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Church “Cry Rooms”: What have they become? July 14, 2010

Filed under: Let's talk about ... — twinningattitude @ 9:42 pm

This past Sunday, while sitting in our church’s “cry room” (you know, that glassed-in room in the back of the church that never has enough chairs and is usually hot and muggy because the door must remain closed), I decided that it was the LAST time we would sit in that room.

I’ve made that decision more than once, but became forced to return simply out of consideration for the sake of the others in the main congregation.

you never know when they'll just “go off”

When my first twins were babies, I actually looked forward to joining the ranks of families in the cry room. Why? Because I was now part of that awesome club … the club I used to longingly gaze at while my husband and I sat alone in the main congregation week after week for years and years. In that cry room back in our church in Gainesville, moms, including myself, nursed and soothed babies while toddlers played or colored quietly at their parents’ feet.

For a while, I enjoyed the weekly experience, believing that we were all in that room because our babies and toddlers simply couldn’t be expected to remain quiet throughout the length of mass. As time went on, I began to notice how some families used the cry room as a “play room” of sorts allowing their toddlers to roam the room, play with lots of toys and even join the children of other families. I inwardly stated that this behavior was not what these rooms were for, but were for crying babies, and for training our toddlers in the ways of proper church behavior … with the goal of eventually behaving and controlling their own behavior enough to earn the privilege of sitting out with the rest of the “big people”.

When Kathryn and Lauren were three years old, we’d basically surpassed the uncontrollable, sudden outbursts (okay, almost), and decided to have a graduation from the cry room ceremony and celebration. Although there were occasional instances where one of us had to take one of our girls to the back of the church, we were glad to be out of the cry room.

When Erin and Brandon came along, back to the cry room we all went, again noting how so many other families considered this room a place to play, talk, act up without consequence, while eating everything from zip lock bagged gold fish crackers (as we did) to having brought in McDonald’s happy meals … seriously! Again, at age three, Brandon and Erin graduated from the cry room, and again, we celebrated!

When Sean and Ben arrived, I insisted that my older children sit together in the general congregation right outside the cry room because we wanted them to listen and participate in the liturgy as opposed to being distracted by the noises in the cry room. In the beginning, I nursed the babies to keep them quiet, but now at 2 and 1/2, and still difficult to keep quiet at times, I feel that it’s only courteous to the rest of the parishioners that we stay in the cry room a little while longer.

Recently, to my extreme disappointment, I’ve noticed that biggest difference between now and my earlier two experiences. Electronics. Parents allow their children to bring electronic games, cell phones, iPods, and, believe it or not, I spotted a child with an iPad playing a noisy Harry Potter game!  OMG!!!!

during a church sermon? really?

So last Sunday, as we sat trying to keep our own young children quiet and occupied with some books, while maing every effort to listen to the scripture readings, Gospel and sermon through the PA system in our glassed-in room, we were all distracted by beeping, game music and the realization that parents now actually bring their 4 and 5-year-olds into this room (without having younger siblings) simply to let them PLAY during mass. I was floored. When I wondered to myself, “what parent allows this?”, I immediately got my answer when I realized that those boys’ dad was actually texting on his own cell phone … wow.

My hope is that some changes can be made, and some rules can be put in place and ENFORCED somehow, perhaps through both vocal and written announcements.

What do you think? Am I alone in my disappointment with this trend?

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8 Responses to “Church “Cry Rooms”: What have they become?”

  1. Trish Says:

    I left the cry room at my previous parish when multiple generations of a family sat in there talking about what they were doing for lunch after church. I was so distracted that I missed the beginning of the Creed.
    I visited a parish that had tiny cry rooms with no chairs. The pastor put a sign on the window saying “Father expects your children to be part of the Mass, and understands they make noise. He also understands sometimes they get TOO restless to join us and you have to settle them down. So once they’re quieter, please bring them back to the pew with you as part of the community to which they belong.”
    It was a very nice way of saying “junior has to learn how to behave in church somehow, and hiding in here will not help him learn that”.

