If this must be posted in the family forum, then a mod please move it there, but I am actually wondering about the most general practice and if this is a faith issue.
I think that it is beautiful that all ages are represented at the liturgy, from infant to elderly. Everyone is a full member.
But I am now on my second small child, and our parish in particular is full of young people in their twenties and thirties. Two years ago there were perhaps about four or so children in the church that were were infants or toddlers. Right now the parish is exploding and there are probably more like 15-20 in this category. But every Sunday for most of the liturgy it is total mayhem and nobody is praying; everyone is staring at the unruly kids. It's not for lack of discipline, it's just that for a two or three year old, two hours is a long time to not have a couple of meltdowns. Times that by about 15 and you get the picture.
I am spending most of my time in the narthex or upstairs in one of the Sunday school rooms just trying to keep my son and daughter corralled. This last week, my non-Orthodox wife actually refused to stay any longer after about an hour. She has a mild to zero level of receptivity to Orthodoxy, but even if she does want to come and explore, she's just trying to keep the kids under wraps with me the whole time. I know that "this is a different kind of prayer", etc., but I can't help but feel like as long as I am hanging out in the Sunday school room most of the time I might as well volunteer to watch other very small children at the same time (mainly infant to age 3 or so).
I am not suggesting that we exclude or remove anyone. I am not suggesting that this be mandatory! But it seems that for the toddlers especially, since there are so many of them, that maybe it would be better to have a room that parents can bring them to if they are really not being cooperative. Even if parents did want to "drop off" their children, they should still take them into the church first to venerate the icons, light some candles and say a few petitions. Also, the children should all come back toward the end of the liturgy to receive communion, etc.
I know this is taboo in many circles, especially to the thrice holy Netodox, but at our parish specifically the number of toddlers is truly a disruption. Imagine the Great Entrance being interrupted or stopping because there are blankets and toys in the way, or toddlers trying every ten minutes or so to run into the Beautiful Gates. Like I said, most of the parents do discipline, but there is also a danger in turning the child off to church if it becomes the place where they go to every week and get yelled at and spanked and told to be quiet. So the parents can't be overbearing.
I asked some parishioners from Serbia how children are handled in that cultural context, and the reply I got is that the children are left with Grandma if one of the parents wants to come to church, but that usually most people don't go every Sunday, and almost never bring small children for all or even most of the liturgy.
For most of us, this isn't an option and doesn't sound like a good one. Having a room only for the very small and energetic where they can song songs and learn about the faith through activities for small children sounds just fine to me, at least for a portion of the liturgy.
So here, after my huge long tirade, is my faith issues question:
What is the practice at your parish? For those of you who are ethnic from the old world or have a lot of experience with this, how are these things handled in the old world?
I'm honestly just curious, but also kind of on the ropes and just trying to come up with a solution. Our parish is very kid-friendly, but even this has started to become an issue for the wonderful and kind people at our parish.
All input is appreciated, but please try to be helpful and not condescending or idealistic. I know that some are hostile to this idea, but even if you are strongly opposed please express yourself in a helpful manner.