It’s been a month since our church reopened for in-person services. Those with small children are asked to attend the later service, to help reduce the spread of germs to older, at risk congregants. Like all other churches in the area, we don’t have a nursery, and probably won’t for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, we’ve been encouraged to bring the girls with us so we can worship together as a family. This has become especially important to us, as we weren’t able to do that for the majority of my pregnancy with Addie. And while it’s somewhat of a mosh pit in our pew during the service, it’s a practice we plan on continuing, because the importance of church attendance is instilled in children more by action than by speech.
We just finished our fourth Sunday of sitting through church with a six, three, and almost-one year old, so I think this makes us official pro’s at this. Therefore, I’m compiling a list of helpful suggestions of how to make your Sunday mornings more enjoyable [I hope it comes across correctly, but if not: the following “suggestions” are tongue-in-cheek, except for #9 & #10. Sunday mornings are a complete cluster for us and we are stumbling through it like everyone else. It’s yet another tangible reminder that God loves us despite our glaring shortcomings, whether sitting in a church pew or going about our life during the week.]
- Don’t go to church. Like, if you really want the easy way, just avoid it all together. Getting three kids to sit still and quiet in pew is like dunking feral kittens in water and then expecting them to perform the Nutcracker Suite.
- Bring a giant bag. I pack more toys/ water wow tablets/ chew toys for a forty-five minute service than I do for a four hour car ride. Test each toy for noise factor. That stuffed animal that sings “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” cannot be muffled by sitting on it.
- Bring cardstock for the baby to chew on. Our church must have changed paper types in the past week, because up until today, Addie could get through the prelude, two songs, and the first point of the sermon before chewing a hole in the program. Today, I had to scoop the second verse of “He Holds Me Fast” out of her mouth before we got to the opening prayer. I plan to make a decoy bulletin out of cardstock for her to have on hand for next week.
- Learn to communicate death threats through your eyes. I am 100% pro-mask. We wouldn’t be attending church unless that mandate was in place. However, my children were not raised to read eyes. My eyes have the same crazed, frantic look in them whether I’m smiling in approval or frowning in disdain, due to sleep deprivation and difficulty applying eyeliner evenly. I wish I could train them with the Von Trapp naval-whistle system, except with eye winks instead, but that’s not going to happen. Addie likes to pull the mask from my face, double-check that I’m still her mother behind it, and then let go, allowing the elastic to slap the fabric back on me.
- Bring food. Surprisingly, the child causing us the most trouble is Addie. The older two will get into fights over inane things, but they at least understand the consequences of being too loud in church. Addie does not. She’s in the stage where hearing her own voice is entertaining, so she’ll shout, laugh at what she hears, and repeat the cycle over and over. The only thing that will keep her somewhat quiet is food. Unfortunately she finds food just as amusing as her voice, so every new handful of cheerios is met with a deep chuckle, right before she shoves a fistful in her mouth. I bribed the older girls once with candy, but I lost that game of Russian roulette and the sugar high kicked in before the service was over.
- Pray there are other small children in attendance. We’re lucky to have several families with kids around the same age in our service. Addie and her little friend across the sanctuary played the baby version of Marco Polo this morning. In all serious, the eye contact I’ve made with friends who are also wrangling their kids in the pews is the closest thing I’ve had to a hug in months.
- Add an extra check for pew maintenance in the offering plate. Between Bea trying to stand on the hymnal shelf, shove paw patrol characters through the communion cup holes, Addie leaving teeth marks on the back of the pew (no joke—there are two perfectly even rows of indentions left by this child’s giant front teeth), and cheerios being lost forever in the corners of the cushions… we owe them a pew.
- Bring a dirt devil/shop vac/broom. Goes back to the state of our pew after a service. There’s half a box worth of cheerios on the floor, shreds of half-eaten paper, and broken crayons from violent coloring sessions.
- Pray for your pastoral staff. It’s hard to preach to your flock when the little lambs keep bleating. Our pastors lead our service with God-given joy and good humor and as loud as the girls get, I never feel like we’re not welcome.
- Finally, wear your dad-gum mask inside buildings and wash your dang hands so we can get rid of this virus and I can send my kids to the nursery again.