What’s the least desirable place inside any church to attend Mass? The cry room, of course. Spending time inside a cry room is a little bit like visiting a mini war zone or taking a trip back to the wild, wild west.
You step into a crowded cry room and immediately feel, and sometimes smell, the angst in the air. Kids are flailing and screaming. Cheerios and other snacks are being dropped and stepped on. Toys are flying through the air. Children are putting each other in headlocks. Noses are running aplenty. Dirty diapers and other sticky things are all over the floor like like popcorn and candy in a move theater. And sippy cups and bottles are spilling left and right. (Don’t let the spill-proof label fool you.)
Some parishes give their cry rooms happy names or even name the rooms after saints. (That’s a stretch.) At least that is classier than calling it something more realistic such as the Cain and Abel Room.
At this point you may suspect I’m a cranky get-off-my-lawn curmudgeon with no children. Not at all. I have two little girls, and my wife and I love bringing them to Mass every Sunday. Read on and perhaps you will have a few laughs.
I would like to propose to you the cry room of tomorrow — a place where future generations of Catholics (and the design can be adapted for other faiths) can avoid the present-day pitfalls of the place you go during Mass when your kids go crazy. It’s called the Cry Room 3000, or the CR 3000 for short.
The standard design of the CR 3000 will include the following features:
Double Airlock Doors
Perhaps you’ve seen these in banks. In order to access the CR 3000, you have to pass through two sets of doors. Whenever crying children are huddled together in one place, at least a couple of kids are bound to make a run for it. The double doors will help prevent escapes by safely confining your little fugitives long enough for you to take them back into custody.
The temperature in many cry rooms I’ve visited seems to be uncomfortably warmer than the rest of the church, regardless of whether it’s summer or winter. Maybe it’s just the stress that increases everyone’s body temperature and makes the room unpleasantly warm. It’s essential that the CR 3000 will have a separate climate control system that will automatically maintain a temperature five degrees lower than the rest of the building.
“Thou shalt not bring food or drinks into the church.” In cry rooms that may be the rule people ignore the most. Every parent of small children knows that you need to have an emergency supply of snacks on hand at all times. This results in those snacks being dropped, spit out and crushed all over the cry room. The simple solution for the CR 3000 is to have a Roomba robot vacuum automatically deploy 15-minutes after Mass to clean the floor. The system also will be able to detect when there is a severe amount of crumbs and spills and send the robot out during Mass in emergency situations.
I know what you’re thinking. Some babies and toddlers are afraid of vacuums. Just paint it like a puppy or kitten and the kids will love it.
Stain Proof Everything
Whatever it is that gets spilled in cry rooms is sure to stain any surface. So the furniture, floors, walls, windows, doors and ceiling will incorporate the same technology used in stain-repellant clothing. Whatever the children try to smear, smudge and spill all over the place will simply roll off the surface and get sucked up by the vacuum robot later.
Near the ceiling of the CR 3000 will be an automatic air freshener dispenser that will release one squirt every ten minutes. The device also will be able to detect unusual spikes of odor in the air (during severe diaper blowouts, etc.) and activate sooner as needed.
Even with the audio of the Mass piped into the cry room, if the children are loud enough — and they usually are — you still don’t always get to hear what’s going on. The CR 3000 will have Bluetooth headphones so parents can listen to Mass while still monitoring their minions.
Line of Sight View
Besides trying to hear the Mass while in a cry room, it’s nice for parents to be able to see what’s going on too. Adding closed circuit TV screens is an option. But actually seeing the altar for real is preferable. Surprisingly, some cry room windows don’t have a good view of the altar. I’ve been in a few that have seriously obstructed views, like the cheapest seats in a stadium. The CR 3000 will be designed to have a clear line of sight to the altar. And the window will be made of one-way glass so those on the outside in the main church won’t be able to stop and gawk at the chaos in the cry room through the window like they’re at the zoo or the maternity ward.
If your parish is going to provide song books or missalettes in the cry room, there’s an inherent risk that these materials will be torn, stained, chewed, sneezed on, slobbered on or otherwise destroyed. The CR 3000’s song books and missalettes will be manufactured in the same manner as more durable “board books” for babies.
Everything in the CR 3000 will be touch free to limit contact with germ-infested surfaces as much as possible. The double doors will open automatically. If the cry room has its own bathroom inside (that’s an option with the CR 3000), the toilet, sink, and paper towel and soap dispensers will be able to be activated without making physical contact other than — ahem — when you’re sitting down. The bathroom also will have its own high-capacity vacuum robot and automatic air freshener that will activate in between every user. And there will be multiple dispensers of hand sanitizer throughout the cry room placed at a safe level out of reach of the children.
The CR 3000 will feature a convenient diaper-changing station stocked with emergency supplies in case you forgot something. If you are worried about theft (stealing every diaper instead of taking just one), there’s a vending machine option. The vending machine will stock diapers, wipes, pacifiers, snacks, juice boxes and sedatives (for the parents, I think). Next to the diaper table will be one of those fancy diaper disposal devices that hermetically seals each dirty diaper in a bag to prevent the escape of odor.
Communion Express Lane
The CR 3000 will have express Communion service, either by having dedicated Eucharistic ministers just for that room, or a priority line to the front so parents can go first. Yes, I know that as Christians and Catholics we are supposed to be patient. But if your little ones have been running amok in the cry room and suddenly you have to round them up like a rodeo cowboy and haul them through the Communion line, it’s just better that you get up there and back as expeditiously as possible.
Secondary Cry Room
Finally, I want to tell you about an expensive but highly desirable add-on feature of the CR 3000. Whenever I’ve been in an especially wild and loud cry room, I’ve always thought that the cry room needs its own secondary cry room inside it so that the loudest of the bunch can be hauled off somewhere else. I know I’m not alone in thinking this way. Note that one church cry room has a sign telling you to take “seriously unhappy children outside.”
I’m sympathetic. But my wish is that we don’t let cry rooms be a wild free for all. We’re still in Mass when we’re in the cry room, so we should attempt to calm our children and try to focus on Jesus. And the sooner that we can get our children to experience Mass from inside the main church, the sooner they will learn the joys of attending and paying attention every Sunday.