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On Toddlers & Faith.

I have spent a great deal of time over the last few days thinking about my spirituality.  I feel like it just isn’t being fed, if you know what I mean.  I reflect back on when I really felt in touch with my faith and I am reminded of a time not that long ago when yoga was part of my weekly routine.  

The meditations that yoga led me to were feeding my desire to sit with my Lord and really listen to how He was speaking to me.  In those meditations I was able to be present and truly open my heart to all the things the Lord and I were working on.  I could free of my mind of the struggles that life include and let my inner eye focus on the face of my Lord.  I was present with Him. We were together.  And, I was ready to face anything.

Even if it was just for 20 or 30 minutes a day, it felt good and Holy and right.  And it directed my life in a way that felt like we (He and I) were doing things together, in unisom.  I was finally allowing Him to direct my life.

But, life got busy and schedules got challenging – and yoga got dropped.  And then my daily meditations at home stopped.  And then I began to notice that I was leaving church feeling less than full.  This weekend, when I chose to skip mass for the first time in quite some time, I caught myself saying, it’s not like I even get anything out of church, all I do is chase a toddler, feed a toddler and entertain a toddler.  Even if the statement is true, it’s a hard pill to swallow.

Is it possible that my toddler is cramping my spiritual growth?

We sit in the back of church, in the “cry room” as it’s often referred, behind a glass screen, where toddlers can’t disrupt the other families during mass.  We sit and try our best to focus as one feisty toddler asks to go for walks and get drinks.  We pretend to be listening when she’s asking for food and shows us her dolls.  We bow our heads to pray as she whispers songs in our ears. 

So, are we getting anything out of mass?

Now, I know we could take her to the church nursery.  But in order to that, you have to volunteer to work in the nursery twice a month.  And let’s be clear on one thing – time is a luxury in my life.  And, quite frankly, I don’t want to be spending my time with anyone else’s kid.  I don’t see my own enough as it is.  And, I’m not a big fan of nursery’s anyway.  Call me paranoid, but they make me nervous.  And they guaranteed my son was soon to be sick – and like time, sickness is also a luxury we can’t afford. There is too much to be done.

So, then we’re left deciding if we should split up for mass? Does the husband goes alone or with the boy and I stay home and then I go when they get back and they stay home with the toddler?

But, then I’m left wondering  if it’s right to split us up for mass, which feels like it should be celebrated as a family?  And, is it right to not take the toddler to church? It feels like she should be there. 

We still don’t know what to do. 

But, you can bet that I’ll be bringing it to the table tonight with the Lord when I begin my nightly meditations again. 

Do you take your toddler to church with you?  Do you feel inspired by the time you spend with your faith?

22 comments

1 Rici { 01.23.12 at 9:46 am }

I understand the importance of faith and family and finding the balance. We are very lucky to go to a newer, smaller church where Teagan loves going to her “class”. She already goes to daycare so sickness isn’t an issue.
I truly hope you are able to find a balance. I will pray for you in hopes that you will find balance.
Rici recently posted..The scale.

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Tiffany Reply:

Thanks, Rici! We’re inching our way to finding peace with the fact that perhaps being distracted isn’t all that bad, for now.

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2 Mo { 01.23.12 at 9:49 am }

This is such a tough one. We are in the same spot, with a 28 month old boy. He is a hand full, but we take him every single Sunday. It is true that you don’t get as much out of Mass b/c you are distracted by a toddler, but it is better that you are there. Going and being present and open to receive anything, is better than not being there at all. Our Church doesn’t have a cry room, I don’t think we would use it if there was one. We sit near the front so our son can see what is going on. We have a bag of toys and colouring books that get switched out each week, and it helps a bit. Yesterday, he was a little terror, crying and being loud but we stayed. I took him to the back to calm down once, but it didn’t really help.
Our Parish is so family friendly which really helps when your kid is the one screaming his head off; our Priest is always reminding everyone that the children belong there and you shouldn’t be upset with kids being noisy or crying since it doesn’t bother him.
I see so many families (including my relatives!) that stop bringing the kids when they are 2 and 3 years old. But how can you expect them to learn how to act in Church if they aren’t there? And yes, I agree you should go as a family, even if it is hard to hear what is being said. Do you have a Missal? You can always read the readings before or after Mass, or you could even request that your Priest put his homilies online so you can read them again later.
Mo recently posted..Meal Plan Monday

