To many people disturbed by children making a noise during Mass, “crying rooms” must seem like an answer to prayer. The children can just go in there, and the problem is solved.

Things look rather different from a parent’s perspective, however. If your noisy child goes into a crying room, with other noisy children, then you have to go as well, and quite probably your other children with you. The problem of the disturbance hasn’t actually been solved: it has been alleviated for most members of the congregation, and made much worse for others. If you haven’t had the incomparable experience of screaming babies in a confined space, you should try some long-haul flights in the holiday season.

To put it bluntly, a parish which wants to segregate and torture those members of its congregation who have had the temerity to produce children doesn’t deserve another generation of members.

This makes it sound like a simple choice about who is going to suffer, but it is more complicated than that. As a parent myself, I would never take a noisy child into a crying room in church, for the simple reason that the child will predictably behave worse in there.

One reason for this is easy to understand: crying rooms are not places they want or need. Sometimes squeaking babies can be got to sleep in a pushchair in a quiet corner. Not infrequently babies and small children respond well to a breath of fresh air. On other occasions, they can be persuaded to play quietly in an open space at the back of church. Crying rooms don’t offer any of these possibilities.

They tend to be confined and stuffy, and can also be crowded; they are almost by definition noisy. If a small child needs to be pacified, it’s absolutely the last place he needs to go.

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