This piece was originally a post on the author's Facebook, which she wrote "on behalf of all parents who bring noisy little children to church."
My 4-year-old son goes to a Catholic school, so he knows how to pray and stay in his seat when the school holds mass. But he's very curious, and he likes asking questions about Papa Jesus and Mother Mary when he's in a church. One time in church, to the utter amusement of most and maybe annoyance of some, he had to declare at the top of his lungs, "I'm going to save you Papa Jesus from the bad guys!"
My 2-year-old daughter loves staring at the lights, pointing at the things around her. One time she had to bug me repeatedly because she saw "Mommy" (Mama Mary) crying. She wanted me to do something about it as well as what happened to Papa Jesus' "ouchie" -- she was pointing at Jesus at the cross.
Don't get me wrong my kids are not rowdy in the church. They are trying to process what they are seeing and feeling, but it doesn't silently happen because, you know, they are kids. As much as we tell them to keep their voices down, it's like they have this internal megaphone all the time.
To the people who have given my young kids that look in church, looked over their shoulders with annoyance, rolled their eyes, and transferred seats, I'm sorry. I know you are irritated. I know how much you wish we'd just leave our children home instead of bringing them to hear mass.
It's hard to keep little kids quiet, and so much work goes into keeping them there for an entire hour. We go to great lengths to make sure they're bathed, fed, and well rested before we hear mass. So why do we still insist on bringing them every week?
You see, we don't just bring them to church to annoy you. Truth is, we want them to get to know Papa Jesus like a lovely uncle they have to visit every week. We want them to feel close to this powerful being who will always have their backs no matter what.
We want to introduce them to this someone other than us their parents who will love them unconditionally. It won't matter to their Papa J if they're doing well in school or not, if they're noisy or quiet, He will love them to the moon and back no matter what.
We want to instill in them the habit of allocating even just an hour each week to visit Him even when my son would say, "It's boring," even when they're sleepy or tired.
Please forgive our noisy little children for calling Papa Jesus from their seats, for asking endless questions about Papa Jesus and Mommy Mary, and for declaring out loud that they are going to save Papa J from bad guys. I hope you can find it in your heart to be a bit more forgiving and understanding and to happily share the house of the Lord with everyone, even with noisy little children.
Loraine Balita-Centeno has been writing/editing for magazines and newspapers since 2005. A mother of two, she now works as a freelance journalist who spends most of her days writing articles with a toddler clamped around her leg and a curious preschooler who asks her questions every 10 minutes.