Someone deserves a trout slappin'

So . . . remember that one time when it was sunny and delicious and springy around here? Yeah, that all went to crap. It is now snowing like nobody's business and I'm sure all the daffodils are dying. Which, Snow, I hope you're happy, since you are now pretty much the same thing as a baby killer. I'm glad I made the most of the nice weather on Saturday--we went to the park for a picnic lunch and lounged around watching people flying kites and walking dogs. It was heaven.

Then on Sunday I was struck by what is possibly the largest architectural stupidity I have come across in recent days. I'm trying to think of what would be dumber, but all I'm getting is maybe multi-level hospitals (or nursing homes) without elevators.

In our chapel, as in many LDS chapels, there are three sections of pews separated by two aisles. There is one center section of longer benches, then there are two sections of shorter benches against each wall. For some reason, the designers of this building must have put someone in charge who has possibly never attended one of our worship services--or perhaps never did so while in the company of small children. Because the short benches (read: where the smaller (read: younger) families sit) are not flush up against the wall, but instead have this 18-inch space between the pew and the wall. A sort of mini-aisle, if you will.

Now, clearly this is too narrow to be used by adults. Wanna know who it's perfect for, though? That would be the small children. The small children can slip out of arm's reach, make a break for that opening and then stroll (or race) up and down the entire length of the chapel to their heart's delight, while taunting their parents with their eyes and giggles. Seriously, why not just build little doggie doors at the end of every aisle that lead out into the hallway?

I can only assume that maybe the person responsible for the space thought it would discourage sleeping in church by people who would otherwise lean their heads against the wall and doze off. (Probably the reason why my Alaskan chapel growing up had some sort of prickly burlap knotted fabric covering the walls--if I tried to lean against it I'd get my ear snagged and possibly torn off.) Only you know what's worse than someone quietly napping? A suddenly-free young child cackling in delight while her single mother tries unsuccessfully to lure her back to their bench without causing a scene. Sure, it's fine if you have TWO adults--one to block the entrance to the main aisle, and another to guard the entrance to the mini-aisle, but if you only have one parent there, and if the parent has learned from sad experience that chaining the kid to the pew or stapling them to the parent's lap is not ideal, then you have the makings of a lively 70 minutes. There's one little sassy 4-year old moppet (imagine a Hobbit child) who makes a break for it every chance she gets, while her sweet mom does her best to keep her sitting and entertained. GH loves watching this little girl. I don't think he would love it as much if he had to be keeping track of her.

But seriously, way to make life just that much harder (and church that much more stressful) for the single mommies, architect. Everyone gives these moms a pass (or they should) because hi, what are you even going to do? An idiot designed the building. I'm surprised they didn't include a jungle gym in the back while they were at it.


Anonymous said... [reply]

Easy - chapels are designed by men! Who are not sitting with small children. I think the parents should just get together and form some kind of pact to stop anyone who goes there.

coolmom said... [reply]

I am so not even anonymous!! I think this program hates me.

april said... [reply]

in regard to your first paragraph, how did you survive growing up in alaska? (besides your mid-winter trips to the sun). really, i want to know. (not that i didn't do plenty of griping myself while walking around hartford this morning in the bitter wind. i was in my new sports sandals that i bought for the summer since the weekend was beautiful. not one of my brighter moves.)

our chapel has this mini-aisle too, but thankfully it also has floor to ceiling wood beam thingies that cut off the mini-aisle every four rows. since it's usually just those of us with young'ens on the side pews, i don't freak out so much when my little one escapes (on the rare occasion since thankfully there are two of us) and says hi to the couple of rows ahead of us. the trick is to keep his older sisters from getting up or "encouraging" him while actually meaning to help. "my ignore him" tactic would so not work if he had free reign to the front or back.

Nemesis said... [reply]

April, the answer to your question is that I was 14 when I moved to Alaska (from California, naturally) and knew I would only have to be there for 3 years until I could head back down to the Lower 48 for college. That's what kept me going!

AmyJane said... [reply]

I hate those buildings. A lot. We don't have one, we have the prickly wall variety, but when we visit in those wards, there is much strategy involved.
Also, in our stake, as in many, it seems that most of the young families end up as single mom families, even when they're not usually single parent families, on account of daddies having all those on-the-stand-travel-to-other-wards-callings. So, the families that most need two parents end up nursing a squirmy baby whilst wrestling the three year old in the mother's lounge and regretting that there is absolutely no time to fine tune all the primary crap about to go down after this restful meeting. And never getting said baby to nap, resulting in a baby NO ONE wants to borrow during Primary, so you end up leading music with said baby on your hip. Can you tell I love Sean's new stake calling? It's good times.

