Parents deal with a lot of judgement when it comes to the topic of bringing young children to Mass. But, I want to share what it did for me last weekend, and many times in the past.
I want you to know your children offer me a way to pray better. I close my eyes and make a toddler's whine my own whine to God about how things are going. I can join my sorrow to the real sorrow of a little girl bawling on her daddy's shoulder as I offer my sorrows to my Daddy in Heaven. I feel like the traveling companion of St. Ignatius who knew he couldn't pray well, so he would watch others praying and join his prayers to their devout, and zealous, dispositions. Your children are expressing the emotions of the Church and reminding us how we should approach God. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus tells us "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven." Most of us, in our obligation to be an adult for so many people, have forgotten how to be a child with God.
Your children provide a real-life visual for me to remember what it means to be child-like. They show me that I need to be lively (thank you, dancing girl who was clapping during a song). I need to be trusting (thank you, little dude who kept diving off his pew with full confidence that his dad always had him covered). I need to be unafraid (thank you, plucky toddler who confidently walked up to give money to Father without caring that she had passed him and was up on the altar).
And parents with rambunctious children, you are modeling something too, even in your stress. You constantly, unknowingly model for us the love of the Father. Your actions in Mass remind us of what parental correction looks like, affectionate looks, strong comfort, and more. It's a great prayer for me to watch a little girl snuggling with her Father as I place myself in my Father's arms. So, keep bringing them and know that this Catholic adult appreciates you and your family's presence even with (and especially with) all of the mischief that comes with it.