Last week we received a letter from “Tired of Tagalongs,” who was dismayed because her visiting teacher insisted on bringing her joined-at-the-hip five-year-old with her every month to visit teach, even though there were several adults at home who could have taken care of the child. “Tired” said that this particular tagalong went everywhere with Mom, even shunning Primary to sit with her in Relief Society.
The responses we received were impassioned ones. Nobody sat on the fence. Half the readers had horror stories of their own, and the other half believed “Tired of Tagalongs” was lacking in spirituality and compassion.
As usual, I’m running the letters as I opened them so you’ll be volleying from one extreme to the other. I hope you enjoy the ride.
I agree with the writer of the letter. The child is too old to be a 100% tagalong. It is a breach of privacy to expect someone you visit teach to open up in front of the girl. I would be asking for a new visiting teacher.
What is this family going to do when the child is old enough to start public school? They are doing this child a huge injustice by not teaching her how to interact with others and to venture off to Primary on her own. This child is missing out on the blessings of Primary.
I agree with you, Grandpa, that a child is going to get a whole lot more out of Primary than she will out of a Relief Society lesson. Let’s see what the other readers have to say.
This is a serious issue, and I think this occurs more often than our leaders realize. I have had visiting teachers who have come with children, and frankly, it was more stressful to have them visit with a child they turned loose in my house than if they hadn’t visited at all.
One suggestion would be to ask the sister if she could come alone with her companion so you could talk together in confidence – that you really need the “adult time” away from parenting responsibilities and the ears of little children. It is stressful for children to hear conversations about problems and struggles that they can’t understand. They often imagine much worse than what is said, so ask from the viewpoint of the best interest of her child.
I think this is something that the Relief Society presidency should be made aware of so they can discuss it in their presidency meeting. It might be wise to pass it on to ward council, if it is an issue that exists across all church-related settings. Although we don’t want to offend/ alienate members, they do need to be taught.
That sister’s visiting teacher or home teacher or bishop might be able to discuss this issue in the presence of her husband (the child’s father), and ask him to support her by making sure she has childcare for church assignments like visiting teaching, to have that time to interact with her Relief Society sisters uninterrupted.
Please handle this situation with love and respect – with an attitude of teaching and encouraging rather than complaining or criticizing. Find someone else to vent your frustrations to, so they don’t just slip out in an impulsive moment.
I am so sorry this happens. We should all try to be more sensitive to the needs of those we are trying to serve. This question has caused me to pause and consider my service and whether I am being as sensitive as I should! Best wishes to you as you try to sort this out.
Becky from Indiana
I really liked your letter, Becky. I especially liked your admonition to “liken all letters to ourselves” – in other words, to look at a situation that may not apply directly to us and to let it serve as an inspiration to examine our behavior in other areas. That’s something I especially need.
Children find adults plain boring and can’t remember what they hear during normal conversations. They can’t even remember instructions five minutes after they heard them, let alone what a lady said when venting about something.
Kids should not be present at adults’ activities unless there is an emergency, i.e. lack of Primary teachers on Sunday, illness, or something else that is out of the ordinary. This lady should know better, and those around her, including the bishop, should make the point of what is not appropriate.
As a child who loved to eavesdrop on adult conversations, Franz, I can attest that even though I didn’t remember instructions five minutes after I heard them, I definitely remembered the good stuff. I didn’t have any inhibitions about repeating what I heard, either. (Hmm. Maybe this is why I was a child only a mother could love.)
From my own experience, I believe that nobody should ever underestimate a child’s ability to understand what adults are talking about or the child’s interest in what the adults have to say. Maybe this doesn’t apply to all children, but it applies to enough of them that I would never say something in confidence when a child was in earshot.
Of course we’ve all done it, but I agree that children should not be brought along on visiting teaching appointments. It’s really not appropriate to have little ears soaking up all that is being said. Children don’t always have the ability or maturity to filter and understand adult conversations in a way that makes sense to them. They also take things quite literally and may have concerns about what they have heard. They are also walking tape recorders and you never know when they might ask questions or disclose information in a public setting that was meant to be private.
