Crying: What my young daughter gets out of Mass

“Baby girl, no!” My 14-month-old daughter’s hand briefly paused in the air, dripping water back into the dog’s drinking bowl.

Her hand went to her head, to her chest and completed a toddler’s awkward sign of the cross.

My husband and I were horrified by the slobbery dog-water blessing.

But we were also awestruck: We had never seen her cross herself at church before, and we had not yet tried to teach her.

My now 18-month-old comes to Mass with my spouse and me about twice a week, on Sundays and on Thursdays with my school community at work.

Mass has always been part of the rhythm of our life together, and her existence has shifted that rhythm in every way possible.

Nothing about having a kid is easy, and navigating worship and prayer with our daughter has not only been a challenge but has required a real assessment of what our commitment to our faith and the church really means.

On Good Friday last year, my daughter struggled during the evening service, crying more than she ever had in Mass.

I bounced and cooed at her, hoping to avoid any stares or grumbles.

I looked up to see my spouse giving me the very stare I was trying to avoid.

Stunned and angry to feel shamed by my own husband, I booked it to the back of the church to try to soothe her tears on my own.

Pacing at the back of the church with her, livid with my husband, I could not help but keep thinking, “Why did I even bring her?”

Caught up in my own shame and anger, I just wanted to go home.

Navigating worship with our daughter has required a real assessment of what our commitment to our faith and the church really means.

As I tried not to cry, another parishioner went out of their way to come up to me and simply thanked me for bringing her.

That moment of encouragement reminded me that I knew why we brought her.

My husband and I had a quiet moment of reconciliation that night and reaffirmed why our daughter was at Mass that evening and every week.

This was the promise that we made at our wedding and again at her baptism: to bring her up in the faith.

Bringing her every week risks crying or blowout diapers.

But this is also where she will learn the sign of the cross and the creed and what it means to pray and serve in community.

Kids learn through repetition, and they imitate what they can see. My daughter insists on holding a hymnal and “singing” along with everyone else. Continue reading

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