I’m with Janet. Kids who can see are much more likely to pay attention and behave in mass. My wife and I switched to 2nd or 3rd row sitters and saw an immediate decrease in bored child syndrome. Until they are three, this can be difficult at times and can necessitate a trip to the cry room, but overall it is much easier because they learn to behave more quickly and are more motivated to pay attention. At about 1.5-2 years of age I start to quietly and gently stick my finger in their mouth everytime they talk to get the point across that talking in mass is unacceptable and tastes bad to boot. Those are a couple strategies my wife and I use.
I agree that Mass should not be silent as a tomb, and that children should be welcome. But, at the same time, there is such a thing as decorum, and parents have some responsibility to ensure that their children’s antics are not too distracting to others.
For example, I was recently at a Mass attended by many young families with small children, which is wonderful, but during the Mass children were wandering up, past the altar rail, around the altar, and even behind the tabernacle. Then their parents would scamper up and fish them out. This was going on even during the consecration! It was nice, obviously, that the parish was very welcoming to children, but even for children some things are inappropriate.
cburrell writes : “there is such a thing as decorum”
Which is why I take mine out to the hall or outside, as opposed to parents who demand the unnatural from their little ones by forcing them to be silent and still.
My children have grown up loving going to Mass, and when old enough ride their bikes to daily Mass. What I look for are results, and the result I want are children who breath the Faith and can’t imagine or want it any other way.
Children in the sanctuary wandering about is obviously completely unacceptable, and is not a matter of welcoming children but a matter of parents treating the Mass disrespectfully. On the other hand, children moving about and making minor noises in the pews or getting up to use the bathroom and such is reasonable.
Over the years I’ve had my fair share of confrontations with people thinking my parenting style is too lax, or a priest dedicating his homily to parents who don’t force their children to be silent and sit still, and similar. But such occurrences are to be expected when living in a society that does not have a Catholic culture to establish expected norms, or worse yet, norms that are not Catholic and thus in turn lacking a holistic understanding of what is proper to us.
Yes, we take ours out as well, but in consequence one or both of us usually misses most of the Mass. We would prefer if that weren’t the case.
My basic view is that the parish should warmly welcome families with small children, and should never make them feel unwelcome, but that parents, for their part, should be aware that their children, cute though they be, can be distracting to others, and should do whatever is age-appropriate to keep them from being too disruptive.