This isn’t the only reason why we shouldn’t take our children with us to visit teach. It only took one incident where one of my little darlings knocked over a glass candlestick onto a glass table top before I resolved that he would never accompany me again! Fortunately nothing shattered, but once children are mobile it’s time to begin making other arrangements for their care so you can make your visits distraction-free, stay open to the whisperings of the spirit, and give your complete attention and focus to the needs of your sisters.
As in my experience it’s just not safe to bring your children into the homes of sisters who either don’t have children, or who no longer have young children and their homes are not baby-proofed.
Elderly sisters can be easily startled or upset by active or boisterous children, especially if they try to play with treasured possessions as if they were toys.
It’s very common now to have husbands working out of the home, and there is nothing more unprofessional than having a conference call with your boss while children in the next room are crying or occasionally screaming in the background!
I’ve had many a visit where mothers turned a blind eye while their little ones were allowed to run upstairs to an unsupervised room and systematically dismantled everything within reach. Their moms had a great visit, but I was on the edge of my seat the whole time wondering what they were getting into.
My daughter who is a newlywed recently commented on being excited to have her first visit from her new visiting teachers, only to have their little ones go into her husband’s office and pull out every game they owned and dump all of the contents into a giant pile. Game cards were bent and the children were running around with little game pieces in their mouths. At one point a chair was knocked over, but it wasn’t until there was the sound of breaking glass in the next room that one of the mothers went in to check on them.
I think we all try really hard to keep our homes nice and a little bit of heaven on earth, so it’s upsetting to have an experience like this one. Not to mention it’s awkward to be the one to have to speak up about the inappropriate behavior of someone else’s children.
The best place to start is to try and trade babysitting with other visiting teachers who also have young children, going in the afternoons or evenings when your husbands or older children are home and able to watch the children, or sending letters or cards on the occasions when that isn’t possible.
Some sisters are fortunate to have close friends, grandparents or other relatives nearby who are available and willing to help out but if you don’t, you can arrange to meet in your back yard or a local park where your children can safely play while you visit nearby and can still keep an eye on them. Trust me – she won’t mind and in fact will probably be very grateful!
In the end, if it’s just not working out let your supervisor know and maybe changes can be made to accommodate your needs as well as those of your children. It’s almost impossible to try to feel spiritually fed when surrounded by chaos, so please show kindness and consideration for those you are assigned to visit by leaving your children safely at home.
Someone Who’s Been There
You’ve got some great suggestions, Someone. My eyes are still bugging out of my head after reading the story from your newlywed daughter. There’s not much that leaves me at a loss for words, but her experience was one of those occasions.
I congratulate the mother of Tagalong for getting her visiting teaching done. I am curious about what kind of discussions that Relief Society has, because mine does not have anything like bodice-ripping discussions or anything else a child should not hear.
Did the beleaguered sister try talking with her visiting teacher about her desire for an adults only visit?
Those working from Tagalong’s home trying to earn money might consider Tagalong a major distraction. That would make it rough on Mom and Tagalong.
It sounds as if there are more issues here than there are details. As President Monson said, “In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.”
Wow, Judy. If anyone has bodice-ripping discussions in Relief Society, I want to know. They sound interesting!
All humor aside, I’ve heard plenty of discussions in Relief Society that weren’t appropriate for children to hear. As Someone said in the previous letter, “Children don’t always have the ability or maturity to filter and understand adult conversations in a way that makes sense to them.”
I agree with you that there are more issues here than there are details. The people in both sides of this issue have situations that need to be considered. Thanks for pointing that out.
The first person we need to improve, in this life, is ourselves. I believe as we pray and seek help to get the beam out of our own eye, Heavenly Father will help us know how to deal with our inner feelings. But first we have to acknowledge it is us with the problem and our negative attitude. We can only fix ourselves.
