The Cry Room: A Parents’ Guide to Survival

Okay, we’ve all been there — we’ve all been in the cry room.  That awful, horrid place were children and parents are left to live sad, lonely lives — spurned by the families with well-behaved children.

That room where all your hopes and dreams have been dashed to pieces amidst the cheerios, that awful diaper smell, and the other equally pathetic parents who find themselves there.

That room where you are will ultimately find yourself asking questions like,  “What is wrong with me?”  “Why can’t I get it together?” or  “Where did I go wrong? ”

Well I’m here to tell you that you are just fine — in fact, you are more than fine.  You are amazing!

That’s right, you are amazing!  You come back week after week to Church and you end up in the most depressing place known to man — the cry room — on a regular basis — but you keep coming back for more!

Half of the world would have given up going to Mass as a family at this point, but not you!  You are crazy enough to try again next week — to keep hope alive — because you believe that one day things will be different.

Until that day, I tip my cap to you — that is, when I’m not in the cry room myself, far too busy wrangling my own kids to tip my cap to anybody. 🙁

So if you have found yourself despairing in the cry room of your parish, have no fear!

I offer you my 7 Quick Takes on Surviving (And Possibly Even Thriving) in The Cry Room.


You Are Not the Problem

You are not the problem.  The problem is the Internet — I blame the Internet — so I guess ultimately it’s all Al Gore’s fault — let’s blame him, shall we?

Because you have been subjected to image after image of beautiful people interacting with beautiful children on a regular basis on the internet — and they just look so darn perfect!  Images like this one:

How often does this happen in real life? I mean, it’s nice when it happens, but don’t hold your breath. 🙁

Yes, that’s a part of life, but it’s not all of life.  And I dare say, it’s definitely not life with littles in the cry room.

No — life for parents in the cry room is more like this:

I could have done something with my life — I could have been someone. But I’ve grown old before my time and I’m stuck in the cry room. Where did I go wrong? 🙁

So, just know that you aren’t alone — and you won’t always be there!  So give up those pictures in your mind of what Mass with kids is supposed to look like and just accept it for what it right now — a hot mess — but it will get better!  I promise!


Raising Kids is Like Civilizing Barbarians

Some Sundays, you might actually be shocked at your own kid’s behavior in Mass.  My advice: lower your expectations a little bit when it comes to your little one’s behavior at Mass. In fact, lower them as far as they can go and you are much less likely to be disappointed.   🙁

You disgust me with your attempts to appease me with those cheerios — I would much rather bite my sister’s leg under the pew.

Now I’m not saying to allow bad behavior from your kids in mass — not saying that at all — but what I’m saying is that good behavior is something taught, slowly over time, with fits of bad behavior in between.  They are kids, after all.

I believe it was Winston Churchill who said that “raising kids is like civilizing barbarians”.  Or was it Chesterton? No time to do the research.  🙁   I think it’s best to expect barbarian, and work towards civilized.  And we’re not talking weeks, we’re probably talking months or even years.  I know that can sound depressing, but don’t give up!

Your kids will slowly get it. They’ll learn to sit still — and they’ll even learn to “be still with God” — which is essential for their own prayer life.

On a more worldly level, these skills will make it possible to bring your kids out to restaurants and on vacations — and actually enjoy them! You’ll be grateful for all that effort you put into helping your kids behave a little less like barbarians in church.


Your Job is to Remain Peaceful in the Midst of Chaos

Repeat after me, “My job is to remain peaceful in the midst of chaos”.  Repeat it often, especially when you are in the midst of the chaos of life with littles.  Make that your motto, because you are going to need to remind yourself of that often — especially in the cry room!

Your kid might be behaving horribly and you might be tempted to run out of the church screaming — or even worse — you might find yourself curled up in the fetal position, becoming one with the cheerios in the farthest corner of the cry room.

Don’t let it get to that point — just don’t.  You do your job — remain calm no matter what they throw at you — you can do this!  Time to represent!


Just Keep Smiling

A priest friend of mine once offered me a good word of advice.  He told me that when I felt like I was about to erupt into a screaming mess of a person, that I should pretend I’m in a movie.  I remember when he gave me the advice, thinking to myself, “Clearly this man has no idea what it’s like to have kids — this is the most ridiculous advice ever!”.

But then one day, when my kids were driving me particularly crazy, I tried it.  I was sitting by my coffee maker trying to get my morning dose, kids were screaming, milk and cereal all over the ground, and I was about to lose it.

If you’ve seen Elf — that part where he’s singing to his father in the office — that sort of helped me visualize what pretending you are in a movie might look like.

