My wife, Melinda, and I just returned home from a two-week trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana where we baby sat our 21 month old grandson, Patrick, while his parents took a mini-vacation. I thoroughly enjoyed fulfilling my role as a grandparent but I realized it’s not as easy keeping up with the little ones as it was 20 to 30 years ago.
Patrick is everything you imagine a lad of that age to be: strong-willed, busy, and rambunctious. And, loud. While he is still trying to form words intelligible to the rest of us, he is pretty sure his vocabulary is second to none and he wants to tell you, and the folks in the next county, all about it.
My daughter and son-in-law were out of town Thursday through Wednesday, which meant we either had to split up on Sunday to go to mass or, if we were to go together, take Patrick with us. Although I’m the father of four daughters, they were all grown before I became Catholic and began going to church with my wife. She had all the experience of taking our older three to church, all of whom were diaper-clad at the same time, and I had none. Thus, I deferred to her best judgement when she said, “Let’s take him with us.”
We decided to attend Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church that Sunday morning and on the way Patrick started showing signs of crankiness. By the time we parked and went inside, the decision was made to partake of mass from the sound-proof cry room. By the time mass began, a half dozen or so other families felt it best to do the same.
Now, the only church I’ve attended regularly is my home church. St. Francis de Sales in Lebanon, OH, and it does not have a cry room. Instead, it has a large foyer, or gathering space, in which parents can take their kids if things get out of hand. I’ve seldom seen more than one or two parents out there who are trying to keep their eyes on their kids and their ears on the Liturgy filtering through the speakers. Rather, most kids are with their parents in the sanctuary and are respectfully quiet. But, I know that Cheerios, juice boxes, Hot Wheels and stuffed animals are all employed for that purpose. I normally sit towards the front of the church and, although I can’t see the young ones back there, I know of their presence by the squeals they occasionally make.
So, I was surprised as I sat in the cry room at OLQH listening to the infants expressing their displeasure about whatever, and watching the toddler / juvenile delinquents run wild oblivious to their parent’s whispered objections. Of course, by this time, Patrick had fallen asleep in his grandmother’s arms with an angelic calmness on his cherubic face. But, it was too late to get up and reposition to the church proper. We were stuck.
Try as I might, I couldn’t concentrate on the mass. The priest’s homily was 27 minutes and I lost focus after the seven minute mark. My attention was on the ruckus going on within the confined space we were collectively occupying. And, more than once, I said a silent prayer of Thanksgiving for “Saint Melinda” for putting up with all this nonsense all those years without me by her side to help. I owe her.
In thinking about the poor parents who make the sacrifice to go to mass and put their patience on the line, the phrase, “I’ve got the cry room blues”, popped into my head. By the time we left church I had half the song written in my mind. On the way home this weekend I tweaked it a bit and added one more verse. I feel obliged to share it with you here:
The Cry Room Blues
(Lyrics by Jerry Robinson with an imagined Memphis bluesy melody)
Gonna go praise the Lord today,
Gonna hear me some o’ that Good News.
I say I’m gonna go praise the Lord today,
Gonna listen to all the Good News.
But all I hear is my baby screaming the Sunday morning cry room blues.
I’d love to sit a bit closer to You,
Up front in the first few pews.
O, Lord, I’d love to sit a bit closer to You,
Up front in the first few pews.
But I’m trapped here in this cry room while my baby’s singing the blues.
My baby needs a diaper change,
Somewhere he’s lost his shoes.
I say my baby needs his diaper changed,
And somewhere he’s lost his shoes.
Now baby’s giving his daddy the Sunday morning cry room blues.
The old folks ain’t got no sympathy,
They’ve all paid their dues.
I say the old folks got no sympathy,
‘Cause they’ve all paid their dues.
Yeah, they’ve done their time singing the Sunday morning cry room blues.
Now, before you think me evil or cold-hearted, let me say that the experience brought me a new-found respect for any parent who chooses to bring their child to church. You could do otherwise and all of us, the parents, children and the rest of us as the whole Body of Christ would suffer. I applaud you! Please don’t stop, especially if you’re afraid to come because your church doesn’t have a cry room. Your squealing and squirming saints-to-be are the future of the church. And, whether you know it or not, they’re watching every move you make. Keep being good examples and good parents! The rest of us have “been there and done that” and understand it’s a right of passage. My wife and many others have successfully made it. You will too. God bless you all!
“Lord, thank You for all the parents who sacrifice their sanity for the greater good of bringing their children to You. Please give them the grace to continue forming their children in Your ways. And, thank You for providing my wife with the patience and fortitude to do the same with our daughters while I chose to sit it out. Amen.”
(The Cry Room Blues was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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