As we seek understanding, as to how to change our attitudes and become more like the Savior, understanding comes and eyes open that never would have, when we were concentrating on what we perceive to be wrong in another. It does take a lot of humility to accept this and work with it and we must be devoid of pride, but we all have weakness and we are to thank Heavenly Father, in all things – even those things that test us and try to pull us from the path.
We are here to be tested. Heavenly Father loves us enough to give us tests, and we need to thank him and pray always.
Thanks for that counsel, Myrna. We all need to remember to look at situations from all perspectives, and to consider viewpoints that are not the same as our own.
I agree with the questioner. Bringing small children or any children visiting teaching on a regular basis is not a good idea. Now if all the parties involved have children and they are all going to play in another room, maybe.
This letter reminds me of several incidents. I once had visiting teachers who brought all of their children, four in total. Some were very small. I no longer had children at home. Imagine my surprise when on a visit my one visiting teacher brought out Cheez-Its to feed her toddler while sitting in my white living room. Needless to say, that the orange dye did not come out without a cleaning bill.
So next I decided to meet in the family room where the furniture was more kid-friendly. This time her toddler took one of the glass elephants that were sitting on a table and walked into my kitchen and threw it to the floor, where it crashed into the tile. I picked up everything and then after they left tried to find the elephant to see if I could reattach its ear and leg. The woman had put the broken elephant in her bag. She stole my broken elephant.
I then told them they could meet me at the church and visit teach me there as I was “just too busy.” I told the Relief Society president that they could not come back. Now when I get a new visiting teacher I ask if they are planning on bringing kids. I tell them I do not have a kid-friendly home.
I have grandchildren, but my grandkids have never tried to eat in my living room or play with my glass elephants. Sometimes people don’t use the brains that were given them.
My daughter who has no children had her visiting teachers ask her to meet them at a park so their kids could play on the playground equipment. She thought this was a good idea until all the two visiting teachers wanted to do was talk to each other about their children, leaving her completely out of the conversation.
We also had a woman in one of our wards that always brought her children to adult functions. She stopped when I would not let the kids keep walking in front me to get to the other side of the classroom between chairs. She left in a huff but I was not letting the kids wander the room. People just need to put a foot down. Adult means adult.
Leave Your Kids at Home
The purloined elephant story was priceless, Leave. The Cheez-Its story wasn’t far behind. I hope the reason your visiting teacher stole your broken elephant was so she could try to find a replacement, but one never knows. As you said, “sometimes people don’t use the brains that were given them.”
I think this can be a big problem sometimes. I have five kids of my own and I try to schedule my own visiting teaching appointments for when their dad or an older child can watch them. If it’s not possible to have someone to watch my kids, I ask to make sure it’s ok first before bringing my children or ask to meet at a park where the kids can play while the women visit. This way the kids are busy playing and not intruding on the conversation and also aren’t making a huge mess at anyone’s house we’re visiting. Maybe you could politely suggest that you meet at a park close by so that the five-year-old wouldn’t be “bored” and so she could play while the moms got to talk.
If subtlety doesn’t work, then I’m sorry, but really there doesn’t seem to be an easy way around this without being blunt about it. If you feel like you can’t discuss this with the five-year-old’s mother, then maybe pull the other visiting teacher aside and explain your concerns to her. If that’s not going to do it, then I suggest speaking with the Relief Society president, express your feelings and ask that she address your concerns by either speaking with this particular sister directly or ask her to supply you with new visiting teachers that come “tagalong” free.
The Relief Society president should also be the one to maybe suggest to this mother that Primary might be a better fit for her daughter, especially when certain lessons should be adult-only lessons. I remember sitting through a Relief Society lesson where the bishop came in and spoke to us matter-of-factly on pornography. I cringe to think of a five-year-old being in attendance for a lesson like that.
