Sunday Scolding

So, I got scolded at the end of Mass today because of M’s behavior. (Which was totally age-appropriate, BTW. He played quietly with his cars, and got a little goofy toward the end.)

The man said to me, rather sternly, “He is old enough to behave.” I smiled at Michael and said, “Mommy’s getting yelled at!” I turned back to the man, smiled at him, and said, “Happy Father’s Day.”

And then we walked away.


High road? Maybe, maybe not. I have seldom been taken to task for my children’s behavior in public. I think this man was solidly out of bounds. I think he expected me to be cowed, and to apologize. If M had been loud and disruptive, we would have left the pew. But I don’t think anyone but this man was bothered.

What would you have done?

ETA: This was the second reading from Sunday. I think this guy missed the point:

“Reading 2 2 Cor 13:11-13

Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

16 thoughts on “Sunday Scolding

  1. NEVER be ashamed of a child in church. Christ said “Suffer the little children to come unto me” not just the well behaved quiet children. As they told me when I first started taking our children to church, it’s a sign of life and hope. The church won’t survive if it alienates the ones that will keep the church alive once we’re gone.

    • My husband had many, many unchurchlike thoughts when I told him the story. He wants to go confront the guy next week and tell him what an asshole he was. I’m going to try to keep that from happening.

      • We have to be witnesses for our faith, and sometimes that means being tolerant. I don’t know, maybe he was ‘shushed’ in church all his life, and for him God means obedience rather than joy. By gently encouraging him to look at things a different way, maybe he will open up to the joy of being present to God in that noisy childlike way that Jesus encouraged. As St. Francis said, We must seek first to understand, rather than be understood.

        A Christian comedian I heard in high school said that some Christians seem like baptism means ‘dipped in vinegar’. I have tried my hardest not to be that kind of Christian, even with those I deeply disagree with. We had a divisive struggle at our church about the approval of a same sex blessing rite, even though no one was interested in being blessed, and we didn’t even have gay people in church! Trying to be open to their perception of a God who cares more about what you do in your bedroom than what you do with the other 23 1/2 hours a day was difficult for me, and I’m not sure I did it all that well.

  2. I am befuddled by older people who criticize parents of young kids, in general, but particularly in church. They should be praying for them, and encouraging them.

    There’s a lady at my church who has a little girl who is probably 3-4 now. I remember she started bringing her when she was an infant, in the heat of summer. We often sat behind them so we could admire the baby. By the time the baby was a toddler, I stopped seeing her. About 18 months later, maybe, she started coming again. We spoke to her and said we missed seeing the little girl, and she said that she had been chided by someone for her toddler not behaving during church so she just stopped coming until she was older and better behaved.

    That makes me sad. That she missed out on mass, which is clearly important to her. That her daughter missed out on mass. That she felt cowed into avoiding mass just to keep other people happy. That she was ashamed of her beautiful little girl. Whoever chided her truly missed the memo of the Gospel. I told her that and we see them regularly now. They often sit near us, because her little girl loves talking to Lee.

    The only time we’ve gotten anything negative (so far! there’s still plenty of time!) is when lee was about 2 months old. He cried every time the organ started, and wailed through every song. Developmental? Not feeling good? Tired? LOUD NOISES? Who knows. But some lady behind us stopped us after mass and said, “I guess he doesn’t get to listen to any music at home, HMMMM?” She was smiling. I just smiled and walked away. I don’t know what her point was. Babies cry. Organs are loud and boomy. So what?

    People, man.

    • Yeah, I was flummoxed by this guy. And he was standing there with a young man (early 20s? late teens?) who I would’ve guessed was his son. I’m glad I stood up for myself. I do wish I had had the presence of mind to quote scripture at him. I would’ve loved to have seen his face if I said, “Jesus says, ‘Bring the little children to me’, sir. What do you think of those words of our Savior?”

      • ‘Sokay.

        Here is behavior for which I would have removed M: Screaming and/or crying. Talking loudly. I did have to shush him a couple of times. Kicking the pew or otherwise making banging noises. Touching other people (aside from me).

        He was quiet, but not still. After the blessing of fathers, he exclaimed, “Yay, daddies!” which most people around us smiled about. He whispered a few questions at me. Right at the end, he got a case of the giggles and was squirmy.

        I think my 9 and 7 year old — I KNOW my 9- and 7-year-old are old enough to behave. They sometimes need gentle reminding to focus. I think it’s acceptable.

        I just put the kibosh on food at Mass. We are done with that now (yeah, M is 3, so). I try to make sure they go potty before Mass so they aren’t in and out of the pew. They need to stay in the pew during the Gospel and homily, and they need to stand, sit, and kneel when appropriate. I like them to say the creed and the Our Father, and give the sign of peace. Flora will sing if she likes the hymn.

        In general, my children are fine in church. Kate acts up sometimes, and needs to be removed (yeah, the 7yo). And M is usually active, but not loud or disruptive. Unless your tolerance is low, I guess.

  3. Were you at your “regular” mass? Was the person making the remark also a “regular” at the mass? When we show up at a different mass than we usually attend (which is rare) we do get some looks. We also sit up front on the side (so the kids can see) so when our kids are loud or obnoxious it can be pretty obvious. We haven’t gotten any dirty looks or anything from our “usual” mass goers in years.

    And you responded probably better than I would have. My response would have been something much more snarky along the lines of being a regular mass attendee, bringing my kids up in the faith, blah blah blah.

    • Yep, regular Mass at our parish. I recognized the man from the community.

      I’m kind of proud that I stood up for myself. I do wish I had quoted Scripture, though. That would’ve been awesome.

  4. Dang, I tried to bribe my kids to memorize the Lord’s Prayer for $5 and they still haven’t done it! I’m jealous. But they’re spending their summer practicing being nice to God’s children at church camp all summer, so that is more important than memorizing a prayer, I suppose. They got the ‘love one another as I have loved you’ and that is enough.

    Do you do the prayers before meals? Who says them and what do you say? Do you say them in public, or when people are over?

  5. That really surprises me! Mass is always a challenge for us with a baby and a 3-year-old, but everyone usually just smiles indulgently as Sarah attempts to entertain herself for an hour. I’ve always felt comfortable in a Catholic Church with children because they encourage everyone to procreate with joy. I probably would have snapped back with something like, “If you have a problem with it, then maybe you’re in the wrong religion.” But that is probably NOT an appropriate response.

    You did the right thing. I hope he feels bad (though he probably doesn’t).

    • Oh, I was *very* surprised. This is our parish. This is where I attend Mass weekly! Sometimes I take just Flora (she receives communion). Regardless, I have never been scolded, glared at, or otherwise made to feel bad because of my children’s behavior. I really do think he was out of line.

      Plus, this is a parish full of young families. This guy was surrounded by children, infants, and toddlers. I don’t know why he singled out M except that we were directly in front of him.

      I think he was just cranky.

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