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Tiffany Reply:

Hi Mo! Thanks for the comment. I think we’re going to continue going as a family, no nursery, and see if we can work through it until she’s at the age where we can sit in prayer again. We all know that they grow up all too soon…

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3 Torie@25 Design { 01.23.12 at 9:57 am }

No. We do not take our toddler into church with us for this very reason. BUT, our church has Sunday school for kids of all ages, and you don’t have to volunteer. We did skip Christmas eve service this year because they didn’t have child care and I knew I’d be too busy making sure she was quiet and such. I felt bad (because we didn’t go Christmas morning either) but I feel like my faith is not defined by how often I attend church or if I miss a holiday once or twice in my life.
I’ve recently gone through the same kind of thing as you though. I felt so on fire for God before children and now it feels like I don’t “have the time”. One thing I committed to do before the new year was read a Psalm a day. Set aside a few minutes either before bed or when you wake up and dig into His word. I know it’s hard, and there are days I miss, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Pray and ask God to speak to you before you read. Ask Him what He wants you to learn that day. Just ask Him to guide you through it. Start small and work your way up. I’ve learned that sometimes we have to go through a spiritually “dry” period to be restored and be even stronger on the other side. Just don’t give up :) Sorry, for rambling. If you ever want to talk more I have a listen ear :)

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Tiffany Reply:

Thanks, dear! I think we’re going to suck it up for now..and keep her with us. But, it promises to be interesting. PS. I’m loving your posts when you redo furniture and stuff – so fun!

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4 Mrs. MidAtlantic { 01.23.12 at 10:01 am }

We don’t go to church nearly as often as we should… But when we do go, Laura is right there with us. We don’t sit in the cry room. She’s pretty good at sitting quietly for the most part. We do bring quiet books for just in case. And my husband is at the ready to whisk her into the anteroom in emergencies!
Of course, this is just one toddler we’re talking about… Talk to me this summer when I have a 2.5yo and an infant!
Mrs. MidAtlantic recently posted..Friday Brain Dump

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Tiffany Reply:

We have to sit in the cry room, for now. But, I think we’re going to keep doing that and not use the nursery. She won’t be little long. Unfortunately.

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5 Katherine { 01.23.12 at 11:25 am }

Oh it’s like you were reading my mind. We just had this conversation with a friend last night. I feel like I should be going to church, but when we’re there, I often leave feeling empty. Did I really just get anything out of that or did I spend the last hour+ making sure my daughter stayed quiet by playing I Spy with her, making sure she wasn’t coloring on the pew, etc etc. Plus, mass at our home church starts at 9 AM…and while I’m fully capable of making it to work Mon-Fri by 8 AM, I apparently have a real problem with church started at 9. And so, we haven’t gone in quite some time. But, Rylee is almost 4 and at the age that we’re listening to bible songs in the car and she’s singing along at the top of her lungs, we read her stories from her toddler bible, we (not often enough) pray at bedtime. I think it’s time to get back to the church thing. Now it’s just actually DOING it.

Clearly, I have no answers for you, only, I totally, completely understand where you’re coming from.
Katherine recently posted..Here We Go Again…January Update!

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6 Jess @ Bringing Up Baby { 01.23.12 at 11:30 am }

We do bring our toddler to mass, but it works for us for two reasons: 1.) we found a church that has an early 25 minute mass (later services are still only 45 mins) and 2) being at church with my whole family and seeing how the people around us react so warmly and are so welcoming towards my son makes me feel even more spiritual. I feel the sense of community and I see the kindness and generosity and forgiveness in people when I see how they embrace my family in their midst.

