Going to Mass with 2 under 2 has been a challenge. Before we had Walt, we used to take turns taking Janie out of the church and into the narthex if she got ants in her pants. When we had Walt, we had to move to a man-to-man defense. I usually take care of Walt, and Philip usually takes care of Janie. Whenever the day comes that we are ready for Baby #3, we'll have to move on to a zone defense. We really need to work on our defense strategy before then.
We struggle to keep Janie quiet and still for any extended period of time. Fortunately, Jane received a wonderful present from Philip's parents for Christmas! (Thank you, Mimi and Papa!) This present has greatly improved our Mass-going experience. This awesome present is a Busy Bible.
According to the company website,
The basic idea of a Busy Bible is to provide a book of cloth pages, incorporating simple and quiet activities - things to touch, discover, pull, open, turn, arrange and fashion. While the child is playing with the book, he is also learning Biblical stories and principles.
The Busy Bible contains 12 pages of Bible stories beginning at creation and following through the Old and New Testaments, giving children a sense of wonder and discovery as they learn about great heroes of the Bible.
We keep our Busy Bible stored away during the week and only bring it out as a special treat when we're going to Mass. Jane has several other faith-related kids' books such as a Children's Bible, a book of saints, prayers, etc. that we read during the week, but the Busy Bible only makes an appearance at Mass. The flaps, snaps, Velco, buttons, zippers, and felt figured keep Jane very busy and engaged.
Unfortunately, Jane still gets ants in her pants around the homily each week, and she refuses to sit still. She arches her back and insists on being let down. Philip usually has to leave with her at some point during the homily and return during the general intercessions.
Sitting in the front pew seems counter-intuitive and scary, but it helps. Jane is much more interested in what's going on when she can see the priest, lectors, servers, etc. and she isn't distracted by people in front of her. Her focus doesn't last, though. Can I tell you how humbling it is to sit in the front pew, especially when your church pews are configured like a horseshoe and your child's temper tantrum is on display for the entire congregation?
Each week, Jane seems more and more interested in participating in the Mass. Imitating us and everything she sees is her new favorite pastime. She's starting to fold her hands, join in the responses, imitate the choir director, and loudly repeat what the priest says. We're still working on our whispering skills and not talking in church. She loves being able to use her senses--seeing the action on the altar and around her, hearing the music and melody of the prayers and bells, reaching out to shake everyone's hands during the Sign of Peace, smelling the incense. The "smells and bells" are supposed to draw us in, and it's definitely working for one toddler I know!
What do all of you with young children do to encourage them to be relatively still and quiet during Mass?
Perhaps I should find a weekday Mass at a church with a crying room where we can practice sitting still without disturbing others...