The Smallest Parishioners

Written by NPN Guest on February 1st, 2011

Attachment Parenting, Balance, Belief, Parenting Philosophies
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I was born and raised Catholic, and after some existential crises in college, I decided to remain one. I guess you could call me a “cafeteria Catholic” though. I take the parts that resonate with me and leave the rest. I adore the community of church, and I admire the social outreach work my particular parish does. However, I also strongly believe in sex education and birth control: condoms for everybody, with instructions on how to use them!

So, what does this have to do with parenting?

When I moved back to my current city with two colicky twins, my husband and I did not return to our church. I assumed that no one would want to hear the babies make any noise, and there is no “cry room,” just an international room with lots of flags and glass windows overlooking the sanctuary. But we were determined to baptize the boys in our faith, and I went to the preparation class. Afterward, I got into a conversation with the priest who had married my husband and me and who would be performing the boys’ baptism. He asked where I had been, and I blushed and stammered an explanation. He then told me something that has changed the way I view church, and reinforced one of my core beliefs as a parent. He said,

But babies are people too.”

He went on to explain that my children were members of this faith community, and as such had as much right to be there as the next person. If they got upset, take them to the lobby to soothe them, but otherwise keep them with everybody else.

Don’t take them to the separate room, let them learn to be with the rest of the congregation. He gave me permission to be there with my babies.

Since that day, and since the baptism of my sons into the Catholic church, my little family of four has gone to mass every Sunday we could. The greeters see us and say, “Oh, the twins are here!” People exclaim over the babies, and watch them avidly during mass. They’re so cute, how can you not be distracted? We sit with my extended family, we listen, we sing, I nurse the babies, and sometimes they do make noise. I think that’s how they pray.

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Mama Mo is a newly-minted stay at home mama of twins. They spend their days playing, listening to Irish music, dancing, and of course, nursing! Check out her blog: Attached at the Nip!

Natural Parents Network is happy to present an ongoing series about “Belief and Parenting.” We welcome contributors from any faith (or no faith at all) to speak about how their spirituality affects the choices they make as parents: whether you are a Buddhist whose beliefs led you to gentle discipline, an atheist whose worldview encourages consensual living, a pagan who emphasizes the beauty and reverence of nature, a Christian who seeks biblical guidance, or if you’re walking another path entirely — please share your experiences with our natural parenting community. See our Contributor Guidelines for details on submissions, and then email Dionna {at} NaturalParentsNetwork {dot} com to submit your story.

8 Responses to The Smallest Parishioners

  1. Maman A Droit  

    I’m a convert to Catholicism after my college existential crises left me unsatisfied with the Methodist Church, and one of the things I love is how welcoming to kids and babies Catholic churches are. I very rarely saw babies in the main service at Methodist churches I attended-they went to the nursery, and older kids went to either the nursery or a Sunday School class. Anyway, it was a big change for me coming to Catholic churches with noisy little ones all over, and I think it’s great. I think of that Bible verse sometimes about “let the children come to me” and it makes me smile!

  2. Ashley  

    I take the parts that resonate with me and leave the rest.

    Word. :D<3

    Also, how sweet! I've avoided church with my son (almost 2) because he's so fussy and doesn't sit still for any period of time — and I hate to be a bother. Your priest sounds lovely. :)

  3. Mama Mo @ Attached at the Nip

    He is lovely, and very supportive. He always looks for us, and tries each week to get a smile from each baby.

  4. Stephanie B. Cornais  

    Cafeteria Catholic! I am the same way!
    Thanks for this post, we took our daughter to mass twice last year, yup you guessed it, Easter and Christmas. I have got to start bringing her to mass every Sunday with me and if I have to leave, I have to leave but at least I went.

  5. Sheila  

    I’m at Mass every Sunday with my (busy, distracting) 10 month old, and since I sit in the back, I can see all the babies and toddlers in the church. There’s a lot of babbling, some car driving, some loud whispering, and occasionally some crying (though less often than you’d think). I like it — it means our church is alive and growing. When I was a teenager, I used to attend daily Mass with my little brother. He would dash up toward the altar trying to grab the flowers and the candles. As I lunged after him, the priest would just laugh, “He just wants to be with Jesus, can you blame him?” All the old ladies (if you’ve ever been to daily Mass, you know it’s almost exclusively old ladies) doted on him too.

  6. Lisa@Granola Catholic  

    I absolutely love that children are loved and appreciated in Catholic Churches. I mean, shouldn’t they be? They are after all the reason man and woman join. Children are the future of the church. When my oldest was a baby I was told by an older woman not to worry about the “noise” because to God the sound of a baby is more beautiful than singing of all the angels in heaven.

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