Sunday, April 26, 2009

We Have Been Replaced

I left church feeling really good today, but not for any of the reasons that might first come to mind. Oh, the music was worshipful and the sermon was good, but it was something else entirely that made me happy; the woman in front of us had unruly children.

Let me explain. We sit in the back row or very near the back row if at all possible. It's not because we want to sneak out early or because we want to snooze. Often, it's because we are late--which makes me crazy--but it's also because my children have been known to be antsy and cause distractions to our fellow worshipers.

My older two children are 12 and 10 and know how to behave in church. They do behave and often take their younger siblings to task when they are disruptive. My younger two children are 7 and 4 and are definitely coming along in their abilities to sit quietly, follow along when we sing, and participate in the service in general. In fact, it's been a few weeks since I've even brought a quiet activity like pencil and paper or a Magnadoodle to help them sit quietly. But, we have had our share of being the family that people turn around to stare at.

And believe me, they have been disruptive. They've talked too loudly, elbowed each other, pinched, poked, teased, nudged, colored on and just generally been a spectacle. We always apologize to the people sitting around us after the service and for the most part, they have been gracious, telling us they "remember when" or " no problem" or "we can relate."

Our church has a time of fellowship after the service and donuts are involved. A donut is a mighty bribe, people. Do not underestimate it's power. One of the things my kids have come to understand is that having a donut is a bonus--something you get when you sit quietly and participate well in church. It's not a given. They have all missed out on donuts before. Trust me, it is no fun to watch everyone else eat a donut when you've got nothing in front of you. (Although I do a great job every Sunday I only eat a donut about once a year. I ate one today and it was awesome!!)

We've also been known to make use of the "cry room" at the back of the sanctuary and on occasion have even left the sanctuary to "make our point" with the offender in the hallway. My point is, that we try our best to make certain that if our children are being too noisy and disruptive, there is a consequence for that behavior.

All of this brings us back to today and our neighbors in front of us. This young mother had three children. An older girl about 11 or 12 who was quiet and well-behaved throughout the service, and two young boys, I'd put somewhere around 6 and 4. They started out pretty well and when they called out the grade school kids for their own part of the service, the six year old went along. When he came back, however, it was bedlam. The boys were continually crawling over the pew and each other and if they knew how to whisper, they weren't exhibiting that particular skill. But, neither was their mother. Any correction or redirection she gave was in a regular voice--sometimes even a raised voice. She struggled to maintain any type of control, threatened to take away donuts and toys (but never did), and I felt badly for her. I did. I've been there. I know it's embarrassing when your children misbehave in public. But I don't think this woman was embarrassed. She just seemed oblivious. She would let the boys wrestle and poke and then talk loudly to them and they would talk just as loudly back. She never made a move to leave, even though she was right at the end of the row. At one point she was praising her son for going like a "good boy" to the children's service and had him give her a high five. Their hands smacked so loudly that I flinched.

Finally, near the end of the service, she had the younger boy laying across her lap and he seemed to be tiring. With nobody to play with, his older brother grabbed his hand-held video game and started to play--with the sound on!! I think my eyebrows smacked into my scalp they were lifted so high. My husband and I looked at each other in astonishment and then smiled.

As we left the church and headed to donuts, my daughter said "You guys can never say we don't know how to behave in church again!"

Patrick and I looked at each other and grinned. We've been replaced! We are no longer the Greatest Spectacle in Worship-- a title we gladly hand over. And I'm totally calling "No Backsies" on this. I don't ever want that title back.

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