Anonymous said... [reply]

"Seriously, why not just build little doggie doors at the end of every aisle that lead out into the hallway?"

I *LOVE* this! LOL!

(Word verification: ovaptab
a/k/a the little flappy thing on the clinic's frozen egg package)

Nemesis said... [reply]

Anon, BWAH HAHAHAHAHAH! That was awesome.

And Amyjane, YEAH. It is unfair and stupid to everyone, really.

Kelly said... [reply]

I went to a non-Mormon church last week and during the main meeting they had this amazing thing called "child care." I believe several people from the congregation rotate taking care of the kids during that hour. I really think this is something we Mormons should consider. One of the deacons could go to the child care room and give everyone the sacrament. Heck, they could even pipe in the microphone feed.

I just know so many young mothers who have told me that as soon as their kids got old enough to, well, cry, Sacrament Meeting was a lost cause for them. I have one friend with 3 kids who told me she hasn't had a spiritual experience in Sacrament Meeting since her 6 year-old was a newborn. Seriously. what is the point?

And just generally, I have issues with the 3-hour meetings. I think we could get the important stuff done in 2 hours AND we wouldn't have to try to keep the kids from falling asleep/killing each other for 3 whole hours.

Can you tell I'm in the Primary?

Tonya said... [reply]

What I have LOVED in 2 of our wards, have been the kind empty nesters who thoughtfully pack their pockets with lifesavers, gum, and the sort, and help me by inviting them to sit quietly on their row (usually close to mine) and have a lifesaver. Maybe GH would think this as fun...I know that there would be a grateful mom at the end of the 70 minutes. I always am.
I also try to pack extra treats for neighboring kids who are learning to be reverent. My tots seem to like other peoples' treats more than mine and it swings the other way too. Win/win. Just an idea.

Z. Marie said... [reply]

Tonya's comment reminds me of an older (empty-nester) woman in a ward we lived in a few years ago. She liked McDonald's but only in small portions, so she'd order Happy Meals -- and keep the toys to give to kids during sacrament meeting. That was in a prickly-wall building, and my daughter was really too big to fit through small openings, but I still appreciated it.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

My chapel has that, only it's worse because that side also has a row of tall windows with curtains. So not only can my kid escape, but he can wrap himself up in the curtains while giggling maniacally. So not funny. I already feel like a freak because I'm one of the only ones in my 'married student ward' who attends without a husband, but thankfully everyone else has small children so our ward is just a circus every week.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

I've heard the nursery during sacrament idea before (and I'm in the primary presidency so I've had it suggested) and they've generally told me that they want to encourage families to have the most important meeting of the week together. Since family is the central unit of the church. Unfortunately my 5-year-old has already decided that primary is much better and often tells me she 'hates' sacrament meeting. Sigh.

Jenny said... [reply]

Ok so your building is lame. Ours is not. Maybe those people need to sit on a bigger aisle with some gigantic teenage boy next to them so there's only one way out. Mwahahaha.

Also, sometimes it pays to have your kid go sit in the RS room if its available, or in the bathroom or in the hallway where the sound does pipe in while they are learning to be reverent.

We are the model of spirituality on Sundays. Ethan lays on the bench and naps or plays with his Dad's iphone and Savvy draws, tries to make faces at her babysitters or plays the dot game with me... haha.

Brandi said... [reply]

We are in our third consecutive building with the escape hatch benches and prickly walls.

My husband was deployed to the middle east last year (for a whole year), so it was me with the three kids (2 of them under four) and no one to block the other side of the bench.

I learned to use the prickly walls to my advantage--if child took advantage of the escape hatch, I took advantage of of the prickly walls by making them stand in the corner with their nose pressed firmly against said prickliness.

Anonymous said... [reply]

I agree with Tonya... neighboring treats are usually the only thing my 2 year will stay quiet for. And because his toys and books are never fun at church, luckily there's a rad old lady that usually sits behind me and has season/holiday specific toys with her. It's seriously rad because my husband is air force and is gone a lot. She also hands my 8 month old toys if needed in releeee society... hahaha! sorry, had to do it! playing single mom seriously does ruin sacrament though... I rarely know what's going on.

Gretchen said... [reply]

Yah, this bldg and our previous one have had the mini-aisles and no prickly walls. I've wondered many times what they were thinking too. But now I know I should count my blessings that we don't have the windows too like FoxyJ! Phew.

