Sarah Reinhard ponders the blessings behind the distractions children bring to Mass.
Back when our son was nearly two, I always felt like I should apologize when we took him to Mass.
He was — and still is, three years later — Mr. Social.
There wasn’t a person who will kneel in the pew behind us who will not be greeted, repeatedly, with a cheery “HI!”
There wasn’t a female nearby who will not get a smile and a wave.
There wasn’t a part of the pew that will be left unclimbed in his attempts to take over the entire church.
And yet, I found myself smiling back at the people he’s blessing.
Because that’s what I saw him doing.
Even as I was distracted and trying to pay attention, he was reminding the empty-nester behind me of the way her son used to do the same thing.
He was giving the newly married bride a smile and hope.
The young dad nearby was marveling that we haven’t taken him out yet and found himself commiserating, I think, with the fact that we were clenching our jaws at his antics.
That preteen two rows back? Enjoying every moment. And thinking maybe Mass that day didn’t suck as much as usual.
I saw the benefits in my own kids, too. Even three years later.
We now have two teen girls who find our energetic Mr. Social less amusing than they did when he was a toddler. They correct him, they guide him, they laugh behind their hands at him. I have never asked them to do this. They just have.
And the older brother of the group, who is Mr. Proper and a respectable fourth grader? Well, he demonstrates gentleness and not-putting-up-with-anymore-of-that-ness. His prayer form is second to none, and the five-year-old can’t help but admire it (even as he tries to tickle a giggle out of said older brother).
Our pew at Mass has long been an interesting case study in distraction. I used to bemoan it, long for the concentration and silence of my pre-parenting days.
And then, I had that. When our oldest was two, a helpful aunt kept her and encouraged us to “go enjoy Mass.” It didn’t help that we went to our usual parish and everyone asked about her. But mostly, I felt myself empty, aware that in the scrambling and wiggling, I was praying in a whole body way.
Now, with four of them in the pew with me — and none of them toddlers — I find the distractions are different. My concerns are wider, longer, deeper. I have so much more need for the graces I find sitting at the feet of my Master.
And I need them there beside me, reminding me that I am only part of a family. The distractions serve as a blessing, in so many ways. Each of those souls entrusted to me — and I can’t help asking myself What was God thinking — is guiding me to heaven, putting me one small distracted step closer to sainthood. The gang of them unites me to that guy I married — What was HE thinking? — and helps us aim for true excellence, found not in this world, but in the next.
There were many wise people who told me to enjoy my children when they were young. And I did, inasmuch as I could. Now that they’re getting older, I find myself enjoying the new aspects of parenting even more, appreciating the souls they are and have, growing closer to God the Father and Mary my Mother.
And at Mass? I’m still distracted. In the very best ways.
Copyright 2020 Sarah Reinhard
Image: Steven Libralon (2018), Unsplash
About the Author
When she’s not chasing kids, chugging coffee, or juggling work, Sarah Reinhard’s usually trying to stay up read just one…more…chapter. She writes and works in the midst of rural farm life with little ones underfoot. She is part of the team for the award-winning Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, as well as the author of a number of books. You can join her for a weekday take on Catholic life by subscribing to Three Shots and follow her writing at Snoring Scholar.