We didn’t sit in the front on Sunday. We hadn’t slept well, didn’t have much time for breakfast, she cried while I got her dressed (and for a split second, I considered scrapping church altogether), and by the time we walked into church the front row was taken and I just wanted to sit somewhere and get settled. My 18 month old noticed we weren’t in the front and kept pointing and grunting toward the front of the church. When I asked if she wanted to sit up front, she nodded yes. More than once my sister or I had to either block her path or chase her down when she tried making her way to the front of the sanctuary. Overall, she was really good – she had snacks, she colored, she “fed” the stuffed animals in the quiet bag. She did well when I took her to the Communion rail and quietly watched as Grandpa served everyone. She did well. Auntie was a huge help. But mommy was still just tired.
One of the women sitting behind us came up to us after the service. She smiled and said that this is the hardest age to have littles in church, but that she did really well. She went on to tell me about some of her experiences taking her grandkids to church when she goes to visit them. I still felt tired after our conversation, but I also felt affirmed in what I’m doing taking my toddler to church.
This tip for worshipping with littles is just as much for those of you without littles in the pew – for the parents of teens, the empty-nesters, the grandparents, the people who have been there and done that in one way or another. Parents of littles, talk to older people who get it. Three quick reasons why:
1. You’ll feel a little less alone. The bad news is that wrangling little kids in a pew is HARD. The good news is that you are absolutely not the first or only parents to have ever done it. Hearing stories from parents who did this years ago can help you remember that this isn’t new to anyone. A few words of encouragement from those who have done it and come out the other side makes it feel a little less lonely and keeps us a little more connected.
2. You’ll feel affirmed and reassured. Because I’ve almost decided to stay home more times than I care to admit. It’s easy to lose the why of what we’re doing when we’re constantly shushing, dragging and whispering. Hearing from someone who’s been there with her own kids and now her grandkids, “This is the hardest age”, helped me remember that I’m doing this for a reason. Positive words from those who have been there helps me feel less guilty about the noise we made during the sermon. Hearing that older people aren’t as bothered by us as much as they just want to see us in church helps me keep coming when it’s tempting to stay home instead.
3. You’ll want to go again next week. Knowing that you’re loved, understood and seen is so helpful in getting everyone ready and out of the house to do this all over again next Sunday. Making those connections with seasoned parents gives us a little extra strength for next time. It reminds us that people care about us and our kids and whether we’re there on Sunday morning.
If you fall in the “been there, done that” category, seek out those young parents. Tell them it’s good to see them. Talk specifically to the kids and tell them you’re happy they’re there. Give parents a smile during worship or a gentle pat on the shoulder if you walk by. Tell tired moms and dads they’re doing a good job. Tell them your stories of taking your littles to church all those years ago. Remind them this stage is hard but it’s worth it. Give the kids high fives or hugs. Give mom a hug. Tell dad how great you think it is that he’s bringing his family to worship. Tell them how they bless you by being part of your church family. Your words of encouragement mean the world to those of us with littles in the pew!