Audra said... [reply]

7 kids... between the ages of 2 & 8 + Two of which are newly 2-year olds = I too have not had a spiritual sacranment meeting in YEARS!

Except that one time everyone was sick and I was primary chorister so I had to go and Levi stayed home with all the kids.

Other than that it is just survival!

Luckily I only had one who tried to escape down the main aisles once (we dont have those small ones, but I visited a ward with them when Nolan was young...and he almost got away). And our building had a fire with sprinklers that went off so they replaced the wall stuff with new wallpaper... cozy!

Azúcar said... [reply]

We have curtains that hang down oh-so-invitingly ever couple pews. Most Sundays I manage to not have them start using the curtains like billowing sails.

Honestly? I haven't really heard a talk in Sacrament meeting in five years. That's OK. I just figure I'm getting the spiritual buttressing by simply attending with the kids.

The thing that makes me nervous is that we have a bunch of old people AND the biggest primary in the stake. Most of the old folks are just fine, but there is a contingent that really gets unnerved and snippy about "irreverent" children. So not only are you absolutely not paying attention to whatever pearls of wisdom are falling from the pulpit, but you're also worried that you will get the Stare of Death from Sister Grumpypants.


Maree said... [reply]

Kelly--I hear you! I brought a non-member with me once, and his comment was that it was the most irreverent thing he'd ever experienced--young'uns aren't "allowed" in the grown-up services of his Church. And I DID attend a 2-hour block for a year when we had a building down for maintenance. SO LOVED IT!!! Seriously, we could totally do what's important in 2 hours.

We don't have the mini-aisles in our current building, and my kids are FINALLY old enough to control themselves most of the time. But there were about 5 years when I wondered why we couldn't just have s sound-proofed cage suspended over the chapel--for all of the little monkeys.

Kristeee said... [reply]

That would be a nightmare, I think. Our chapel's one of the "sunken" ones, where the floor angles down to the front, causing sippy cups, bottles, anything kindof round, and little kids to roll under the pews. I think each building needs to invest in pack n' plays and highchairs. We brought our own highchair to the last ward dinner, as did about 7 other families. And maybe we need gates. Especially up to the stand.

Jenny said... [reply]

those male architects who have no children and clearly are not married to wives who have ever been pregnant are building mean-spirited architectural madness all over the place. I recently posted about compact cars and bathroom stalls. Twenty questions are not enough for these guys. Why must they do it?!

blackjazz said... [reply]

I don't suppose the pews can be moved? (They can in our chapel and plenty of others in the UK)

Nookleerman said... [reply]

So, if this woman and her daughter are the only ones in the pew, couldn't you are GH go join her? I mean, that would shore up her defences. Unless the pews aren't big enough for that many. Or if that's not allowed.

jeri said... [reply]

With Joe's work schedule, I usually end up doing church by myself about 1/3 of the time. So the thought of not being able to block 2 kids inside the pew by myself makes me kind of ill. Because Bart is something of an escape artist. He still tries to crawl under the pew and escape that way but it's slower and you can usually snag him. I'm still considering attaching a ball and chain to him though.

Anonymous said... [reply]

I am signing the petition for the 2-hour block. Sacrament meeting is wonderful only after your children are grown. In my opinion Gospel Doctrine is usually argumentative and/or you have a teacher who refuses to use the manual and ends up teaching some esoteric nonsense. Most of our teenage age Sunday School teachers don’t bother showing up or getting a substitute. Plus can you imagine all the Primary Presidency members doing the I-love-the-prophet-thank-you dance if President Monson made this announcement at our next General Conference. It’s a sweet sweet dream!

Kimberly said... [reply]

I snorted out loud at my desk when I read your line about having your ear nearly taken off by that crazy fabric they put on the walls. What is that stuff anyway! Your blog is one reason my boss (with whom I share an office) thinks I'm crazy. Thank you.

daltongirl said... [reply]

If people had more kids, they wouldn't fit on those tiny rows. I believe that design is an ingenious way to get people to do a lot more procreating.

JustMe said... [reply]

My children are grown, and now my 18-year-old daughter keeps ME entertained in Sacrament meeting! My first 2 children were 14 months apart, and they were a handful. But, they were quiet in Sacrament, or they were removed from the meeting. If my husband wasn’t with me, I took both children out.

Children get bored in Sacrament, but I firmly believe that is were they belong. Attending Sacrament as a family, teaches our children that families do things together, and they also learn the importance of being reverent and quiet. Having children in Sacrament meetings just feels right.

