Reflect on this

As part of our weekly church services, we take the sacrament, as taught by Jesus Christ while He lived on the earth. We do this to remember the Savior's atonement, to receive forgiveness for our sins, and to recommit to the promises we made at baptism. It is meant to be a sacred, spiritual highlight of our week.

It's just really too bad you have to go to church to get it.

By the time GH and I rush into a pew and plonk ourselves down on Sundays, I could not be less prepared to participate in something reverent and holy and thoughtful. Just reviewing and repenting of what I've done that morning would take longer than the 10-15 minutes provided for quiet reflection while sweet teenage boys bless and pass around their trays of bread and water. Not that I get quiet reflection anyway. The Dark Lord now understands that there are bits of food in those trays and last week he stood up to forcefully & repeatedly command the boys to bring such unto him. I had to bolt out into the hallway with him & missed the water.

GH says that church isn't the problem. It's getting ready for church that's the problem. He's right about that. I am never so mean to him as I am on Sunday mornings as I try to get myself ready for church, get the Tiny Dark Lord ready for church (which includes multiple feedings and diaper changes (which could lead to a bath if he's contaminated enough) and clothes and a well-stocked diaper bag and a nap if any of us want to get out of church alive), make sure my bag is packed with all the things I need for my Primary "lesson" (read: 45-minute-long storytime), and maybe get dinner started and indicate to GH what I would like him to do to help me. The fact that I have expend additional mental energy deciding and then telling him what to do just makes me angrier, even though I know that's not fair. We have to get to church at least 10 minutes early if we don't want to get stuck in the metal folding chairs in the overflow area. (Our ward is too big for the chapel, but they refuse to open up the gym unless additional crowds are expected, like for a baby blessing or a missionary farewell/reunion. This makes for good times and crowded foyers/hallways.)

I disagree with my Gentleman Husband, though, on his position that church isn't the problem. Because the challenges don't let up once we get there. We spend sacrament meeting trying to coral a strong, wiggly, nap-deprived monkey child who wants to run away and won't let anybody but me touch him. I have to take him out when he becomes too loud. This is happening more frequently. I am exhausted and short-tempered. I know that Primary is coming and soon there will be many children to corral and entertain, which will require additional reserves of energy and patience. So basically we spend all morning getting ready for church, and then spend the next three hours wrestling with children. Which seems less like a spiritual feast and more like something you would inflict as punishment on someone who dented your car in a parking lot and didn't leave a note.

I know there are people out there who do this with multiple children and parents who, for a variety of reasons, are there in the pew trenches alone with their children every Sunday. You are probably giving me a "Girl, please" right now. I know this, and I honor you. But knowing how frustrated and exhausted and frazzled I feel every single blessed Sabbath and realizing that it could/will get worse just makes me want to invent some kind of illness and become housebound. Then nice young men would just bring the sacrament to me and my kids could have their naps.

I am actually home right now, not at church. A raging, hysterical Dark Lord fell asleep an hour ago, and there was no way I was going to wake him up 30 minutes later to dress and feed him and drag his groggy, grumpy self to church. I would rather use my tongue to clean the area where the base of the toilet meets the floor. So GH is at the sacrament meeting, and I'm at home, blogging and listening to Music & the Spoken Word. We will switch so I can go to Primary and teach my lesson. It's too bad I won't be taking the sacrament today because it's clear that I'm the one who really needs it: After I fed The Dark Lord breakfast and then assembled an entire lasagna and put it in the fridge for dinner and put him down for an unsuccessful nap and then jumped into the shower only to find 10 seconds in that there was no hot water left after GH's shower, I bellowed a really bad word. On the blessed Sabbath. (Did I also mention that it's Fast Sunday today?) 

Next week, though, will be our General Conference. We will stay home and watch the sessions on TV. I will make my traditional General Conference meal of biscuits & gravy. I will knit and take notes during the talks. Nobody will be allowed to use the sisters' talks as an opportunity to use the bathroom or get more food. (That's what the songs are for.) I might stay in my pajamas. I will hear words of testimony and scripture and encouragement, and it won't matter if my child is running around naked the whole time with food smeared all over his body. 