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Jess @ Bringing Up Baby Reply:

But really? I think the 25 minute mass is the real secret to our success :)

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7 amy { 01.23.12 at 12:16 pm }

Perhaps you can find a church with a children’s ministry that doesn’t require parents to volunteer? Our church has a preschool program for toddlers that includes a lesson & lots of fun social time!

Engaging spiritually is important for you & your kids! So glad you’re seeking a solution.

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8 AllisonO of O My Family { 01.23.12 at 12:52 pm }

This is such a complicated and important thing to work through. I still remember the first church service we went to after our oldest was born. I didn’t hear more than 20% of the sermon, busy nursing and consoling, and I thought to myself “Is this what parenthood is going to be?”

The self-sacraficing nature of parenting makes disciplined time with the Lord hard to come by, it’s true. But it has also dropped some of the most profound revelations straight in my lap. For example, when you glimpse just a little bit how God feels about you through how you feel about your kids – pause right there and meditate on that. Let it sink deep into your soul.

We are not called to always have these holy, perfect moments of pure devotion with God (picture candles, quiet room). We ARE called to make every moment holy and devoted to Him. How do we do that as parents when we can hardly remember to bring the coupons with us to the grocery store? Here’s what helps me:

-Podcast sermons. My church has our Sunday sermon up usually on Monday. If I feel I really missed it, I’ll play it while I cook dinner (sometimes over 2 or 3 nights to hear the whole thing) or when I’m working out. If your church doesn’t do podcasts, look up some pastors or churches you have heard of. There are a lot out there, and audio is so much easier to do than sitting with a book.

-We keep our boys with us for the worship, which for us is at the beginning of the service, and then we take them into the nursery. It’s a good balance for us – we worship as a family and they see us at our most interactive part of the service, and then we all split up for our age-appropriate lessons.

-Write scripture on your walls. We have several Bible verses around our house that remind me of how God’s word applies to my busy day: “Give us this day our daily bread” in the dining room, John 3:16 by our front door, “Peace, be still” in our bathroom, and Micah 6:8 in the play room.

Give yourself grace, too. If you aren’t being fed anywhere, maybe it’s time to let Bubette face the nursery and you and hubby split a volunteer gig (so each does one a month) or you find a church with a more generous children’s ministry. This season of life is messy, but God is so near to the frazzled toddler mama. Good for you for thinking these things through.

xoxo

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Tiffany Reply:

Thank you for this, friend. xoxo

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9 Holly { 01.23.12 at 3:54 pm }

This is such a hard balance and something I’ve struggled with. Our church does not have a cry room. Up until about 6 months ago we took our son into service with us. But someone always ended up leaving service to take him in the hall. Or we would just skip church because like you said we didn’t feel like we were getting anything out of it.

We finally put him in the church nursery. He stays with family, so we thought it would be good for him to be around other kids. It took over a month for him to adjust, but now he loves it. That said – we don’t have to volunteer. That would change things. Are you dedicated to this church? Could you find a church without the volunteering issue? Two times a month is a lot.

I know some people are able to keep their kids occupied in church with snacks and toys. Have you tried that? It never worked for us, but it is worth a try.

Another option – all of you go into service together as a family for worship/music/ whatever is before the sermon. Then, when the sermon starts one of you take her to the cry room. Take turns each week and the other one say with your son. Maybe you could get a good mix.

I hope you are able to find a good balance! On another related note – can you tell me what kind of yoga you were doing? Was it a dvd? I’m really wanting to get into yoga, but I’m not sure where to start.