That being said, if your child is fussy or screaming, or running up and down the aisles, take them outside! Trust me when I say, no one thinks your child is as cute as you do. This also goes for your other meetings. This past Sunday there were 3 children crying or fussing in the Gospel Doctrine class. For about 5 minutes, no one could hear the teacher.

By the time a child is 2-years-old, they should be able to sit quietly in meetings without having to be force-fed snacks, or being taken outside. If you do have to take your child out, the child should be forced to sit on your lap with you holding their arms folded. Do not allow them to run around and have fun because it encourages them to misbehave in the meeting, so you WILL take them out. Once a child is quiet, you go back into the meeting immediately. If you do this, the child will learn misbehaving is not a “free pass” to having fun outside. If you do this consistently for several weeks, you child will learn that being outside is no better than being in the meetings.

I have no patience for parents who allow their children to scream or misbehave during meeting without removing the child. Let me say again – NO ONE THINKS YOUR CHILD IS CUTE WHEN THEY ARE MISBEHAVING!

Kelly said... [reply]

Maybe someday the 2-hour petitions will work...

JustMe, I do take issue with parents who let their kids run all over. There is a 3 year-old in our ward who I don't think has ever been told "no". He wanders around throughout SM and talks in a full voice. Somehow the other 3 year-olds manage to keep it together and at least stay in the general vicinity of their pews for that hour.

I wonder if our church culture is more permissive of the cacophany than other churches. When I've gone to a particular Episcopalian church, even the kids who weren't in child care, were quiet. Every so often you would hear a squawk from one of the babies, but nothing like a typical family ward. I just wonder what makes the difference?

Lola said... [reply]

We don't even need little mini isles. The kids just run around, and try to get up the stairs, to the pulpit. They're parents let them do this because hey, why not?

Rachel said... [reply]

I am so with you on this one. Our chapel is designed like this and I hate, hate, hate it. And yes. I am the mother of four children under 6. Church is a disaster.

april said... [reply]

ok, california explains a lot. you might want to avoid the northwest too. my husband and i loved living in the seattle area, but i noticed that people from california or arizona or somewhere you see the sun daily had the hardest struggle with the weather there. growing up on the northeast, i don't expect to see the sun all the time - especially in the winter.

april said... [reply]

ok, california explains a lot. you might want to avoid the northwest too. my husband and i loved living in the seattle area, but i noticed that people from california or arizona or somewhere you see the sun daily had the hardest struggle with the weather there. growing up on the northeast, i don't expect to see the sun all the time - especially in the winter.

i agree with justme that kids should be in sacrament. i've even learned that my kids do better in the front. we used to sit in the back, but it just seemed harder for them to focus. my youngest is only 2 1/2 years old and i'm starting to be able to get a lot out of sacrament. of course, that's not true every week - some weeks are still crazy - but most weeks i now get most of at least one talk (it probably helps that my husband finally gets to sit with me again). my problem honestly is that having served in primary for over 10 years i find that my attention span is short. i want to break for song every 8 minutes or so. anyhoo, it really does get better. trust me, i'm not some expert mom reverence teacher (kids of those moms always seem to lack some spunk in my book.) my husband's aunt once told us how she enjoyed the show when we visited her ward once; she was on the stand as the sacrament chorister. but they seem to be learning. (you know, that they will be horrid this sunday since i said all this).

i will admit that my kids are always super hyper for home teachers - any suggestions there???!!!

Cathy said... [reply]

I have to say that my gripe is (sometimes) with the fact that my kids are a little too cute and therefore people permit them to roam several rows away. What childless woman (who wants children) is going to resist a two year old who WANTS to snuggle against them? Usually this works out well and I couldn't be more grateful for the help. But oh my--the days when demons enter my children and I'd love to take them out, but have to try and orchestrate a graceful exit from three different locations? When the older two fight me while the baby falls off the pew? This was during the sacrament, I might add. Those days are murder.

Mrs. Clark said... [reply]

Ah! The olden days, when kids were served Sacrament in Primary (meetings were separated, and you went to SS in the AM, Sacrament meeting in the PM). And they had cry rooms in nearly every chapel (a glassed-in room at the back, where you could go with irreverent kids). The marathon meeting schedule, which is about 30 years old, is great on gas usage, but really hard on moms and kids.

I can't believe those teeny aisles! I've never seen one (the buildings in my area are old) but how do you run a vacuum cleaner up 'em? Use dwarfs to clean the chapel?

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