I think often that this is not a problem with the child, but a problem with the parent not being disciplined enough to teach their child to become more independent and go to Primary. Also, the mother may be so accustomed to always having her tag along, that she has become oblivious to the problems it might be causing. If that is the case, merely having a talk with her about it might bring the situation to her attention.
I know a woman in a ward where she brings her eight-year-old daughter with her wherever she goes and she has heard plenty an adult conversation or lesson that wasn’t appropriate for her ears. It’s unhealthy for kids to be put in those types of situations, and puts a burden on them that they shouldn’t be having to deal with at such a young age. Also, this particular child in fact thinks she’s a little adult and sometimes has an attitude to go with it.
The sooner someone steps up and says something, the better it will be for the five-year-old. If it’s a particular touchy or difficult situation, then might I suggest even approaching the bishop with your concerns as well. Good luck. Stepping on a parent’s toes is always difficult to do, especially when they seem to think there is nothing wrong with what they are doing!
A Mother in Texas
You brought up a lot of good points, Texas. I think a lot of these concerns should be addressed to the Relief Society president. It may be a burden on her to have to deal with tagalong situations, but burdens are part of the Relief Society president’s territory. The buck stops with her.
Just as every teacher has a different philosophy as to how to teach, every parent has a different philosophy for how to parent. It may be different from what we would choose, but it’s for the parent to decide. If a “tagalong” is interfering with your experience with your visiting teachers, however, you may want to discuss it with your Relief Society president and request a change in who visits you.
Robyn in Utah
Thanks for the input, Robyn. I think a consultation with the Relief Society president may be just what the doctor ordered.
I agree with Tired of Tagalongs. The child should stay at home during all adult events and go to Primary on Sunday and not go visiting teaching.
Perhaps at the visiting teaching interviews held once or twice a year by the Relief Society Presidency a suggestion could be made to Tagalong’s mother, at least about visiting teaching.
Perhaps the Primary presidency could take it upon themselves to see that the child is brought and left off at Primary on Sunday. If those at adult parties do not want children present, I suggest that you put it on the invitation or flyer.
I’ve had six children. None were tagalongs. It’s not healthy for mother or child.
Mom of Six
Thanks for that last sentence, Mom. What is convenient (and sometimes what may seem like the only solution) may not be the best solution as far as the long-term health of mother or child. I’m glad you pointed that out.
Initially, I sympathized with Tired of Tagalongs. When women are older and live alone, they often have a house that is not child friendly and sometimes there is way too much commotion, but that wasn’t the reason she gave. Her reason was that she felt uncomfortable divulging private information with a child present. Then she took her complaint to a much grander scale to complain about this girl coming to all the adult-only functions, including showers.
On the face of it, I wonder why the mom would not prefer to leave her child at home with the grandmother, but there could be some real reasons for that – reasons that the mother would be remiss in sharing. Obviously others don’t have this same problem because showers are generally private affairs and the mother would not be invited if the daughter was not welcome.
As to the babysitting sharing idea, that sounds wonderful in theory but usually doesn’t work out in reality. At least it never did for me.
By the tone of the letter, I think it is time that the lady being visit taught needs to learn to stop worrying about other people’s choices and simply learn to love them. Maybe that’s why this mother was assigned to visit her. She needs to remember that Jesus never turned away little children. Ever.
My favorite memories are of those individuals that welcomed me into their homes with or without my children. I tried really hard to make arrangements so I didn’t have to bring my sons but often brought my daughter until she refused to go. (It helped me keep the visits short and helped her not be afraid of older people.)
Conversely, I requested route changes in one ward we lived in long after my kids were old enough to stay home because the some of the women made it abundantly clear by their comments and attitudes that they disapproved of our choice to homeschool – even though I never brought my children to their homes. Love is unconditional and people who learn that is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is about are happier people.