Cannot wait. 

ps. And seriously, if anybody has discovered the secret to a stress-free Sunday morning with children, please please do share your tips. (And please don't say "skip church and go to brunch." I've already thought of that one.)


Bridget said... [reply]

No solutions here. Just commiseration. I'm also in Primary and most weeks it's like, "well, at least I'm wrangling someone ELSE's children for two of the three hours...I guess?" Sometimes that's as good as it gets.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

My coping mechanism - lowering my expectations. I have three boys - 5/3/1. The youngest will start nursery in 2 weeks (AND I CANNOT WAIT). And honestly, church has basically been a net loss for me for 5.5 years. I have always either been pregnant or had a kid out of nursery for that entire time, and it has just been brutal. And even with kids in nursery, sacrament meeting is completely insane (as you have noted quite eloquently). But once I stopped expecting to get anything out of church, and I just realized that I'm doing it to maintain a habit and to make church a positive place for my kid (not a place that they hate because they're constantly being yelled at to be completely still and quiet for three hours), it became easier and more manageable. But honestly... it's just hard. I supplement with music before/after church during my quiet/nap time, and sometimes I listen to conference talks while I surf the interwebs or do something mind-numbing. I guess what I'm saying is that I've just had to find spiritual nourishment outside the three hour block.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

The years between 1 and 4 are the worst years for bringing kids to church. Period. Especially if your ward starts at any time besides 9 AM (and 9 just makes the getting ready part more frantic).

Last year one of the young women in my ward decided that she'd sit with me and my kids and she has been often. Most of the time she takes my 2-year-old out to walk the halls after sacrament meeting. I think she wants an excuse to go out in the hall, but I don't care. It makes my life easier.

A few little ideas that may or may not work:
Get everything ready the night before. I have a specific diaper bag/toy bag just for church. I don't use it during the week and it just sits in my closet for Sunday. Sometimes I'll go through it on a Sunday afternoon and get it ready for the next week, then put it back in the closet (minus sippy cups, of course)

If you have a later church time, forget the big Sunday dinner tradition. Make Sundays leftover night, crockpot day, frozen pizza, sandwiches, etc. I like to cook, but Sunday morning is not a great time for it when I'm trying to get four of us ready for church.

As my kids have gotten older I've found that it's hard to find the balance between bringing too much stuff and not enough. Generally, though, less is more. My youngest just turned 2, and since she's in nursery most of the time I've found we can get through sacrament meeting with a coloring book, crayons, and one or two board books. She spends most of the time climbing on and off the bench anyways. We have 9 AM now so I don't even bring snacks since we eat breakfast right before we go. I throw a few diapers and some wipes in my scripture bag and we're good to go.

I don't mean to imply that "I've got it all figured out and you're doing it wrong". Bringing little kids to church just sucks. I think the worst is the year between 1 and 2 and it slowly gets better. If you have a toddler, just be prepared to spend most of sacrament meeting in the hall.

Elsha said... [reply]

I was having this very discussion with my sister a few weeks ago! We pretty much just agreed that Sundays with small children are no fun.

I don't have any solutions either. I mean, we're in the same ward as my parents which means there are TWO EXTRA adults to help us deal with kids and STILL it's crazy.

I'm also at home today because I'm in the midst of my "hole up for 8 weeks because I have a new baby and I'm totally not going to feel bad about it."

C. said... [reply]

I agree with much of what has been posted. All that works for us is getting as much ready on Saturday as we can: diaper bag packed, clothes laid out, Sunday dinner planned, etc. We also have a bag packed of books/toys/distractions that are only for church, which is doubly awesome since the toys are "new" for the kids and I also don't ever have to repack the darn bag. Besides that, eh, we're just trying to survive. I've definitely contemplated going inactive for the next 10ish years or however long it is until I have no small children who needs naps in the middle of church, but I don't think my husband will go for that.

Shauna said... [reply]

Wish I could be of some advice and insight to you. We go through this same thing. I often wonder why we even go. About your mans shower.... I've heard Jeff mention he takes the longest and hottest showers ever. That made me laugh. Good luck with Sundays.

