Keeping a talkative 1 year old quiet in church is one of the most complex challenges a parent can face. There’s no way to discipline a child during a church service. Despite what you may have seen, stern disapproving looks made by desperate parents really have no effect on a 1 year old. All you can do is take them outside. Regardless of what you do once you’re outside, the fact that you’re outside the church means the child has won the battle.
For us, the solution was to establish the importance of using "church voice". We’d bring some books and (quiet) toys with us. So when C became too antsy to take it any longer, he had some distractions. He was allowed to talk as long as he used "church voice" – a whisper so quiet that even the people sitting around us could barely hear it.
The first successful use of church voice was a classic moment. C had made it through the entire service without one outburst. No crying, no shouting, nothing. He had even sung a couple songs.
Now let me take a moment to explain communion to those unfamiliar with catholic church services. Towards the end of the service, everyone files up to the altar area to receive communion and then returns to their seats. Afterwards, very little of consequence happens. Local news is given and there’s a closing prayer. That’s about it.
It’s very bad form to sneak out after communion. That doesn’t stop people from doing it, of course. Particularly people with small children.
J & I had decided to do just that. We were sitting in one of the pews in the back any way, so we figured no one would notice.
Because we were in the back, we were one of the last people to get communion. This meant the music had stopped by the time we got back to our pew. Most of the church was kneeling quietly while the priest stood up to give announcements. We gathered our stuff together and headed for the door. We were using the classic "sneak out of church" form – slightly hunched over, so we couldn’t be seen amongst the people walking back to their pews.
Right as we got to the door, however, C realized what was happening. He turned around and shouted "Bye Bye Church! Hooray! No More Church! Hooray!".
Then he ran out the door, still shouting "Hooray", "Bye Bye Church" and, just for good measure, "Church Voice! Hooray!"
It was that last one that got me: "Church Voice, Hooray!" While J chased after him, I straightened up, nodded politely to the priest (and all the people laughing at us) and quietly left the church.