Monday, November 7, 2011

A nice time-out in the cry room

Forgive the missed post Friday and the lateness of this one; I'm still battling this stupid virus. (And, Larry D, don't ask me about my word count for Nanowrimo. I tend to get even more feverish just thinking about how far behind I am...) :)

I'll have to beg your forgiveness for one more thing: I know I promised to try not to wade into Father Zuhlsdorf's comment boxes, even when I click over from New Advent to read a post he's written as sometimes happens. But, like I said, I'm still sick, and found myself doing a bit of mindless clicking instead of what I was supposed to be doing (word count! word count!).

It seemed harmless, though; Father Z. had shared a cute story about an overzealous usher telling a woman her son's toy car wasn't permitted in the LATIN MASS, about which Father wrote:

I think I would have been tempted to respond, “And what part of LATIN MASS gives you permission to walk around church, ignoring the sacred action and reprimanding mothers?”


Without having been there, it is hard to know what to say. But it strikes me that the usher was on pretty shaky ground. Sure, all children at LATIN MASS should look just like the sweet little darlings in the pastel artwork depicting young ones praying head-bowed, pink hands together at their bedsides as a guardian angel hovers over them. That’s what all children at LATIN MASS should be like.

In the meantime, on my planet when little Stupor Mundi is making too much noise, and how much is too much and I am not at all sure, then attentive parents – used to their prodigy’s din at home – takes the diminutive treasure out.

That isn’t always possible and children can be obstreperous. Even at the LATIN MASS! Do be sensitive to noise levels. You might be used to the noise your child makes. Others are not.

Which seems quite wise and sensible to me, striking that balance that I think most parents would agree with: try to take a noisy child out of church when it is necessary, use quiet measures to keep the child quiet in church when possible, and use common sense to try to ascertain when the quiet measures (books, soft toys, etc.) no longer work and the trip out to the back is needed.

And, sure, as we've discussed here, the biggest problem occurs when a child is prolongedly and miserably noisy and parents seem clueless about both the rising decibel level and the rate at which the child is becoming a distraction even to the saintly great-grandmother of 97 (age and number of great-grandchildren) who is known to be the most patient person in the entire parish and is nearly stone-deaf anyway: what do we do when that happens? Fortunately, that situation is relatively rare; what happens more often is that parents experience a few moments of what we might call the betrayal of the power of positive thinking, in which their fierce hope that Johnny will quiet down in a second is so badly ruined--and then they still have to face the Walk of Shame to the vestibule well after everybody thought they'd be taking it.

Since I know, though, that the opinions of seasoned parents tend sometimes to clash a bit with the opinions of seasoned non-parents and the opinions of long-ago seasoned parents who are sure that nobody in their generation ever heard of coddling a child so much as to actually bring him to Mass, I thought the comment box would be...entertaining.

Unfortunately, some of it was scary.

Here are some bits and pieces of actual comments over there. I won't link to each comment this time, but you can read the thread yourself if you like (though as of this posting it's already up to 135 comments):
...I don’t get it. Parents are so darn tolerant these days. Kids just run the roost. When I was little, even very little, I was required to do as I was told, and if I was told to sit quietly, that’s what I did. If I disobeyed…well, heaven help me. I would have got a severe and immediate slap-down, fully approved of by any other adult witness in the vicinity. The very idea of indulging a kid with food or toys, or even books would have been off the map. Trust me, if properly trained and handled, even the youngest and most disruptive kid can sit quietly for an hour, if only the parent is serious about making them...

... The youngest is a boy, 22 months old. He is silent during the whole Mass (usually a Low Mass, lasting 50-70 minutes, but has also has been to a ~115 minute High Mass)...Before that his mother or I had to take him out of Mass every time he made a sound. We used the time as an opportunity to teach an invaluable, and infallible lesson — outside the church there is discomfort, pain, damnation, and Hell — ONLY INSIDE the Church is there peace and the opportunity for salvation. It hurt him when we had to take him outside. Thus in only 16 months, he learned to not make a peep at Mass. No toys, books, or food were involved...

...I have five children. The oldest is seven. My wife is in the choir. If one of my children misbehaves I beat them. They learn real quick that they need to sit and be quiet. If parents pray the Rosary as a family and discipline children during Rosary, expecting them to be at best behavior, this doesn’t become a problem at Mass....