Janssen said... [reply]

I highly recommend having your sister and her husband (with no children) move into the ward. And then have them entertain your child through all of sacrament meeting.

Also, when I was in Primary (as the music leader), I LOVED when sacrament meeting ran long because LESS TIME TO FILL! Now, I am pretty much ready to walk out the moment it's five after, even if a high council member is speaking. The child can ONLY make it the minimum amount of sacrament time, thank you.

Jennifer Lee said... [reply]

I agree that having a separate "Sunday Only" diaper bags is a big help--the church toys stay there and don't get used during the week and it's easy to pull out on Saturday night to restock with crackers/fruit snacks, etc. We have two boys under age three and my favorite Sunday morning routine (we have a 9am church with a 30 minute drive to the building)is getting me and the husband showered FIRST, then putting the boys in the bath. Yes, they just woke up, and yes, they had baths before bed the night before. But keeping them in the bath means no eating mess (we feed them oatmeal in the tub every single Sunday) and they just play until we pull them out with just enough time to get them dressed and into the car. It works for us because only one of us has to be in the bathroom supervising (and getting ready) while the other can be doing last minutes getting ready stuff.

As for the actual meetings, well, good luck. I think that the children under age three who site quietly are...creepy. Maybe I'm just jealous. The kids are little and are naturally loud and distracted--I figure my job is just to direct that energy into at quiet an activity as possible and that in four years I'll be able to start paying attention to the meeting again.

Jennifer Lee said... [reply]

And I've never posted a comment with so many typos before. Ever. So sorry about that. Please blame the 16-month-old on my lap.

Elizabeth said... [reply]

I was once told by a professor to give your child freedom on the bench and then to make them sit on your lap in the foyer. He said after three or four Sundays of that they will figure out which room they want to be in. I have yet to see if this works since my first is only three weeks old but I have every intention of giving it a try.

coolmom said... [reply]

So where is Uncle Mike the fun guy during all of this? Hiding? Not that I blame him. Ditto everything. The reward is that at 18 months he goes into the nursery, hope you don't get that job, and at 19 he goes on a mission and you feel good about the last 19 years of your life. And no one can take it away from you either!

Sue said... [reply]

Ditto to many of the ideas here. I survived those years of small children and being RS President by doing the following:

1. "Saturday is a special day" when kids clothes and my clothes were laid out and ready
2. I had boys and they always dressed in white shirts and ties (even when tiny) to reinforce the idea that this is a different time and place with different expectations
3. got up early and got myself ready first before they got up
4. I had a Sunday only bag with Sunday only "stuff" that sat on a closet shelf. As they were toddlers and older, I had 3-4 sets of stuff that rotated en masse each week so not only was the Sunday stuff not allowed to be used during the week and was therefore "new", but each week it was different (oooh, new & shiny)
5. it was more fun to be in the chapel looking at the stuff in the "church bag" than out in the hall
6. we had quiet times of reading etc. at home; it's hard to be quiet in church when it's the only time all week you do it
7. I told myself over and over that I was teaching my kids the importance of going to church each week and that later there would be lots of quiet Sacrament Mtgs. for me to contemplate the eternities

AmyJane said... [reply]

People have already said most of the good things. It's just hard. And honestly? Much like the sleep deprivation of having a newborn, it was worst with the first kid. By now, I'm totally accustomed to being always-tired and having church be a zero sum game. It's still crazy bad, but I don't notice cause my expectations are so low, at least for my personally getting anything out of the meetings.
Today I spent the entire meeting freaking out cause I got a text 5 min before we sacrament meeting that my RS teacher was delivering a baby and would not be there. Then my husband brought our straggly children in, who had looked lovely 2 hours earlier when I left to go to ward council/single adult committee meeting. The big kids were pretty good today, they each earned 1.5 out of 2 scoops of "Sunday ice cream"' but Maren? That girl is lucky she survived. Granted it is her naptime, and she is nearly two and insane, bu honestly. Worst week for her in a long time. Then, immediately following sacrament meeting, Patrick burst into tears and then vomited IN HIS CHURCH BAG. I was just glad it wasn't the floor. Since Sean had a Primary lesson and a friends of scouting presentation, I drew the short straw, pawned off the non lesson and took the sick one and the needs a nap one home.
Long story short? It gets better. And it gets worse. But I totally remember how hard it was with the first one when it wasn't normal to get nothing out of Sunday.

