If you had taken a good look at my children during church last Sunday, you would’ve noticed that my four-year-old was sporting his soccer cleats in lieu of his loafers. Let that be an indication of what my morning was like, trying to ready my brood for 9am church while my husband was overseas on a business trip.
Last hour sacrament meeting wasn’t any easier.
With four little ones in my keep, and one on the way, I am in the thick of learning these rapidly fraying ropes. I’m in the trenches, as it were. When my husband is gone, my toddler is passed out on the floor, my older ones can’t stop bickering in anything quieter than a stage whisper and my baby announces in no uncertain terms that he’d like to go home now. What am I supposed to do?
Maintaining a reverent pew is such an elusive quest. There are no hard and fast rules, tactics or stratagems that work for absolutely everyone. It is my opinion that every parent who has made the effort to come, with their young offspring in tow, is doing their best.
But I have asked around to those in my same, seemingly sinking boat, how they manage to stay afloat. I thought I’d pass along their wisdom.
1.) The less I bring, the more I hear. Instead of packing a small preschool in your church bag that has the kids constantly asking, “what’s next?” keep it simple.
2.) Be strategic in your snacks. Nothing loud, or crumb inducing. The proverbial baggie of Cheerios can quickly turn into a bag of confetti in the hands of a crossed toddler.
3.) No “real” toys. Action figures, cars and dinosaurs invite loud homemade sound effects. They can also be distracting to the other kids around you.
4.) Offer help. Loving arms for a newborn, or a board book exchange can make all the difference. It lets other parents know they are not alone.
5.) Be patient. There is no scripture commanding the little children to be like us. Remember, they’re candid voices are the only sinless voices you hear the entire block.
6.) Keep coming. You may have a nagging feeling that your loud lot is nothing but a disruption for the otherwise surreal spiritual enlightenment of others, but take heart. You are setting a pattern and example of regular church attendance for your posterity. That is priceless.
7.) Children do indeed grow up, and when they do, they will remember only two things about the Sundays of their childhood: the primary songs and how they felt. The rest is like the Charlie Brown adult, “Mwah mwah, ma ma mwah ma…” So make sure they feel loved and welcomed.
Like the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” I believe it takes a congregation to raise a reverent, regularly attending child. And who knows? That same poor kid in the Sunday cleats could one day become your ever faithful, ever devoted home teacher.
See you next Sunday.
Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary and mother of four small children. You can read more on her blog at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com