I don't know how many prayers a 3-year-old is supposed to know, but ours knows The Lord's Prayer and Grace Before Meals and if she's in the mood, she can follow along with some parts of the Mass. (She likes when the sung bits are in Latin because they're more fun than regular English words.) She's heard the rosary being prayed, and the last time was our bus ride to the March for Life, when she prayed along with The Lord's Prayer and counted the beads the rest of the time. But those are pretty much the only types of prayer she's been exposed to thus far.
For the past few years, I've forgone attending Friday night Stations of the Cross because they start at what should be her bedtime and I've felt it was unfair to everyone to drag a baby or a toddler along who would rather be sleeping. (Well maybe she wouldn't rather be sleeping, but her little body would.) We've made Friday night into Movie Night in our house lately, though, meaning she's up past her bedtime anyway, so I figured if we're not going to honor bedtime on Fridays, we may as well squeeze in some holiness. (And we can watch movies on Saturday night.)
Maybe I overestimated how good of an idea this was.
A different group hosts a meatless meal right before Stations every week, and so far, that's been her favorite part. "Is it Friday today? Are we going to have supper at church?" But if we're going to have supper at church, we're going to stay for "special prayers" and that is apparently less exciting.
The first week, Mr Geek had to work night shift, so she and I went on our own. She didn't want to sit still or look at the pictures in the booklet, but she didn't make any noise and she stayed in our pew so it was okay.
The second week, it was once again just us girls, and she had much more energy. This time she wasn't content to stay in our pew and went further and further away, all the while grinning at me with a look that said "I know I'm breaking the rules, and I know you won't get loud about it because this is church." She eventually came back and threw a stuffed animal at me, so I put it in my bag and whispered that we were going to go home. As I started to gather our things she panicked and began yelling, "No! I don't want to leave! No! I don't want to go home!" And I mean yelling. So I scooped her up and quite literally ran out of there- coats dragging on the floor, screaming child in my arms. She definitely knew she was in trouble and leaving church was a punishment that had impact, but I felt so defeated. There were plenty of other children there, many her own age or younger, who had been sitting quietly and even trying to follow along. What was I doing wrong?
The third week, Mr Geek was on day shift and therefore available to attend with us. Having both parents definitely helped- we could physically bound her movement, and the not-currently-pregnant parent could hold the 35 pound wiggle worm more securely, letting her turn the pages of his booklet and eventually encouraging her to participate in the kneeling and standing and kneeling again. She still wasn't quite paying attention- until the end, when she started asking me about the figures in the pictures- but it was the best Friday yet.
The fourth week, everyone had a head cold. We stayed home, ate scrambled eggs and Eggo waffles for dinner (because #pregnancy), and went to bed early.
This week, the Youth Group is putting on Living Stations. I've spent all week preparing Miss Chief for what we're going to see- I explained that it's kind of like a show (a word she currently associates with a performance on stage at a theater) where people will be dressed up in costume, and one of them will pretend to be Jesus carrying his heavy cross. She's been asking lots of questions about it and is looking forward to eating supper at church AND seeing a show there. I'm hoping this will keep her engaged enough to want to pay attention.
Wish us luck.
When did you start taking your little one to Stations of the Cross? How do you observe Lent with small children?