In the Cry Room

Confession: When I take Michael to church, I use the cry room. When I go to church with just Flora, or just Flora and Kate, I usually don’t. Kate can occupy herself coloring; Flora is supposed to pay closer attention to the mass than she does, but she’s not disruptive. So with the girls I sit in the pews.

When I go with all three kids, though, it’s too much. When Dan comes with us, he sits in the main church with Flora. I sit in the cry room with Michael and Kate. And the main reason I take M in the cry room is so that he has a little bit of space to roam.

In the cry room, M can have a snack. He can play with his cars near my feet. He can walk over to the bookshelf and get a book for us to look at. He can ask for uppie. He’s not a wild child, so I can still sit and listen to the Word of God, and the priest’s homily, and I don’t have to try to restrain him.

However, my current church’s cry room is getting out of control. This past Sunday it was a nightmare.

Here are a few things the cry room is *not* for (said the judgmental mom, I know):

1. It is not for a 4- or 5-year-old child to throw an extended tantrum. If she’s not going to settle down after five minutes or so, please remove her. Go outside (it was a nice day!) or sit in the car. I know it stinks because you’re missing Mass, and I know how hard you worked to actually get the whole family to Mass. I have been in your shoes. But letting her scream for 20 minutes, most of it during the priest’s homily, was pretty awful too.

2. It is not for socializing, three teenage girls in the back. Church is not the place you are supposed to come to catch up with your friends. That’s what cell phones and Facebook are for. And the cry room, especially, is not the place to congregate to talk about classes, boys, and/or Facebook. Please, I’ve got three children here who I’m trying to teach about prayer and church. Your whispering and giggling were rude. And the mom sitting back there with you participating wasn’t cool; she was rude too.

3. It is not for children to run wild. Believe it or not, although we are removed from the larger congregation, it’s not as if that room is a little soundproof chamber. We should, as parents, still attempt to have our children whisper, stay in one place, and not bang on the glass at the front of the room. I fully encourage coloring and looking at books; I even let M roll his cars around on the floor near me, or the seat next to me. Children shouldn’t be running, crashing into each other or the chairs, crashing their toys into each other with sound effects, talking loudly or even shouting. It’s not a rumpus room; it’s a cry room.

4. It’s not for adults to socialize either, by the way. I know that at this point, you can’t hear the priest (I can’t either), and the room is full of loud, tantrumy kids (um, one of whom is yours), and some chatty girls, but that shouldn’t excuse you to plan out the rest of the day with your mom. I hope you had fun shopping, though!

I go to church for a lot of different reasons, and one of them is to be fully present to God. Which I can’t do in a room like this. I suppose I’ll experiment with sitting in the pews with all three kids and see how that goes. M’s kind of the variable here. He’s a good boy, generally not loud. But he’s a mover and a shaker, and at 2 years old, I feel he’s too young for the message “sit still for an hour and be good.”

Where do you go that you wish fellow parents were a little more respectful of the space?

10 thoughts on “In the Cry Room

  1. I say this as someone who has an infant who mostly sleeps and/or looks around adorably during mass: I am glad my parish doesn’t have a cry room. I think the lack of one avoids some of the issues you mentioned, like the girls gossiping or the extended temper tantrum. Not having that escape hatch makes parents teach their children proper behavior. Not that children at my church are perfect. The little boy in front of us yesterday escaped and ran up the aisle gleefully while his dad chased him and his mom put her face in her hands. The lobby is usually full of parents with wee ones, letting them get off some steam. But here’s the big thing, to me: it forces everyone else to practice patience, tolerance, understanding of little ones and their noises, behavior, and distractions. We catholics claim to like children and big families. Cry rooms allow too many people to judge parents with little ones instead of welcoming them. I really don’t think that’s how we should treat families and children. I have never seen parishioners scowl or grumble at loud kids the way i remember seeing at the church i grew up in, which had a cry room.

    • Yes, obviously, NOT having a cry room would solve certain issues. But, arguably, using the cry room properly would too. I had issues with Kate as a toddler in our last church, which lacked a cry room, and I was yelled at by some grannies on a weekly basis, so I have a certain prejudice for using them. I expect by the time M is 4, we will stop using the room, and in the meantime, I’m tempted to send an email to our priest for inclusion in the bulletin or something. Just because it’s easy to abuse something that is kind of based on others’ convenience doesn’t mean I have to deal with it. Also: I AM CRANKY AND INTOLERANT THESE DAYS. So, there’s that, too.

      • Those grannies who yelled at you had no business yelling at you. Patience, tolerance, and understanding are things they should be working on! Grump grump grump.

        Talking to the priest is a good idea, though. He might not even be aware of how it’s being used.

      • I regularly removed myself with Kate to the back of the church. I really did my best. There was one time that Kate was really freaking out, and I almost yelled back at the woman. Was not exactly the best church-going experience.

    • My mother loved to tell the story of my uncle getting me to dance in the aisle during the middle of my mother’s Easter solo and having me go under the pews looking for rolling lifesavers. After 20 years or so its just funny. Not that my kids haven’t embarrassed me, but I’m glad my mom and I didn’t give up because it was embarrassing.

  2. I thought it was the room for me to go to when I got kinda weepy during the service.

    Boy, that’s land-mine territory there. First off, there’s no way teenagers should be in there. There should be a sign stating that the room was for parents of small children only. Ushers should enforce it. The rest of tough.

    My church in Chicago had problems with parents of rowdy children who stubbornly resisted using the cry room because they wanted to stay in the service. Ushers had to be trained to gently ask them to use it when their kids started to disrupt the service. That sometimes offended them. The people around them who couldn’t hear the service were already offended. Someone was going to be offended. Policing the cry room itself is another whole ball of conflict.

    I’ll be in the fetal position over here.

    • I regularly openly weep right there in the pew. I have no shame, sometimes the Word really moves me.

      I do wonder if there’s a policy in place for the cry room. Even an unofficial one from the priest or pastor would be great. Or even a word from them to fellow congregants about what @potpie says: Having children in Mass is a great opportunity to practice patience, tolerance, and understanding. The Catholic community should be welcoming children, and maybe the cry room should be used less by *all* the families in there on Sundays. Maybe it should be reserved for very young children who are fussing, or breastfeeding moms who want to be modest. The rest of the parishoners maybe need to be reminded that barring outright screaming or tantruming, children have a place at the table too (so to speak).

  3. Our church doesn’t have a cry room – just rocking chairs for new moms, a nursery for 1-3 year olds, and children’s liturgy for kids on up to 8 or so. And despite wanting my 2-year-old to be a witness to the Mass, I discovered that it was virtually impossible for me to be, so she now goes happily to the nursery while her dad and I attend and enjoy Mass.

    When she’s older, I hope she can come back in, but for now it’s just not worth the fight.

    • I really wish the Catholic churches in my area would adopt a children’s mass (I think one does, but not the one I regularly attend). And I wish the cry room were more a “new moms/new baby room”. And I wish that other parishoners would save their glares for people who cut them off in traffic and not give them to my kids when I don’t want to go into the cry room.

      While we’re at it, I wish I had a million dollars!

  4. The first time I took my boys to church they made garages out of the hymnals and sat on the kneelers making “vroom” noises. Their other mother had never taken them and I was sure everyone was hating me. And then one of the Older Members came over to me and said how she liked hearing the boys in the back because it meant there was new life in God’s house. We don’t have a cry room and probably won’t because its too hard to add on to a 125 year old builfing but we still like those sounds of life!

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