...The idea that you should appease ill mannered children in church with talk, toys and food, is not just stupid, its EVIL. Quit kidding yourselves. You are in denial. You are NOT being good parents...Contrary to the New Age sycophants here, applying some firm discipline with the back of the hand, or as they grow older, a good leather belt, will not warp your little terrorist into hating Mass or leaving the Church. Quite the opposite, it will instill the necessary FEAR in the developing child...
And then, from a non-parent, this truly lovely--and I mean that--comment:

I have nieces and nephews who have stopped attending mass with their spouses and children because the have felt that their young children were not welcomed thanks to sneers from their fellow parishioners and over zealous ushers. I have no children of my own, but I have 13 siblings 67 nieces and nephews and 43 great nieces and nephews. Many of them have gotten out of the habit of attending Mass on Sunday (or have even attended more “family friendly” evangelical churches)as they failed to go when their children were babies and toddlers.
Now I might be foolish but when my church prepares babies and their families for baptism they are held up on the alter and introduced to the congregation a week or two prior to their baptism. I thought we welcomed them into our community. I think of them as ‘my/our” children in Christ. I enjoy seeing them in the pews with their families on Sunday. I enjoy watching them grow week by week, month by month, year by year. Sure they can be disruptive at times (What family member isn’t? Families are like that.), but nothing on earth brings me closer in heart to Jesus Christ than having the eyes of a small baby on his/her mother’s shoulder in the pew in front of me locking those eyes on me and then smiling…it is like Christ Himself has acknowledged my presents before Him. Without these children the Catholic Church has no future. I think ushers should default to Jesus Christ on this issue…It is His church after all. We are no more welcomed and no more invited than the small children. I think He may even favor them.
I'm really glad that the commenter who wrote the above took the time to do it. It helps a lot to know that the "Beat the little children until they learn that CHURCH is about SUFFERING!" crowd is not really representative of Father Z.'s readers. That group, I think, needs a nice time-out in the cry room until they can stifle their more violent impulses toward toddlers.


bearing said...

Yeah, beating children during the family rosary sounds like a great idea. I will have to remember that one.

Karen said...

My husband's family followed the "beat the 5-year-old when he made a peep at the 1.5 hour Pre-V2 Latin Mass." (My husband is 53.) I'm Presbyterian. We were married in my Presbyterian church. Our kids are Presbyterian. Steve hasn't darkened the doorway of a Catholic church since his grandmother's last sister died in 1996. I'm pretty sure this is a typical pattern.

FWIW, I'm not entirely against spanking and have done it myself more than once, but it's not a frequent thing. I have always tried to entice my sons into good behavior rather than punishing them for bad behavior.

Anonymous said...

Ha, ha, ha. I like the responses. My parents chose the last pew in the back on the right as ours every Sunday at the 7:30 AM Mass. I don't ever remember leaving early, but I do recall a knuckle or a glare. It was totally embarrassing if anyone else outside the family heard our Mother's hissed warning, and deeply regrettable offense if Dad was called in for visual scolding, as we knew what might possibly happen after Mass. No doughnuts.

Tobins said...

I read Father Z's blog post, too, Erin, but decided I definitely should avoid getting into the comments on this one... the fact that you went there illustrates just how feverish you are! Get some rest and feel better soon. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm sorry that is so appalling that I just have no words.

Mel ( get better soon Red )

LarryD said...

Not asking, Erin! (especially since mine is terribly low. I don't know if I'll ever recover!)

Rebecca in ID said...

That makes me so sick. Especially the one about pain and damnation outside of Church...and they're talking about a *baby*...this is so sad, and not what Christ has taught us. What I want to ask people you want the children to enjoy going to operas and symphonies as they grow older, and eagerly choose to do so? Are you going to "train" them by taking them to long operas and symphonies when they are babies, and beating them whenever they "misbehave"? Everyone knows that would be precisely the way to make a kid hate classical concerts, so no one does it. Why do people have to be retarded about Church? a LATIN MASS liker, I encourage normal people with normal kids to go to the LATIN MASS (toys, books, and all) so we can shake things up a little.

Anonymous said...

Aaaaand....this is why I don't take my family to the Latin Mass. Because the people there are WEIRD. Or maybe the better word is creepy.

I have a theory, that in the future, if there are any child sexual abuse scandals in the church, they are going to come out of these Latin Mass communities.

Ann Marie

Anonymous said...

Don't you suspect the "beating" comment was a joke? I mean, really, talk about blinders!

Red Cardigan said...

Well, Ann Marie, I definitely wouldn't characterize everyone who attends the EF Mass this way. Fr. Z's commenters, maybe, but there are plenty of nice, sane, normal parents who don't have a problem with cloth books, soft toys, and non-Hellfire trips to the vestibule for their toddlers there, too.

And Anonymous, no, I don't think the beating comment is a joke. I didn't paste the whole comment here, but the gentleman definitely didn't seem to be jovial or teasing in his tone or words. It's possible that he meant to be despite all appearance to the contrary, but I doubt it.

