I was never really sure of Church Teaching on children at Mass. I'm relatively certain, though, that all Catholics, children included, are meant to take part in observing Sunday as a day of worship and rest. That being said, I've always been a little unhappy with the thought of taking Vince along to Sunday Masses.
Mind you, Vincent is an extremely well-behaved child (for the most part). He's able to sit on my lap for about 10 minutes at at time, and I can usually keep him content with a book or a small Noah's Ark animal. However, he's 2. He doesn't understand the Mass, and he certainly doesn't understand why he has to sit still when there are so many fun things to investigate (stained glass windows, missals, kneelers, fonts, statues, other people, etc).
As a result, I've tended to leave him home with Daddy. There have been times where I've had to take Vince, though, and I've dreaded them. I end up feeling like I've disappointed God because I'm not able to participate as well as I should. I also then feel like a disgrace as a mother because I haven't been successful at instilling in him the proper patience and reverence that one should show in a church.
Now I realize my expectations are ridiculous. Again, he's 2. He isn't going to be a perfect little angel who knows when to sit, stand and kneel. However, even knowing that doesn't make me feel like any less of a failure, and it reinforces the idea that children his age just shouldn't be taken to Mass. I'd much rather wait until he's 4 or 5. At that point, he'll be able to consistently follow directions, understand consequences for NOT following directions, and appreciate the most basic aspects of the Mass.
In coming to this conclusion (repeatedly), I can't help but feel like I'm doing him a disservice by barring him from being in the House of God. After all, Jesus did say "Let the little children come to me." Doubtful He was only speaking of the good little children who had reached the age of reason. Ha ha. And how will he ever learn if I don't take him and repeatedly impress upon him Catholic etiquette? But still... even understanding these things, I can't help but feel it's not right to bring him when it distracts me, others, and instills bad habits in him that will eventually be hard to break.
I dunno - thus far, Vincent only really recognizes the Blessed Mother and a Guardian Angel who he kisses before bed every night. That's about the extent of religious teaching, though. We'll look at books or I'll say nighttime prayers, but because he hasn't been able to hear them, it's doubtful he even recognizes the words.
Bah - what about you folks? What are your feelings? Even if you don't have kids yet, feel free to take part in the poll. Feel free to expound in the commentary. Thanks!