11 November 2007

Your kids are so good in church!

People tell me this fairly often. I'm glad if they think this, because most weeks, I disagree. But if it's someone my age saying it, it's usually followed by, "That's why we don't come very often. Ours just won't behave." I want to ask them why they think my kids are good in church. Could it be because I take them, without fail, at least twice every week (once on Sunday, once to the Wednesday night Low Mass which is of course shorter, but without any of those helpful musical breaks to drown out some shouting)? Furthermore, it takes some effort to get them to be good. Most days my "Thanks be to God" is in reference to the wrestling match ending almost as much as it is for all that salvific business. It is tiring to keep a very little person happy enough to be quiet for an hour, and trying at the same time to make it really be church for the older ones (helping them sing, say the Creed, fold their hands, etc.).

Our church doesn't have a nursery, and I don't miss it. I've never understood the parents who perfunctorily bring in their two-year-old for the first 10 minutes and then reward the kid's screaming by taking him to a room full of toys. When we were at a church that had a nursery, I had to leave a lot, but I stood with the offender(s) in the narthex and kept enforcing quietness and church-appropriate behavior. Perhaps this is another reason my kids at least know what's expected of them at church, even if the little sinners can't pull it off all the time. We also sing the liturgical canticles and (if we have our act together enough) the hymn of the day for the upcoming Sunday at bedtime. Yes, my kids are better in church than a lot of kids their age, and it takes work.

Incidentally, this is one thing the big family papists don't get. They've always got a nice pious dad to share the weight on Sunday mornings. My kids' nice pious dad is always delivering a nice pious sermon, so I count on God to provide me with some other nice pious person to help me with the wrangling (which, thankfully, almost always happens on Sunday). Getting a houseful of kids and oneself ready for church with no assistance is a real chore, and then you have act like you're not already completely exhausted at 9 am, and get through the standing and the singing and the shushing. I guess I can't think of a better time to receive the Blessed Sacrament.


Reb. Mary said...

There's nothing like exiting the worship service on the brink of falling over from total exhaustion due to getting self and kids clean and decent for church and spending the hour to hour and a half of worship engaged in silent and not-so-silent struggles with very busy children, only to hear that comment, "Oh, they're always so good in church!"

I think once, during the worst of the morning sickness this time around, I actually did begin laughing hysterically when someone said that to me.

And I have started saying, as gently as possible, in response to those who reference their own kids' (mis)behavior as their reason for infrequent attendance, "Well, it does take a lot of work, doesn't it? And my kids sure aren't always good in church, even when they're being relatively quiet. But they seem to catch on when we do the same thing so often. And it's amazing what they can understand, even at an early age, even when it seems like they're not paying attention." Though sometimes I just want to say, "Duh."

When we arrived at this church with a 6-wk-old, I was at first disappointed to find it nursery-less. But not for long. Now I'm glad there's no nursery, because I'd probably be getting dirty looks for filling a pew with wiggly, busy boys instead of just dumping them off to play for an hour.

Fortunately, my pastor, who also happens to be the father of aforementioned busy boys, is also working to instill a culture of valuing and including children in our church. That plus our new sound system, which enables people actually to hear the service even if there is background noise, helps.

Reb. Mary said...

p.s. i too have found new meaning in the Sacrament in this season of life!

Dizziness said...

Well said. It reminded me to thank my wife for her "going solo" while I'm a vicar.

I thought two services preaching and bible class wore me out. Your post was worse. :)

The Gauntlets said...

I've just started getting the "your kids are so good!" comments, mostly from the kindly elderly lady that usually sits in front of us of a Sunday morning. The great thing about this nice lady is that she is so very good at lying while looking sympathetic. :)

Heh. They all feel sorry for me.

I keep looking about for a bit of help, but I think Church Politic is going to be in the way of that for another few minutes yet.

Rebekah said...

Diz, I'd propose a toast to everyone who doesn't check their vocation at the church door, but I wouldn't be able to participate until January. ;)

Adam Roe said...

I have definitely not been getting the "your kids are so good" comments and I admit there are times that I reminisce about my evangelical days; a time when laissez-fairre doctrinal standards kept us from feeling guilty about throwing our kids in a nursery. That said, I now hear both of my sons sing parts of the liturgy to themselves and I know it's worth the effort.

Rebekah said...

Adam, I've never heard them from where I sit, so as far as I'm concerned they're great! Plus I think people say it just to be nice to me most of the time anyway.

Dizziness said...

I was never more thankful than the sunday during fieldwork where I had to watch the two oldest on the front row during distribution. (Mom and the younger two were home.) Needless to say, chaos ensued and I could only watch.

Dad and pastor is hard to do at the same time. I wouldn't be afraid of stopping in the middle of a sermon and telling my kids to behave but my wife does it for me. Thanks!

Nothing wrong with high standards, folks. They are baptized after all. You can expect great things with them.... sometimes.

Rosie said...

sister, your kids ARE good in church. but then again, they're my nieces and nephew, so of course they're angels. just explain that to people next time they're complimented. :)

Rebekah said...

Ro, I really can't thank you enough for being related to my kids. It's sorry yours will have to be sociopaths by virtue of their relationship to me.