Earlier this week I noticed an informational bulletin about the children's liturgy at our parish. Now, I know I've ranted a little about children's liturgies before, but bear with me. This bulletin had bullet points to enumerate the reasons for sending the children to the children's liturgy.
One of the reasons given was so the children could be taught about the readings in way they could understand. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with explaining the readings and/or looking at them more in-depth later. We often re-read the Gospel with the children before bed. However, I think this should take place either before or after Mass, not during it. During Mass, I feel the children should be learning about the Mass and that the parts of the Mass shouldn't be separated in that way. After all, the Liturgy of the Word is the preparation for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
This way of presenting things specifically to the children is addressed really well by The Crescat's post that I read today. I think she has a very good point about how these things take the focus off of Jesus, placing the focus more on the children. I also like the point about how we needn't dumb things down for kids, something I've ranted about recently.
Another reason given in the bulletin was so the parents could listen to the readings without distraction. While I admit that it's easier to listen and concentrate if I'm alone, I won't leave my children at home just so I can attend without that particular distraction. There's always going to be some distraction, anyway, whether my children are with me or not. Perhaps it's also telling if we see the children as distractions, instead of fellow parishioners. If we no longer saw them as distractions, would we begin to see the Mass as they do? I too rarely pay attention to how my children perceive the Mass, but I do love how excited they can get during the Consecration.
Of course, even with attending the children's liturgy the children would be in the Mass for the Consecration. But the transition from children's liturgy (in another room) to the Liturgy of the Eucharist causes its own problems. The bulletin says that parents should ensure the children remain quiet once they are back in the Mass, but my experience has been that this doesn't always happen (I'm not saying children should be silent, for I don't expect that of my own children, but that they should be respectful and not playing around). How much are the children (and their parents) missing because of trying to settle the children after their re-entry into the Mass? I don't know that answer, but I imagine it's not negligible, if their children are anything like mine probably would be in that situation.
In the end, I continue to think that the best way of doing it is for families to stay together during Mass, with the parents teaching the children more outside of Mass. It could also be helpful for Sunday school classes before or after Mass. It requires some reorganisation, but I personally think it would be worth it. Just my opinion, though.