My son was baptized when he was 8 weeks old, and he hasn’t been back to church since.
He has, however, starting saying prayers, and we’ve been actively reading The Jesus Storybook Bible since he was a year old.
I am Catholic, and my husband is Presbyterian. At one time, I was very connected to my faith and very involved in the church. As time has gone on, I have practiced my faith at home and at mass on occasion, but not as often as I would like (or should). With the arrival of Pope Francis, my desire to practice my faith has become stronger. My husband, though, does not really have much of a feeling one way or another, and he is amenable to raising our son Catholic.
Why we haven’t taken him to church yet
But I have failed at this. For the last 2.5 years, my biggest fear is that we will go to church and that our son will be loud, talk, make a racket and be disruptive to the other parishioners. I don’t want him to go to church and associate it with anything bad or being fussed or getting dirty looks when he fidgets or talks out of turn. I remember being young and having older parishioners shush me or give me a look when I would fidget out of boredom and being unable to understand fully what was going on. I don’t want my son to have a similar feeling about the church.
Instead of having this happen, I have just avoided going with him altogether. Our church no longer has a cry room, and I’m just not sure of how to adapt to going to mass with him regularly. Honestly, sometimes I wish there was a children’s mass where the typical routine was a little more lax, the mass was shorter and more exciting for a small child. When I was young, I sort of loathed going to mass and often used it as an opportunity to try go back to sleep, read through the hymnals, or annoy my parents to go home, and I didn’t get much out of the experience. Sometimes I wonder if there is a church out there that caters to small children.
As I grew older, I learned more and began to enjoy the message. We wholeheartedly want our son to have a relationship with God, and while we are choosing to raise him Catholic, we are also fully open to him choosing whichever religious path he is most comfortable. I’m not sure where to start. I know that when we drive past church, Andrew says, “Jesus’ House!” but what else will he understand? At what age do we really start to teach them about religion, spirituality, and faith? How do we go about doing so? How do we have them assimilate into the church experience where they can enjoy and learn about their faith at such a young age?
Introducing prayers to toddlers
When it comes to prayers, we are also struggling. We read from our Jesus Storybook Bible pretty regularly, as the bible stories are written in a way that kids can understand and relate to. (Who am I kidding, it makes it easier for ME to understand, too!) We also have a Veggie Tales devotional book that is great with little prayers and lessons included; however I am concerned we are not doing enough.
We haven’t attempted to teach Andrew any of the traditional Catholic prayers yet, and we are not sure when to do so and the traditional bedtime prayers that come to mind feel morbid. (Now I lay me down to sleep… If I shall die before I wake…). Is it just me? When I try to get him to say a prayer, he sort of looks at me blankly, although he does hold his hands together. It is at these moments that I start to wonder, “Is this because he has never been to church?” “Am I failing him as a parent and as a Catholic/Christian?”
When it comes to parenting, it is always a work in progress. It is the same when it comes to faith and religion. I suppose we have taken some baby steps, but it seems like maybe now is the time to take that BIG step and go to mass.
I appreciate your heart so much! My mother grew up Catholic and my father had no faith background at all. When I was 11 we started attending church. We dove in and it was the BEST thing my parents ever did for us (and them!). My faith flourished, as did the faith of my 3 siblings who were all much younger than me (my youngest sister wasn’t even born yet, when we started attending church, so though I didn’t start till age 11, they really did grow up in the church).
My parents were adamant about going to worship services together and then we got to go to Sunday School afterwards. Sometimes my mom took one of us out of the service for a while, sometimes we were good, but like you said, it was always a work in progress!! For my own kids, they have a “quiet bag” that they get to bring to church and ONLY use at church during the sermon. It has quiet toys in it, coloring things, etc. But its also about knowing your child. My 4 year old son, who is very active, but is very physically affectionate will sit on my lap for the whole 30 minute sermon and not move if I scratch his back!
To me, in my opinion, the main thing is that as a parent you are consistent with your faith at church and at home. When kids see that what mom and dad say/do at church lines up with how they act/talk at home, then they trust what you have to say about faith in the Lord.
I LOVE that you read the Jesus Storybook Bible- that is our FAVORITE!!! I’ve suggested it to MANY friends to read to their children, but also for themselves, to grasp the greater story of God’s love and redemption! It just brings it all together to see God’s love for us.
Prayers with your children don’t need to be a struggle. Just talk to God! We like to talk about 3 things before prayers, one thing you are thankful for from today, one thing you are sorry you did, and one person you want to pray for. Then we simply go into the prayer with those things. “Dear Lord, thank you so much for being able to play at the pool today and having a great time. I’m sorry that I hit my sister when she took my toy, please forgive me. And Lord, I want to pray for Grandma’s broken arm, that you will heal her. Amen.”
It’s like Nike says, “Just Do It.” Just do faith. In all you do, integrate it. When you hear sirens, stop with your kids and pray. When you see someone being treated poorly, stop and talk to your kids about how the Lord wants us to act and why.
You are already doing a GREAT job by searching these things out and pursuing the Lord with your children!!!
Blessings to you and your family!!!