You’re right, LeeAnn. Love is unconditional, or it should be. We should all remember that. Meanwhile, even though Jesus never turned away little children, I don’t know whether He would have sat in the room with a benign smile while a child picked up a glass elephant and shattered it on the floor or trashed a home office and a family’s game collection. There’s a time and a place for gentle, loving discipline.
Wow! Talk about some anger. As I read through the post I wasn’t sure which emotion to follow through on,that is, until I got to the end. This sister has forgotten something very important, said by the Savior himself: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
At the genesis of this, I want to see “Tired’s” point of view. I can see the sense of the child’s listening ear open to retrieve all the woman’s aches and trials during her visiting teacher’s visit. However, when we turn the pancake over, does this sister see what a blessing it is for this child to learn how to be a good visiting teacher first hand, by example,from her own mother?
I’m curious about “Tired’s” own relationship with her children. Was she the kind of mother who couldn’t hurry kids off into someone else’s care so she could take care of her own interests? I’m not meaning to judge here, but let’s get real. There are those kinds of moms out there. Just like there are moms who are more like me.
I had this experience twice, due to the huge gap in actually getting one of my pregnancies to full term and a baby here. My son was a tagalong, now eleven years later, my daughter is too. I don’t have a husband who can keep the kids at home. He is off at work, working several jobs, in fact, to keep the wolves from the door. Due to other personal issues as well, it would not be in my children’s best interest to be left alone with him very often. I wonder, could this be the case for “Tired’s” VT?
We do not know the path our neighbor (in this case, the visiting teacher) walks unless we take the time to understand them. Steven Covey teaches that you need to seek to understand before you can seek to
be understood. Maybe this dutiful visiting teacher could use “Tired’s” help in better meeting needs. What if she put on a DVD in the other room?
I’m sure there are other options, if one has a heart willing to seek them out. We are sisters, after all. Ought not we to have a heart filled with charity?
“Tired,” be careful. Anger and resentment are like acid. They ruin the vessel with which they are carried in far worse than what they splash out upon. May the Lord bless you to be peaceable and to find joy in the service that is offered you. Even in it doesn’t always show up in the form you feel most comfortable with.
Jae (A.K.A Mom of Tagalongs Too)
Jae, your letter and LeeAnn’s make me think I should go back and read “Tired of Tagalongs'” letter. I didn’t detect all the anger in it that the two of you did.
In the interest of full disclosure, though, I was in such a hurry to get out of town on vacation that I missed a whole lot of things on the way out the door.
Thanks for being more perceptive than I was.
This sister should do nothing. Let the Relief Society president talk to the mother to ask her to either let the child be babysat elsewhere, or at the very least get her to sit in the dining room and colour whilst the adults talk in an adjoining room. Some sisters have problems in their families that are only suitable for other adults to hear.
If the situation cannot be resolved, then ask for a mature couple of sisters to be assigned. Or have your visiting teachers round at the weekend when the father is free. If her family are working at home they can’t look after a noisy child at the same time.
More worrying is that the child does not go to Primary, does she attend school? The bishop and the Primary president need to talk to the mother about how the transition should be made. Perhaps the mother feels that the child would not be safe out of her presence. Perhaps the child was seriously ill when a baby and the mother is anxious. This situation isn’t normal, but if I were “Tired” I wouldn’t get involved, Let your leaders know about your concerns and leave them to deal with it. Otherwise the relationship between her and her visiting teachers could become soured.
Vim from the UK
You make good points, Vim. If the tagalong isn’t going to Primary, there may be any one of a number of valid reasons why there hasn’t been a proper transition. In any case, you’re right – this is something the Primary president should be concerned with, rather than other members of the ward. Thanks for pointing it out.
That’s it for this week. If there are any more letters on the subject, we’ll run them next week. If not, we’ll move on to another topic.
Until next week – Kathy
“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
Whether you want to create your own personal history or would like Kathy Kidd to do it for you, Kathy’s blog has what you’re looking for. Go to www.planetkathy.com and click on “Writing a Personal History” to get more information.