Lauren said... [reply]

Amen to Liz Johnson's comment about lowering the expectations and realizing that Sunday can't be the time to fill our lamps. My boys are 3.5 and 1 and the oldest has autism. We spend a lot of time out in the halls and I have no issues with taking time to chat with another mom while our kids scurry around. Church needs to be a happy place for ALL of us and if I'm spending my time feeling guilty because I'm letting my kid run in the hallways, then church isn't a good place for me. When they're older we can modify our expectations, but for now I think the Lord is pleased that we're making the effort and he wants us to be happy.

I too keep a Sunday only bag of toys and then just throw in a few snacks, wipes and diapers. And no grand Sunday dinners either.

Good luck. I hear it gets better, though I haven't found it any easier yet.

Jenny said... [reply]

there's been a lot said already--just hope you'll be able to catch the vision NOW of what you're setting yourselves up for LATER. I spent MANY Sundays crying at home, wondering WHY I even bothered to go to church with small kids? Just know that it's WORTH the struggle. Eventually, being able to enjoy a reverent pew for the sacrament will be NO problem. Then you'll have other things to fret about. (Then thank GOODNESS you'll have the sacrament to yourself)
you are strong.
you are brave.
you are awesome.
Keep on chugging.
And thanks for keeping it real.

springrose said... [reply]

You need to make your own "Sunday plan of attack". I had to make mine when we had 5 children in 8 years and my husband we in the bishopbric or on the High Council and I had to get everyone ready and to church on time by myself, plus sit by myself at church and wrestle all of them. My "SPA" was to lay out all clothes the night before, including shoes, sock, and belts. Make sure the diaper bag is packed the night before,and that your lesson is also done well before Sunday morning. Plan a crock pot dinner or something like that and your hubby should be able to throw everything in the pot for you while you get ready, for the love, shower before him if he is a water hog! Also I found it helpful to not let my child take a nap if sacrament meeting was close to nap time unless it couldn't be helped. Then they fall asleep in sacrament meeting. I think the time slot of anything other than 9 am is horrid to bring kids to. At 11 am they are hungry by the time primary rolls around, and at the 1pm slot by the time church starts they are all tired. Also have "special" treats you ONLY use at church. That way the DL will clue in and want to stay in Sacrament meeting, but he only gets them if he is good and lets you stay in the chapel.
I have had many people comment on how well behave my kids are in church, it wasn't because of help from my husband. There were many Sundays I just wanted to sit down and cry, by the time I got to church I wanted to just load back up and go home. But I knew I wouldn't be teaching my children what I should. Also, the hall is not their friend! Do not let him get down and walk around and play!! It should be no fun. If it is he will start doing things to go out in the hall to play. I have seen this so many times. Do not make this mistake, or you are finished and he has won, forever!
Just so you know, all moms are going thru this war. You will survive, and then have another one only to start all over again, with two. Deep breaths and lots of chocolate, it's the best cure.

Desmama said... [reply]

Dark Lord is at a REALLY tough age, so it will get better. But maybe not as quickly as would be nice. Everyone's suggestions are good. Lots of prep the day before, crock-pot meals (maybe even out of the freezer) are also a great idea. I remember my mom actually setting the table for dinner before we left for church so it was all ready to go when we got home.

Most of us can commiserate with you. But whatever you do, keep going! Keep trying! It'll get easier to distract him, and he'll find quiet(er) things to do in sacrament meeting as he gets older and realizes it's a weekly thing that he's not getting out of.

Kristi said... [reply]

Nursery is the most inspired program of the church, I'm sure of it. But between 12-18 months church sucks.

