotten too emotional and now that I’m pregnant and a mom who wants to protect her son it’s worse. Plus, being homesick and missing the younger, more diverse church communities we were used to adds another element.
But people are going to judge whether it’s in a church that has couples promise to raise their children as Catholic, in a restaurant, airplane or mall. I should probably develop new coping mechanisms or retorts.