I have the attention span of a squirrel when I am sitting in one spot and trying to pay attention.
This made university difficult. I used to knit in class so my hands would be busy while I listened. When I studied, I had a stress ball that I would bounce up and down continuously. The real reason I never studied in the library wasn’t because I preferred my carefully constructed home study area (the couch, the piano bench, the floor, the turned-off sauna, the deck, my bed, under the desk). It is because I knew I would have gotten kicked out for irritating the crap out of people trying to do something constructive. In church, I have discovered the art of note taking on my iPod. Not only does this keep me focused, I also look like I’m totally way too cool for listening at church and instead am Tommy Texting my BFFs the whole time. It’s awesome. Here is a screen shot from this week’s notes:
Now before you wannabe grandmas run home and tell your eligible sons to never marry me because I would dash any hopes of producing well adjusted offspring, let me explain. I want to have children, I do. I would not put muzzles on them. Maybe a leash, (this is clearly a joke. I’ve seen you parents disguising your child’s leash as a furry Winnie the Pooh knapsack. You’re not fooling anyone) but not muzzles. I probably wouldn’t shove socks in their mouths either. I was frustrated when I wrote this.
Let me set the scene. I was sitting beside my witty mother who is really good at saying hilarious stuff and then masking church giggles. We were behind a family friend. If you met this friend, she would tell you that I was the flower girl in her wedding and that I was sooooooooo cute and that she can’t believe how grown up and talented I am now. This friend is a big sister/mentor/teacher friend/confidant and someone who is freakishly good at communicating complex in-depth thoughts through eye contact alone. Myself, my friend and my mother are a trio of eye contact communicators with twisted senses of humour. My friend was sitting with her friends, one of whom was a former prof of mine (I never knit in his class). This was a set up doomed to go awry from the beginning. We were sitting right beside the “parents with young families” section.
It was loud.
That was a vast understatement. Let me rephrase.
It was LOUD.
There were two children talking in their outside voices. They were not tiny children. One could count to ten and the other could read. We also learned that their father could read and decided to demonstrate his skills in the middle of the service. It was a very long book. To say that it was difficult to attend to a sermon while children were causing a ruckus is also a vast understatement. My mother suggested the exit signs be made bigger. I suggested they deploy Jon Acuff’s birds of prey from the pulpit in order to snatch the children, remove them from the service and drop them into a ball pit. My friend suggested my dad turn and glare (this would have been the most effective solution and result in numerous pants being peed). The whole escapade climaxed with the little girl yelling. “I DON’T WANT TO BE QUIET!” which was accompanied by stomping and screaming and my former prof saying, “Sometimes you just have to let it aaaaall out”. And it’s true. It happens. Children don’t like to be quiet. BUT THEY DID NOT LEAVE THE ROOM. Screaming child stayed for the majority of the fit, eventually taken out by her parents, only to return a few short minutes later, not fully over her explosion.
I get that she’s little and it’s probably been a long weekend. I understand that children are noisy and don’t understand how to sit still and quiet for a long time. I have difficulties with this, too. I understand (and wholeheartedly agree) that children are a necessary, joyful and integral part of a church family. I love kids. I love seeing kids with their parents. I love when parents bring their kids to church. It makes me smile. It makes my heart sing. Children are amazing examples of the unfiltered joy of the Lord. I completely believe that. I think it’s important for kids to see parents in a church context. Church is definitely a family activity and we too often break everyone down into their age groups and send them off to separate parts of the building, instead of having everyone together as one big congregation. I’m all for cross generational mixing. I think we can all learn from each other. Children in a church are a sign that it’s a healthy, growing community.
And there is a but. A big but. This baby got junk in her trunk. I don’t know what that means in this context exactly, but we’ll pretend that it didn’t happen and move on.
I don’t know how to deal with this but. What about the people around you? We absorbed nothing from that sermon. I reread my notes and honestly don’t remember much of it. It was difficult. It was distracting. I come to church to learn and dig deeper. I look forward to hearing what my pastor is going to say. I think it’s important for a church to be informed and guided by the Bible. A lot of this teaching gets done on Sunday mornings. But this Sunday I heard nothing. What about you, parents of loud children? Did you get anything out of the service while you were reading to your kid? Did your kids benefit from being in “big church”? I do know that we have an awesome kids program which would be fun for your kiddies as well as give you the opportunity to learn with the general congregation. While it’s true that kids can learn from sermons, the kid’s program is designed for them specifically.
I was thinking about this all day. Is it something I have to get over? Is the blame placed on the parents? Do we have any ground to stand on as members of the church to say, “I like that you’re here, but it’s difficult to hear” to those parents? Or is that a big giant load of disrespectful hypocritical dung since we were giggling the whole time, too? I’m not sure.
During our post-church debrief, my dad said it best:
Kids don’t know how to sit still and be quiet. It’s not their fault. They need to be taught these things. If you want your kids to sit in church with you, you have to build up their stamina. Start with five minutes of quiet. Then gradually increase to ten and fifteen and twenty. You have to build it up. These things need to be taught.
Wise words from my daddio. While it’s important to teach your kids the role of a church community, it’s also important to teach them how to be respectful of that community. Kids don’t know how to do this stuff on their own. That’s why they have us, to teach them. Teach them to be loud and joyful and pleasant and wonderful tiny human beings. We all need that spunk in our lives. But also teach them to slow down and listen. Teach them patience and quiet and how to learn. They’ll get there, eventually.
But until then, the Information Island needs to hand out muzzles.
How do you deal with loud kids in church?