Chris-2-4 said...

I read through about 2/3 of the comments. There were some odd ones in there, but I thought the majority to that point seemed to be fairly reasonable. I have to say though, I agree with the tangent that what we really ought to be more concerned about is the need for and behavior of "ushers" themselves... In my experience they don't "seat" anyone, they're usually standing out in the narthex chatting well into the mass and then they show up at communion to act as bouncers to make sure the next pew doesn't line up to soon? Seriously?

Indygo Wolf said...

I think making a child sit there and listen to something they do not understand for an hour or two is most likely the problem.

Alternative: give the older children an educational book of some sort with simple math problems, handwriting practice, or even children's religion books so they can learn quietly. Little ones should get soft toys to fiddle with.

If they start making a fuss do a warning system for the older kids. For babies, just take them outside and find out the problem. Babies always fuss for a reason be it teething or needing changing.

Also, I believe in a good pop on the butt and a firm "no" or "bad" for little ones. If you pop an older child it's a good idea to talk to them afterward about why and give them a big hug.

(T'is called tough love. I don't believe is spoiling kids rotten.)

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Well, now I know that Evangelical Protestants are not the only circles that think "spare the rod and spoil the child" is the sina qua non of Christian love, and also that lesbians are capable of tough love. Actually, I knew the former already -- I grew up in a city that was one half Catholic, one-third Lutheran, and 80 percent German.

I have no children, but I have often volunteered to help overwhelmed mothers with theirs. Some mothers brought little metal toy cars to keep their kids occupied, and the kids would bang them on metal folding chairs, rather than rolling them. That's when I started bringing soft little springy balls (non bouncy) to pass around. I did just in time stop a little girl throwing them several rows forward.

I appreciate the assistant pastor who said "let the babies be babies" (in an open space behind the last row of seats), while the adults focused on the Bible study. And yes, babies cry because they are in pain, not because they are evil. Starting around two, they have to learn that they are not the center of the universe after all, but it doesn't have to be painful.

Nevertheless, parents who want absolute frigid silence use the persistent beating technique because it does work for that purpose. Whether they remain in the church after reaching the age of consent is another question.

Tony said...

Great!!! Get them involved in an activity, because everyone knows Mass is about our activity.

Maybe they'll grow up to be good little "eucharistic ministers".

Rebecca in ID said...

Very pithily stated, Siarlys, about the frigid silence, and whether they will remain in the Church. So true.

Another thing I've noticed--my children, who are *never* punished for not being able to sit still in Church, are, by the time they are about five, fully capable of and willing to sit through an entire Sunday Mass, and they do so. I get comments every Sunday about how well-behaved they are. It makes me sad to see people thinking they have to train their babies and toddlers with beatings, so that finally when they are five they will at last have been subdued into submission. It reminds me of those walking machines and helmets they had in Europe about a hundred years ago, which were supposed to train babies to be able to walk (normal babies). Finally, at well over a year, with lots of training in the contraption, the children were able to toddle around, though they had to wear helmets because they were so off-balance they kept bashing their heads, and the parents thought that the machine and all the time and effort they had spent, were the reason their child could finally walk. In truth, if left alone, the child probably would have walked earlier and had more confidence and better balance. The truth is, it is all about normal stages of development, and the primary aim should not be the frigid silence, but the love of the Mass and of God. You don't get that with beatings and threatening.

Rebecca in ID said...

Oh and I should mention, my kids are often capable of sitting through an entire Mass even when they are two and three, but not competely consistently until they are around five, which I have noticed, corresponds pretty exactly to the gradual ability development in children who are beaten and threatened.

Indygo Wolf said...

Siarlys Jenkins I do not think the "lesbians" comment was needed. I am not the only person I know (straight, gay, or otherwise) who uses tough love.

Getting children involved in what goes on in church works as well. But for those who just do not want to sit their butts still giving them something worthwhile to do is better than feeding them mindless games from an ipad, bribing them, or beating them.

When I have children, they will not have to participate in what I do religion-wise but they will be learning all the same.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

My point Indygo, was precisely that stereotypes never work, because aside from the one characteristic being typed, people who share that type are all over the map on everything else.

Have you ever seen the post care about the "gay lifestyle"? Watch them as they shop at the grocery store, do their laundry, run out to the post office, commute to work...

And apparently you also have a church life, which does not surprise me (there are Metropolitan Baptist churches where everyone responding the altar call is gay), but might surprise those who are addicted to stereotypes.

Anonymous said...

I resisted that post! I would have shushed the usher. The description seems like a very mild child.