I stayed sane with #2 (who just joined nursery land last week, hallelujah!) by asking to be released from my calling teaching the 14 Sunbeams. There are plenty of other ward members without babies who can teach the classes, I say. Plus, after being in primary for a while, it's really nice to be able to go to RS and feel understood and somewhat uplifted, instead of completely drained from babysitting for 3 hours of church.

When I get things ready the night before, things go better. Especially with getting dad involved in the readying of the kids. If I have all clothing laid out, 100% ready and in an obvious location for the daddy, then he can be helpful. If I have to run around looking for a stupid pair of tights or one bleeping Sunday shoe, I feel like going to bar instead of to church.

Jenny said... [reply]

@Janssen She has a brother and SIL in the ward with no children, but no married sister with no children. Sigh...

Charms said... [reply]

I have always struggled with staying all 3 hours at church and then when my little one was born it got so much worse.., and now that I have TWO my attendance is practically nonexistent. I sit in either the mother's lounge or the hallways...but I try to remember, even if I don't get a *darn* thing out of it, at least my girls are seeing me try. That's good enough for now.

Jenny said... [reply]

Get the church bag with all the crap in it that you need. Dads should be in charge of this. Also, Dads should generally just be in charge of babies at church and anything that happens on Sunday if they are not in a bishopric or on the high council, in my opinion, regardless (or irregardless if I was TAMN) of how much Baby Voldemort will scream. That's what the parking lot is for.

Also, after I was called into the Primary presidency and late church started, I started fasting early enough on Sat that I could end my fast before church on Sunday so I was able to teach sharing time without becoming the Grand High Witch. It's been amazing and I can't recommend it enough.

Seriously though. GH and baby Voldy can hang out in the parking lot while you mentally prepare for the other people's children if they need to.

ALSO, if you're seriously freaking out maybe you could get reassigned to a primary class with not sunbeams.

I wish you were in my ward. Your baby would fit right in with my pew monkeys. Hudson almost got run over by a neighbor on the way to church (my fault),screamed at me to play angry birds during sacrament meeting over and over, kicked a pregnant woman and then threw my phone. And then Ethan broke out into hives and Savannah yelled at Ethan for sitting the wrong way. Yelled. During the sacrament. And I laughed. Because what else was I going to do?

Lindsey said... [reply]

I'm going to second and third a lot of things that people are already saying.

1-Get everything ready the night before. I mean EVERYTHING, down to the last sock and, if you can, dinner that you can put in the fridge until it's time to cook.

2-Keep a Sunday bag that you use ONLY on Sunday. You can make sure to refill it with diapers, etc throughout the week and rotate your stuff every so often again, during the week. Use this instead of the diaper bag on Sunday. Just toss your wallet, keys etc in there and call it good.

3-If you notice that some things make TDL more difficult at church, stop bringing them. For my kids, it's toys. So, we let them bring books, coloring books, magnet things. But NEVER toys of any kind.

4-Have certain things that GH is ALWAYS in charge of. With us, the hubby's in meetings all morning so his list is not too long. He's in charge of hair and teeth for the boys, making sure the bag is ready, and getting the kids in the car. He knows to do these things and I know I have fewer things to stress over.

5-Try and see it from TDL's perspective. He is forced to sit quietly in a boring room with nothing to do and little to look at. There's no room to play or run around and he can't even talk/shout or laugh loudly. Sounds awful for a kid his age! No wonder they prefer the foyer.

6-You do have to lower your expectations. Right now, church is not going to be the spiritual haven it may have been. You will get those moments, but it will be here and there. Once they get to about 3-4, it starts to get a bit better. Right now, it's about trying to make the day as positive for TDL as possible. You want him to know that Sunday = church and it isn't a bad thing. You will spend a lot of time in the foyer. That's ok. Just remember that you've had __ years to make church about you and your experience. You've built up a foundation. For now, you need to help TDL start building his.

Saskia said... [reply]

I visited an LDS meeting a while ago, and although I loved, loved how the kids stay with the parents during the sacrament meeting, our habit of putting them in nursery does have its upsides! Feeling for you here.

emandtrev said... [reply]

Hang in there, girl. It really will get better, but I too fall prey (probably too often) of the before church grouchy behavior. A lot of people have great suggestions. Here is what *helps* for me (saying "helps" because we still roll in late sometimes, spend time in the foyer, look frazzled, and have tired children):

1. My husband leaves for meetings before church so I am responsible for getting the three wee ones ready. I shower the night before and lay out clothes for ALL of us the night before.

