Monday, July 22, 2013

The Dreaded Crying Room

About eight and a half years ago we began to learn the not so pleasant reality of the crying room.  For about three and a half years I pretty much avoided Mass not wanting my young child to disturb others at Mass if she should cry or act as young children often do.  So as we prepared to welcome a second child into our family we also attempted to get back into the routine of going to Sunday Mass.  The attempt wound up being a fail of the crash and burn variety which I largely attribute to our decision to use the dreaded crying room.  Still not wanting my eldest child to be the cause of annoyance to anyone at Mass we opted to sit in the crying room at our church.  The concept of the crying room was nice, but the reality wasn't.

In theory, the crying room should be a place where I could retreat with an upset child where her noise making would not garner death stares from those around us.  It was the prospect of those icy stares that sent us to the crying room.  We learned quickly that the crying room wasn't an environment for reverence.  The Sunday Mass missalettes were absent from the crying room so following along with the readings or singing with the rest of the congregation wasn't going to happen.  Instead of pews, the crying room was furnished with metal folding chairs.  And instead of a prayerful environment, we found a zoo like atmosphere where children ran wild, munched on snacks and played with toys.  Our efforts to attend Mass on a weekly basis quickly fizzled.  We felt like our options were: 1.) Hang out in the parish wild child exhibit for an hour each week. 2.) Sit in the nave and be subjected to icy stares anytime our children made noise. 3.) Just stay home.  We wound up choosing option 3.  Awful, right?

When we moved and started going to our current parish I told my husband that I had no intentions of ever setting foot in a crying room again.  I would rather stand outside while I waited for my child to calm down rather than entertain the idea of a crying room.  Of course, at the time when I made this decision my youngest was three years old.  By then, she was pretty good at behaving quietly and I think I only ever had to bring her out to the narthex twice.

Even on Ellie's bad days, she was still behaved enough to remain in the nave of the church without disturbing anyone.  There were days where I would cringe anytime she made a sound or acted like a child at Mass.  I was so worried that we'd be an irritant to those around us.  Instead, we found ourselves in a parish that seemed incredibly welcoming to young families.  Warm smiles and words of encouragement is what we were met with on those tough days and I have to tell you that it really meant a lot to me.

Can I tell you that my biggest worry when I was expecting Katie was how I was going to be able to bring her to Mass and avoid the crying room?  I wondered if those friendly people who were so encouraging of our middle daughter a few years before would tolerate a baby or a toddler sitting in their midst.  I spent many hours wondering just how I was going to pull this off.

Much to my surprise, the first year of Mass with a baby went amazingly well.  Most of the time Katie slept through Mass.  We did have plenty of times where the baby would cry, but usually we were able to quiet her within a minute or so.  I want to say that she was probably 8 or 9 months old the first time we actually had to take her out to the narthex due to crying.  The lovely elderly woman who sits behind us most weeks was always so encouraging on our more difficult weeks.  And when Katie did have a bad day at Mass, most of the time we had friends around us offering us a kind smile or a sympathetic glance.

Now that Katie is a toddler things have been a bit trickier.  She rarely sleeps through Mass and she's interested in getting into things.  So there are weeks where I feel like I need to apologize to the person in front of us because my child thought it would be funny to toss a pacifier at her, or because she decided to scream in close proximity to them.  Thankfully, Katie is pretty well behaved for the most part.  She does have her moments where she reveals that she is, in fact, a toddler but fortunately those moments are few and far between.  Sometimes, those toddler moments are timed so perfectly that they wind up becoming part of the homily, like this past Saturday for instance.   Katie decided to let out an ear piercing screech that left me cringing during Father's homily.  Her timing was so good that Father went with it and mentioned that it was an excellent opportunity for patience.  Another time, one of our other priests was able to comment that her crying and his annoyance at it made him realize that he had no room to say anything about it when he began to read the gospel for that Mass.  So it was yet another time that she worked her way into the homily.  So in those moments when she finds her way into a homily, I do internally cringe a bit, but I have come to a point where I accept that she's one and she's not going to behave like a mini adult.

Now just because I refuse to use the crying room doesn't mean that I'm being selfish or refusing to consider those around me.  I'm not about to sit in the church and just let her wail for an hour.  For a Sunday Mass both Bryan and I are fully prepared to remove her to the narthex of the church if we are not able to clam her within a minute.  For daily Mass, I sit near the back of the church on the outside aisle.  I do this so I can remove her to the narthex as quickly as possible if the need should arise.  I'd have to say that daily Mass is probably the only time I'd ever consider retreating upstairs to the crying room.  And that's only because I know that it's empty.  I haven't had to remove her from a daily Mass yet, but if I did, I'd probably be more inclined to just stand in the narthex.

I think that crying rooms would be less of a hot button issue if they were only used for children who were crying or in the midst of a melt down.  Instead, they seem to be hotbeds of chaos where parents let their kids run wild.  Of course, it's not just parents of young children who use the crying room.  I once had a 7th grade religious ed student tell me that her mom preferred to sit up in the crying room so that she could chat with her friend during Mass.  The biggest issue with crying rooms is they seem to be devoid of all reverence.

When I think about the concept of the crying room it does make me think that in a way the church is saying that little ones aren't necessarily welcome at Mass.  True they're not obligated to attend until they reach the age of reason, but they're still a part of the parish community and should be included.  I'm convinced that you cannot train little ones to behave properly at Mass by brining them to the crying room week after week.

Check out the link-up at Catholic All Year where other moms share their thoughts on the crying room, too.


  1. Thanks so much for linking up Karen. I'm with you on all of this.

    I use the narthex if necessary. And I've been the beneficiary of understanding smiles by other parishioners and the subject (or aside anyway) of homilies.

    I think all of that is part of Catholic parenting. But no way am I going in that cry room!

  2. While I only tend to sit in the cry room when I'm soloing with the kids I am still so grateful for the culture at my parish; there are pews and missalettes and so it just as if you are attending Mass in the main church except not having to worry about the noise that just comes with small children.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...