There are just some places you don’t even try taking a toddler. Like Carnegie Hall. Or a restaurant that doesn’t have crayons. But there are places that you can’t avoid taking them, like to church.

A few weeks ago the letter from the pastor in the church bulletin was a reminder to everyone that church isn’t a place to socialize and let your kids run free, it’s a place for quiet reverence and prayer. While it was a nice message to send out to people, it really annoyed me how directed and specific the letter was. (Something like “some people have been doing this and some people have been doing that”.) Granted, we only attend one mass out of the week, so maybe the other masses we don’t attend have wild kids running up and down the aisles and throwing popcorn at people and yelling and crying through the whole service. I can only assume however that the letter is directed at me, because there were one or two times my toddler broke free and ran up the aisle, and she still can’t whisper. But since that letter, we’ve spent more time in the entrance vestibule for noisy children than I would like.

The problem here really is my fear of being judged. I see people give me looks when my kids make noise. One of those people probably wrote a letter to the pastor to let him know that my kids were disruptive. She probably didn’t write in her letter about the time before I had kids when this peanut gallery of four old men and women snickered at and mocked the new priest who had a thick Indian accent as he gave his homily. I regret not having turned around and given the look that I often see from (mostly old) people when they think my kids are “out of control”.

People seem to think that “in the good old days”, children were better behaved and parents were stricter and could control their kids better…and while I think there is some tiny bit of truth to it, I think what’s truer is that people nowadays just have no tolerance for others. You keep hearing about people wanting “child-free train cars” or “child-free airlines”…what is next, “child-free mass”? Actually, there is a (mostly) child-free mass. It’s called “get yo ass up at 7:30am and go when most kids are still in bed and there isn’t even a choir to sing the hymns, you have to just read them out loud because no one wants to get up that early”.

I know that once I get over my fear of being judged, I will think of mass more as an educational experience rather than a stressful one. But until then, we’ll be in the vestibule with snacks and toys.