Four Moms with Children Quiet as Church Mice…

Incidentally, have you ever actually had mice in your home? When you live near corn fields, come winter, or come harvest time and you have a mouse problem. And those mice? They are not quiet. Just sayin’.

Don’t miss what my fellow mums have to say:

Kim C at Life in a Shoe shares her wisdom here
Connie at Smockity Frocks shares her wisdom here.
Kimberly at Raising Olives shares her wisdom here.

I will tell you up front that the majority of our time with babies and young children, we have been showered with compliments on our children’s excellent behavior in church.  Really. I’m not being funny. We couldn’t get to church on time to save our lives, but once there, our children were so well behaved that in one congregation my husband was asked to teach a class on parenting.  During the course of that class our one year old son escaped from me and raced up the aisle to his father in the middle of class.

It was about that same time when the Cherub, who had been given physical therapy to help her master the skill of *letting go* of objects in order to toss them lightly- well.  You see where this is going, don’t you?  After months of failures at the task of opening her hand and releasing a tossed object, one Sunday morning she picked up her brother’s matchbox car and tossed it in a perfectly beautiful arc several pews up, beaning somebody on the noggin with it.  And I believe it was that same congregation where my ten year old projectile vomited over three pews in front of us during the opening prayer. I have also mentioned previously that many years ago when one of the Progeny was 3 or 4 she developed an aversion to underwear- which I discovered when she flashed the preacher in the middle of his sermon. I think I must run the risk of being a terribly proud person and God wants to save me from this so He gives me many such experiences to keep me humble.

Still, the Progeny were all pretty well behaved most of the time during services, so well behaved that the eldest saints would say to their adult children, “See?  If that family with all those children can get them to behave so nicely, you ought to be able to manage your two.” And then, of course, we had no friends.

Here is what we generally did during services (I have seven children, and have been bringing two little boys, now 4 and 7, to church with us for three years now)-

I did permit toys, and they didn’t have to have religious connections, but I didn’t permit many- one or two small toys seemed to be best for us. I didn’t permit toys that a child could only play with using sound effects (this depended on the child). We did bring a couple of books for the children to look at, and I did prefer that these be religious in nature.  I don’t know why the difference. Just inconsistent, I guess.  We also allowed the kids to draw, and sometimes Pip or I will fold a paper boat for them out of the bulletin or a piece of scratch paper.  Occasionally I have entertained a child with a simple handkerchief doll (link below).

We have a rhythm of when we do things. For instance, I did not allow any toys until the sermon started. I do not force singing- I do not want young pharisees. But they couldn’t play with toys or look at books during singing. During communion with our two little boys I do give them a mint or a piece of gum- they were not used to church at all, and couldn’t understand why we were allowed to put something in our mouths but they weren’t. Drawing or writing on paper or looking quietly at a small book is permitted during communion.

I gave/give the small people money for the collection.
Once the sermon starts, small toys may come out- again, we don’t bring many- one or two is plenty. With my own older girls I got to the point where we brought no toys at all, and this worked well for them. Not so well with my son or these two little boys who never had to sit still before.

We did practice ‘church’ at home with our little ones- or rather, I did, while my husband worked. This gave them practice sitting still and quiet on a daily basis (more or less).

We were not always as consistent as I wish we’d been- except our children were never allowed to sit with anybody but their parents until they are around 13- an exception is that the 12 year old can sit with his brothers in law and nephew if he likes, and he does like.

 One rule we did consistently enforce (and one reason for bringing a couple of quiet toys)- if I had to take a child to the nursery for anywhere else, there was no playing. If we weren’t changing a diaper or breastfeeding a baby, the child sat quietly in my lap in the nursery- the toys stayed in the pew. I wanted them to know that NOTHING was going to be more boring than being in the nursery during services. Allowing a couple small toys to be held in the pew, but not in the nursery helped reinforce that. I got a lot of odd stares and even challenges from other moms in the nursery, but my children learned pretty quickly that there was a lot less freedom and fun in the ‘cry room’ than out of it.

I’ve blogged about this topic before- see these links:

And…. somehow I managed to post this without saving a final paragraph:

We attend services Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday nights.  For the first couple of decades of our marriage, my husband was working Wednesday and Sunday nights, and sometimes he was out of the country for a few Sunday mornings, so I often was doing this without adult help.  Sometimes I enlisted the assistance of other military wives- we watched each other’s backs so if one of us had to remove a child, the other children were under the watchful eye of a fellow mom.  Sometimes I took the children out with me, all of them, like a little flock of noisy ducklings.  I suppose it was disruptive, but it couldn’t be helped.  I cannot leave the Cherub behind with just her siblings.  She is well behaved for me, but she deliberately makes a scene for them.  Sometimes a huge scene.

Your own children are seldom as disturbing to others as you worry that they are- assuming you are the right sort of parent and do have these concerns about not distracting others during worship. In one congregation we attended there was a children’s service on Sunday nights.  I never sent my children.  I worried that my two year old was distracting to others.  I was sure I was getting ‘looks’ from people who wondered why I didn’t send her off.  My children were the only children in Sunday evening services in a large congregation with lots and lots of children.  Then we adopted two new children.  When this was announced, people came up to congratulate us- and most of them, including every single person I thought was giving me ‘looks,  assumed my 2 year old was one of the newly adopted children.  They not only were not thinking hard thoughts of me for not sending my noisy toddler downstairs with the other noisy kids, they did not even know I had a noisy toddler.
All those times I thought they were thinking mean things about me?  They were not thinking about me at all.  They were probably staring distractedly in my general direction, wondering if they’d remembered to turn off the iron or if we would get out of services in time to beat the Baptists to Dairy Queen.

P.S. A very useful book to use if you have children about three and up is Parenting in the Pew.   It’s not helpful for younger children because she doesn’t think children four and under can benefit from being in the worshp service with their parents.  I couldn’t possibly disagree more strongly with that point, but her tips, philosophy, and ideas for children around 3 and up are excellent.

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