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10 Ernestine { 01.23.12 at 11:12 pm }

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11 Ernestine { 01.23.12 at 11:12 pm }

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12 lisa { 01.24.12 at 8:09 am }

tif – let me tell you…i totally get what you are saying. now can you imagine having 2 boys, and YOU are the sunday school teacher? sunday mornings are one of the toughest days of the week for me. wrestling to get two ADHD boys into suits/dress shoes, getting to service on time, then having to teach them (and in addition to my two kids, we have a 6yr old girl who comes sometimes, and a blind/autistic 16 year old with the mentality of a 6 yr old) who comes every other week. and some days i wonder 1. are these crazy kids even getting anything out of the lessons i present, and 2. i am so exhausted and distracted that do i get anything out of the 2nd service for adults. but the answer is yes. in my spiritual opionion, keep taking your kids to church with you and keep going with your husband. families united in God/Christ need to stay that way. even when it’s hard. especially when it’s hard. this phase will pass. and just being present is a blessing. it’s a blessing to others to see a young family coming to service together. it’s an encouragement to those without kids and the pastor/priest. empty seats…who does that serve? it’s easy to think we don’t get anything out of the services (and i know exactly what you mean and what you are feeling), but just being there the Lord will bless you for your efforts. And in the quiet still small voice that he reaches us with will be available to you before service, after service, before bed, when you wake up in the AM, when you are making kids breakfast, thru the day, speaking to your spirit. God doesn’t need a church to speak to us, and he doesn’t need our devotion. the stones on the ground would cry out and worship him if we didn’t. don’t be discouraged, and don’t worry. raising small children is hard. and as someone previously responded, it’s a great lesson to us of how God feels about “raising” us. Good luck to you and your little family. you are doing the right thing by questioning and yearning for a closer walk with the Lord. but don’t do it by skipping service or splitting up your blessed little clan. this too shall pass, and they will grow. and remember the verse “raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” AMEN! : )

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13 Bonnie { 01.24.12 at 8:12 pm }

Great post! I agree about not getting as much out of mass because I have a 3 year old and 19 month old and I’m constantly trying to keep them quiet and occupied. But I would say don’t split up! Go as a family and sit in the back or in a place where you can run out if you need to but not the cry room. People should respect the fact that you feel it’s important to be there and with all of your family and if they don’t then maybe they will stop coming and then you won’t have to worry about them;). But, as far as faith goes, I have a few ways that I have stayed strong and faithful over the past few years with kids. First, try to get to church a little early so that you can go in and kneel and pray at first. I find that it helps to ease my mind on how bad my kids are being because I know God is seeing I’m trying and holding my hand throughout mass. Another thing is to pray when you’re going to bed at night. I fall asleep when I’m praying 99% of the time but I heard a saying a while back that said “if you fall asleep while praying you are falling asleep in God’s arms. What better way to fall asleep, with him holding you all night!” And third, I have a prayer book (daily devotions by Joyce Meyer-that sometimes speak directly to me and what I’m feeling that day), that I read on the treadmill so I get faith and exercise all at one time. Ask your husband to keep the kids for 5-10 minutes while you get alone to walk, clear your mind, and worship. Only 5-10 minutes will make you feel better about your body and your faith. hope that helps!!

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14 Tricia @ Take 10 { 02.24.12 at 3:26 pm }

Just found you on Bloggy Moms. I wrote a bit about this on Wednesday. You have to do what’s right for your personal beliefs and your family. For us, we split up for now. Our 3-year old is way too distracting.

http://www.take10withtricia.com/2012/02/annual-day-you-get-dirty-day.html
Tricia @ Take 10 recently posted..Let’s Get This Straight…

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15 Erica Smash { 06.14.12 at 10:38 pm }

It is really nice to visit church always. However, if you have some issue on your toddler; perhaps, you could find ways to show faith to God. You could still look for good ways wherein you could still go to church. I am proud of you because even if you are quite busy on your toddler you still want to spend time going to church and it is really fantastic. We must spend time to thank our God.
Erica Smash recently posted..Lose Excess Weight Successfully

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16 Jewel Field { 07.10.12 at 11:07 pm }

I really enjoy reading your post. It is really great bringing kids in the church. At the young age, they must get in touch with God.
Jewel Field recently posted..HERBS AND VITAMINS TO BOOST MEN’S SEX LIFE

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