  2. … and so, I think that I will ask our pastor to do just that!!!
    Trish … great comment, and thanks so much for your input! What I’d not mentioned in the article was the fact that the “mom” of the electronically-savvy preschoolers was just chatting away with another woman on the other side of her, basically throughout the entire mass!”
    Yep, gonna do SOMETHING to make this change!
    Thanks again!!!

  3. Beth Says:

    I saw your blog title on Multiples and More and had to come read it. This is a major pet peeve for me. I believe that all children should be expected to behave to the best of their abilities during mass. Everyone understands that the best of a 2 yo’s abilities does not include sitting still and quiet for a full hour, but even in the crying room, they should be trying and the parents should be encouraging them to be still and quiet and listen to the mass. I too have been horrified at out crying room. How can my husband and I be back there with 4 nearly two year olds (and our 4 yo, but he can be good through mass) and not be the loudest family? Parents use the crying room as an excuse to not teach their children how to behave in church. This ruins the room for those of us who are trying to use it for its intended purpose! I liked the sign the first comment mentioned. These parents obviously need a reminder that they need to teach their children (and certainly themselves!) proper behavior during mass.

    I just found your blog recently and I so impressed with you and your family! You always seem to keep such a positive attitude.

    • Hi Beth … WELCOME!!
      I’m so glad you decided to share your thoughts … I totally agree that this trend of “crying room = play room” must stop. Unfortunately I believe that so many parents today subscribe to the philosophy of “it taking a village” to raise a child, and allowing their children to roam around in cry rooms “socializing” with other children. When this happens to us, as we try to keep our toddlers quiet and behaved, I want to take this “visiting child” by the hand and lead him or her back to his family. I fight the urge to want to shake some sense into these “permissive” parents! “Hello??!! We are at MASS, not a PARTY … do you mind??!!” … But I don’t, of course. :o)

      I’ve decided that I WILL ask our pastor (who is a family friend) to please allow a sign like the one that Trish had spelled out for us to be posted FRONT AND CENTER in our crying room, and see if it makes any difference.

      Thank you again Beth ~ I’m concluding that since you noted that you have 4 nearly 2-year-olds that you have quads … AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!! (AND a 4-yr-old), wow, you’re so blessed!
      Please continue to visit this blog and share your comments along the way!

  4. Kelly Emilio Says:

    Haven’t used the cry room yet, but I think my husband is ready to start putting them in the nursery. They are probably alright for the most part, my husband just feels he can’t really learn anything with the boys there (mostly they break down during the eucharist). We have always sat in the front row of the church (I know that is crazy), but now we sit in the front row on the side of the Alter so I can just step out the side door til they stop crying.

    • Hi Kelly,
      We could usually hang out with our babies in the main part of church (unless they were really fussy and wanted to nurse) until they hit around a year and 1/2. We had our own spot that most people knew we had at our regular mass, which is was toward the back but still in the main part of church. When my little ones would no longer would stay in the stroller and started to get really loud, we knew “cry room” days had arrived.
      We’ll see how much longer we can stand it … but they should be “graduating” by this fall when they turn 3!!
      Thanks so much for your comment!!

  5. Karen Quaiel Says:

    I am past the “cry room” stage but I too had been surprised and angry at times of the pure lack of teaching/discipline parents were giving their children. It was like they would say, “we went to church” but didn’t really go….Our current church doesn’t have a ” cry room” but the ouside “greeting area” is very large, has multiple chairs and a TV that has the service live….I actually stopped going to church when the cry room was my only option–I wasn’t getting anything out of it. Once I was able to leave them with my husband (work issues), I would go alone. Even to this day, I enjoy going alone…no distractions. Either ban the cry rooms or have rules of conduct….(I vote rules!)

  6. Hi Karen!
    Thanks so much for your comment!! Yeah … I think it’s gonna either be enforced (and FOLLOWED) rules, or we hang out in the back if needed!
    Oh, I’ll tell you, when I have the opportunity to go alone (on RARE occasions) or if I take the older kids while Bruce stays home with sick toddlers, it’s enjoyable so fulfilling to listen, participate …. and sit with the “big people!” :o)


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