Here’s the truth with taking kids to church. It is really hard. We have two children under the age of two, and it is amazing that we get there any given Sunday. I remember a time before kids still, but just barely, so I’m writing a guide for those of you who go to church without children about what is going on with us. Some of these are things I think people are thinking about us, and other are what I have or am thinking about myself.
You do realize that service starts at 8:30, right?
Yes, we do know what time service starts; the same time that is has for years. Yes, we know that we have on occasion (or often) shown up at 8:35 or later and have to scrounge for a seat. Before kids, we could start getting ready a half hour before we needed to leave and we’d be fine. Now, if the process hasn’t started an hour and a half before we leave, we are in trouble. You get the kids up, feed them, change them, get yourself (mostly) ready, fix the children’s hair and find the socks and shoes that have been taken off and go. Then, stop and come back because you forgot to pack the milk in the bag.
You should really shave; you need to set a good example for your children.
Yes, I should shave. I planned on shaving, but then my child filled a diaper that took extra time to change. I planned on shaving, but I was up twice feeding last night and thought that God might appreciate a parent with slightly more sleep and unshaven vs. a clean shaven, asleep at the wheel daddy.
Your constant moving during service was a distraction.
I agree. On a good Sunday I’m pulling in 20% of the service. The rest of the time I’m concentrating on keeping my child from falling and hitting something, pulling pages out of the hymnal or convincing my oldest that this is not the time to practice your animal sounds. I knew this coming into church today, but since I walked in only five minutes early today, all the pews in the back were taken by you and other congregants who seem to avoid the front ones at all costs (yes, this was me for my pre-child years).
We have this fancy cry room in the back, maybe you should check it out
We have. When the infant cries, we head back there to soothe. When the toddler gets hurt or has a meltdown, we head back there. But our goal isn’t to bring our kids to service to learn how to sit through a service where there is no problem talking or screaming. We want them to be able to sit in the pews and learn what they can out there. They can even learn by watching model citizens such as yourself.
But they are still making noise
Yes. They are not in a place in life yet where staying in one place for an hour makes any sense to them. They don’t understand the words coming from up front yet, and they don’t understand how we know when to stand and when to sit. From their view, this is the place where people go to congregate and speak in unison. This is the place where friends catch up on a week of news, where handshakes and smiles are exchanged at no charge, and where there is music. If they want to speak loudly during hymns, I encourage it. If she wants to say hi to those behind us, I encourage it.
That doesn’t explain it all
Here’s our dirty little secret. Sometimes we just let them make noise and be a little reckless. If we don’t relax just a little, then maybe we won’t get any of the message. We weigh the pros and cons of our little chance to glean something from service vs. the minor inconveniences of others.
They need to learn respect
Yes they do. We understand how it may seem they have no respect when they yell “Dada”, or are trying to bend hymnal pages, or drop Cheerios underneath the pew. Well, they don’t have respect. At least not yet. Respect is learned, and we are still working on quiet and please. To be honest, they are probably being as respectful as they know how. They know that “Dada” usually is a good thing, so saying in church and really loud means that they are trying to say the nicest thing they know. They are only rough with the things they like the most, so I guess that means they like the hymnal. Someday soon they will learn that respect means different things within different wall, with things that aren’t theirs, and around people trying to listen.
How can you be so calm about this?
Well, we’re not. We’re mortified when our child yells “Dada” during a quiet prayer. We feel the burns from everyone’s eyes when our child has a meltdown during service.
But we also know that our child yelled “Dada” because to them it was too quiet. We know they had a meltdown because service is during their naptime.
If this service is during nap time, why didn’t you try out our other service times?
Because the early service would require us up at 5:30 (after 5 hours of sleep), the late service is during lunch, and Saturday evening is around supper/bedtime.
Why do you even try?
Have you ever heard a priest say that their congregation is getting younger? It may seem that taking children to service is nothing but work, but that’s not the case. Each Sunday I come away with some little joy they brought me. The interaction they have with the congregants can be so joyous it can spark the joy in Christ’s salvation for us in me. While I’ve never been much of an evangelizer, I take great comfort in knowing that someday our children will know Christ.
What can I do to help?
If you don’t need to sit in the back, save those pews for those late arriving families. We really appreciate it. Other than that, you don’t need to do anything. We do like it when you smile and wave hi to our little ones, and we are thankful when they run off you block them from running up to the front of the church during service. We also understand that you came to church with the intention of interacting with your fellow congregants, and most importantly to hear the word of God, and we do not want to interfere with that.