So there I was in my best Elf sing-songy voice, “I’m in a movie, and my kids are driving me crazy, and I’m in a movie, and I wish it would end, but it probably won’t, but I still love you… I love you, I love you, I love you…”

And I started laughing. Who knew celibate males could know so much about the life of a mother?

So bring that advice to the cry room. If your kids are particularly awful, take one step back and see your life like it’s a scene in a movie,  and you just might begin to smile.  And if you can laugh with the other pathetic souls in that cry room — all the better!  Just don’t laugh too hard or you might start to scare people. 🙁

Point is, keep a sense of humor. You’ll find yourself  laughing about all those awful moments and they will become some of your funniest memories — I guarantee it!


Nothing Wrong With a Good Dose of Humility.

The Saints would do crazy things to grow in humility — some  would dress like homeless people and live on the streets, others would rub pepper into their face to make themselves less attractive to others– and though I won’t be rubbing pepper in my face or living on the streets anytime soon, I have to admire their zeal:  this humility must be worth something if they went to such lengths to attain it!

We parents have an almost unlimited resource for growing in humility right under out noses — it’s called parenting.  Let’s not forget that humiliation can help us to grow in humility.   Humility frees us to parent the way we should, and it helps us to worry a little less about what people are thinking about us.

We all want to be admired, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but how many times have we yelled at our kids or given them the old stink-eye because they were making us look bad?  Hmm?  I know that I have been more harsh with my own kids because I felt it reflected poorly on me.

Well, that just smacks of pride, and we need a little humiliation to kill that pride within us!  So thank God for your little saint-makers and allow those moments of awful behavior from your kids to help you to grow more humble and understanding with yourself and others.

You just had to keep up with the Jones’s and dress me in this ridiculous outfit — well now I’m just gonna cry the whole Mass.


Have a Plan

Have a plan.  Best case scenario your husband goes to Mass with you and you tag-team your rambunctious littles together.  Make sure each parent gets a few quiet moments to pray at some point during the Mass and take turns with the difficult ones.

And if you’re really on top of it, read the readings ahead of time in case you don’t get to hear them at Mass.  You can still be thinking about them while your chasing your littles around.

We don’t sweat the occasional shout or babbling — but if it gets too distracting for others, we just walk to the back and accept the fact that we are we aren’t going to be back in the pew for most of the Mass.

By the way, I realize that father’s aren’t always in the picture, or in attendance at Mass — and that makes your task much more difficult and heroic.  But this might be an occasion to take the opportunity to invite somebody to join you for Mass — maybe your need for back-up just might be the cause of somebody’s return to Mass?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help — it could be a really good thing for you and for the person stepping up to help.


Mass is a Prayer

Mass is a prayer, in fact, it’s the highest form of prayer.  So, here’s the thing:  start to see the moment that you enter the church as the beginning of your prayer and the moment that you leave church as the end of that prayer.  So you have roughly an hour long prayer going on with God.

A priest once told me that when you have good feelings during your prayer time — that’s God’s gift to you.  But when you don’t have any good feelings, and your prayer time is dry and seemingly unfruitful — that’s your gift to God.

In other words, no matter how awful and difficult that hour is in mass, as long as you give it all to God as your prayer to Him — then not only will He find it acceptable, but it will actually touch His heart in a beautiful way.

That kind of prayer in that cry room can be far less selfish — and far more loving– than if you were getting everything exactly the way you wanted it, sitting comfortably in a pew.

Make your time in the cry room your prayer to God, and I promise you He’s going to love that prayer from you — far more than you realize!

Have a great weekend!

P.S.  This post dedicated to my cousin, Julie, who inspired this topic in the first place.  I hope it didn’t stink. 🙁

Linking up with Kelly.

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6 thoughts on “The Cry Room: A Parents’ Guide to Survival

  1. Moira- thank you, thank you! This is fantastic and yes, so true. I knew you would have great advice. I’m going to share with my mom friends from St Benedict’s. I know of moms who were so mortified and frustrated by their children’s behavior- (after going from the back pew, to the cry room, to the foyer, to the cry room), they left mass altogether. As you said- that is not what God wants that’s for sure. Thanks again, and thanks for reminding us of His light!

    1. Julie,
      Glad you liked it. I was up against the gun because we had a basketball tournament – so I definitely could have added some more practical things like: Maybe don’t make the cry room too comfortable for the kids — allow the quiet toys, books, and snacks only if the stay in the pew. Or, things along those lines. But, hey, there are always lots of other things to add to a post.
      God bless!

  2. You have such good suggestions- thank you!
    I know of a couple people who just give up because they can’t find peace 🙁
    These are fantastic! You are such a gifted writer. Thanks for taking the time to write for all of us- I seriously don’t know how you find the time!

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