Over at What Does the Prayer Really Say? Fr. Z. has a post up regarding parental participation at Mass with little ones and the possibility of mom and dad attending separate Masses. Naturally it generated a lot of comments. I made a brief comment then had a few more thoughts.
We attend Mass as a family and that is important to us. Our children are pretty well behaved (now that I have posted that I'm sure it will generate an opportunity for humility at our next Mass) and we are quick to remove one of them if they are disturbing others.
However, having young children at Mass with you truly does make it harder to pray and be fully present to the awesome form of worship God has given us in the Holy Mass. A few things I've learned to do before Mass helps a little. Before we even leave for church, I try to read the readings and decide what my prayer intentions will be. I also decide that I am not going to Mass to 'get something' out of it. I am going to Mass to worship our Lord. I love Him. And to help our children do so as well. If we get something out of it, from an insightful homily, a serene prayer time or a spiritual uplifting from lovely music... that's icing on the cake. But we go for Him.
Several of Fr. Z.'s readers noted that previous generations did not always bring young children to Mass, the parents went separately and still raised holy men and women. St. Therese's family being a prime example. That is true and I'm sure we all know devout Catholics whose parents went to separate Masses when their children were young and fallen away Catholics whose parents did bring them to Mass. It is important to our family to go together as a general rule. But that does not mean it's best for every family, all the time. When the children are little.
One practical thought. Maybe previous generations kept young children at home because bathroom and changing facilities were limited in the older churches and cloth diapering was much more difficult then. The practice of the whole family, with littles in tow, attending Mass together, really seemed to blossom with the availability of disposable diapers.
It is a privilege and a delight to pass on the faith to our children. Helping them, helps us to grow in holiness. Which is what Catholic parents are striving for.