Oh, y'all. Thank you so much for the kind and supportive emails, tweets, and comments. They mean so much to me.
Unfortunately, things today have gotten even worse.
I really did have to psych myself up to get to Mass this morning. I tried to do everything I could to make sure Nate would be as calm and quiet as possible: feed him a good breakfast (challenging, because often he'll just refuse to eat much of anything in the mornings), keep him away from any screen time before Mass, and get out the door with plenty of time. I blessed us both with holy water before we left, asking for special graces for good behavior, and on the drive over we prayed (well, I prayed) aloud, including praying for the woman whose unkind comments made yesterday so awful.
And Mass was fine! Good, even, with the exception of the moment walking back to our pew from Communion, when Nate full-on screeched. I made a beeline for the door, but he was quiet by the time we reached it (of course), so I hesitated for a moment to make sure he was really done and then went back to our pew. He was quiet for the post-communion prayer and the final blessing.
I even took it as a good sign that the gospel reading today was John's account of Jesus calling Nathanael to be a disciple.
I didn't see the woman from yesterday, and figured she had been one of a number of people attending with a new priest who was saying a votive Mass for his recently-deceased father. (It's actually a very touching story, which you can read here. The new priest had been a transitional deacon at the parish where I attend daily Mass, and the votive Mass was during the usual weekday Mass, resulting in a mix of jeans-clad daily Mass-goers and black-clad guests.)
I will freely admit that Nate was noisier during yesterday's Mass than he usually is. In fact, I took him out into the vestibule for the entire consecration and through the peace. I have no problem removing my child from Mass when it seems called for. The difficulty, though, as any mother of a young child can attest, is determining when a sudden cry or moment of chatter will disappear as quickly as it came on, in which case a retreat to the vestibule or cry room is counter-productive and actually more distracting. I mean, unless I'm going to spend the entire Mass outside the sanctuary, there will inevitably be some moments of noise that other worshippers will have to endure. It's a matter of discretion, and of balance, and there isn't a linear improvement in day-to-day behavior. It's unpredictable, and it's hard. Unless we want to flat-out exclude children from the Mass, though, it's inevitable.
I would expect that the pastor of this parish** would understand all of this. This parish is absolutely teeming with kids, and has both a preschool and a K-8 school. And so when the pastor pulled me aside after Mass this morning and began with the words, "I'd really like to encourage you," I honestly thought he was about to say something, you know, encouraging.
I was wrong. "I'd really like to encourage you to make use of the gathering space," he said instead, referring to the enormous hallway that surrounds the sanctuary on three sides. We used to sit out there all the time, and Nate sees it as an invitation to run around like a banshee. (Most kids do, it seems. On the rare occasion we've attended this parish on a Sunday, the "gathering space" is an absolute zoo.) He is so much better behaved inside the sanctuary, confined in a pew, that I eventually gave up on the gathering-space-cum-cry-room.
I just stared at him for a moment, stunned. I was actually stunned. I think my mouth might have dropped open. Was I actually hearing him right? I must have been, because he continued to explain that that's what the gathering space is for! And that he would make sure his microphone was on so that we could hear! And that when he was a little older, we could come back in!
When I finally composed myself enough to speak, the words that came out of my mouth were, "We won't be coming back." It's one thing to have a random layperson make an unkind comment about my two-year-old's behavior. But when the pastor of a parish is telling me to my face that he'd prefer that we sit at the back of the bus, so to speak, that's it. I'll find another parish for daily Mass.
He immediately jumped in that that wasn't the solution, and that it's just that he had complaints from "our visitors" yesterday (unkind lady, I assume), and that it can be distracting from what's supposed to be a prayerful and spiritual experience, and all I could hear is, "You're not good enough. Your child isn't good enough."
I couldn't say anything else. I didn't want to break down crying again. He finally said he'd pray for me (the charitable part of me will accept prayers from anyone who's offering; the uncharitable part wants to ask him if he'll Turn on his microphone! So I can hear it!), but then he just turned his back and walked away.
I just feel like it was all handled so badly, that if he really felt it was necessary to speak to me to "encourage me to use the gathering space," he at least could have (1) asked me to go somewhere more private to speak, instead of ambushing me by the greeting line, and (2) truly said something encouraging to me first, to soften the blow.
And now, I don't know what to do. David is furious and wants to go to the bishop. I'm unconvinced that it will do any good. Different parishes and pastors have different attitudes toward cry rooms and "children's liturgy" and nurseries and kids in Mass, and I have a feeling the bishop might just think it's okay that this particular parish relegates families with small children to the gigantic vestibule for Masses. I'm more inclined to speak to my own pastor, who sees Nate regularly and knows he's an energetic kid and sees all the efforts we make to improve his Mass behavior. I don't want my own pride to get in the way here if there's something that I really need to be doing differently, and maybe he has some genuinely constructive ideas.
Right now, though, I'm truly heartbroken. I started attending daily Mass last spring as a way to encourage better behavior on Sundays, even jokingly referring to it as "Mass Boot Camp," to family and friends. Since then, though, I've come to depend on the grace it offers me, even on the days when it's challenging.
What would you do? I honestly need some advice here. Just be kind, please. I'm feeling fragile.
(Posting this without proofreading, because I just can't look over it again without crying. Please forgive any typos.)
**Not our home parish, which only has daily Mass at seven a.m. Eight-thirty is enough of a feat, thank you very much.