Lately I find myself wondering why it's so difficult for others to believe that my children want to go to Mass. I do not make them go to daily Mass - they ask to go. Do they stay completely still during Mass? Of course not. I expect Kieran not to climb around and not to be loud, but I don't expect him to be silent or completely still. I expect Charlotte not to be loud and not to run off, which means I have to keep a hand on her. Both of them get a little restless during the Liturgy of the Word, but both of them are rather more entranced during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, with both of them pointing out the Body and Blood of Christ at the Consecration. I'm proud of them, and frankly I think they put me to shame at times.
Yet some people just can't seem to imagine that they truly want to be there. A couple of weeks ago we went to Mass at a different time because we just hadn't gotten ready in time for our usual 8.00 Mass. We went to the "family Mass", which normally has a children's liturgy where the children are dismissed after the opening prayer and return just before the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I object to the family being separated during Mass in this way, so my children don't go. I explain to them that Mass isn't about running around, but about praying and worshipping. Besides all that, though, is the fact that they want to stay in Mass. Kieran considers it to be a consequence if he isn't in there. He wants to be in there "to see Jesus". Yes, the other children come back in for part of the Mass, but I still don't think it's the ideal. After that Mass, though, a lady who helps with the children's liturgy mentioned that they could go to that, as if it was just mind-boggling to think they'd want to stay in Mass (or that I'd want them to stay in with me).
This happened again last week; we'd gone to the 8.00 Mass, but we'd gone back for a social event after the 9.30 family Mass. When I explained that we go to 8.00 Mass, the other lady seemed to assume that I didn't know about the family Mass and the children's liturgy and that I'd surely go to that Mass so I could send my children to the children's liturgy during Mass. I'll admit that I can't concentrate as much at Mass when I'm trying to ensure the children aren't running around and are being quiet, but I'm still not going to send them to a different liturgy. When I go to Mass I tell Jesus that I'm there, but I don't know how much of my attention I can offer. I tell Him that I offer all of myself, such as I am. Some days go better than others in that regard. I actually spoke with one of our priests about this, about how I feel bad about not being able to concentrate as much but that I also feel it important that the kids go, and they like to go. He affirmed that it is important for them to be there with me, and told me to mention Jesus' words about the children coming to Him if anyone criticised me. I love that priest.
As I mentioned, we go to daily Mass most mornings. Kieran asks to go, and they kids expect it. There's a tin of sweeties in the sacristy, but I've explained to Kieran that those are only for Sundays (technically, they're only for the altar servers, but some of the priests include Kieran in getting a sweet). While the priests would also give him one during the week, I don't want him to go to Mass to get a sweet. I've talked about it with Kieran, and he understands this, though he does sometimes see if he can get away with getting some chocolate anyway. One day a well-meaning older lady asked if he'd had his sweet yet just as we were about to leave. I said that he didn't need one today, and she took his hand anyway and got one for him. As she did so, she talked about how he deserved one for coming to Mass. Again there was that assumption that I was making him come to Mass with me. If he didn't want to go, he could stay home, since my husband doesn't usually leave before we get back. In fact, he has done that before, though he was later disappointed when he realised it meant he didn't get to go to Mass that day (I think he'd thought he could go later; there are usually two Masses a day at our parish, but there was only one on that day).
Why is it so hard to believe that children want to come to Mass just to come to Mass, and not to play games or get chocolate?