2. I have a separate church bag with diapers, books, my lesson manual, and snacks. I try really hard (again, in a perfect world) to restock things the night before.

3. We do baths for the kids the night before as well. This works great if the bebe doesn't have a blow out that requires another bath.

4. I use the crock pot nearly every Sunday. Either that or something VERY simple--like spaghetti, using the grill, or pancakes. I've decided that while I love a good Sunday dinner, no great meal is worth snarling my head off about it (which I've totally done). My hubby helps with the crock pot a lot. He cuts up veggies, seasons roasts, things like that...

Anyway, these are just a few things that help us. We spent a good deal of time in the foyer yesterday during sacrament because the baby was SO tired and sometimes that just can't be helped at church. She finally fell asleep during the third hour. Eeek. I honestly just have to take those deep breaths, realize that life with young kids is very challenging, and say some prayers to help remind me of how much I love those munchkins.

Bebe McGooch said... [reply]

I never thought I would ever look forward to Mondays. But now I do. Sundays are my hardest days. Saturdays can be hard too, since we have too much going on on Saturdays, it messes with our schedule. So I no longer look forward to the weekends.

Luckily, my calling doesn't require me to do anything on Sundays, so if Charlie gets a little nap in before church, we will just hang out in nursery. If he doesn't get a nap, all bets are off, and it's a miracle if we even bother staying after Sacrament meeting.

So I hear you, sister. I hear you. Absolutely ecstatic for General Conference. Which on a side note, reminds me how much I love the RS podcast. Maybe you've already blogged about that, but I love listening to it in the car and on walks. It's a huge highlight of my month.

AmyJane said... [reply]

I forgot to tell you about my recurring dream. I regularly dream that I am at church with a screaming overtired baby in the hallway and suddenly I spy a door I've neve seen before. It turns out to be a room of requirement filled with small rooms with nicely equipped cribs and fantastic video baby monitors. And then I weep with joy because church is now saved.

Christian said... [reply]

The one piece of advice I have to offer has already been mentioned, but I'll offer a variation that worked well for my mom and is working for my sister. When Voldy leaves thechapel, he does not get to run around. Since it's a punishment, it has to be more entertaining to behave inside the chapel. If possible, and I realize it's difficult with how overloaded chapels are anymore, instead of taking him to the foyer where there still might be people and things to occupy his attention, take him to an empty room, pull out a chair, and set him on your lap staring at a blank, white wall. He will quickly learn that it is more entertaining to watch other people quietly than it is to watch a blank wall.

Jennifer said... [reply]

I'm pretty sure we moms get extra blessings just for showing up church each week. At least I'm banking on that because I don't get much else out of it. I've loved reading all these comments and reconfirming to myself that I'm not the only one who deals with these things!

Bebe McGooch said... [reply]

I also loved reading the comments. I love your readers, Nem. I always get great ideas and insight from both you and your readers.

Brittney said... [reply]

Oooh, you made me laugh out loud with "I'd rather clean the place where the toilet meets the floor with my tongue" because it is so true! I definitely showed up an hour late to church in the early days when naps were vital.
Ditto to everything that was said about getting ready on Saturday and ditching fancy Sunday dinners. And I love Amyjane's dream. Bliss.
And Christian, that was definitely my parents' method and there is possibly one time in my memory of growing up with nine siblings that anyone got taken out of the chapel. It works.
Carry on Nem, it does get better!

Nemesis said... [reply]

MAN these are great comments. And really, it's helpful just to know that I'm not the only one out there who hates Sundays. :-)

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said... [reply]

Not that I can add anything to the discussion, because I think most everything has been covered. Ours were: Sunday-only bag ready the night before, limited toys, no snacks or severely limited depending on the age of the child and the church time, no running or playing in the foyer if taken out and our being ready for church at least 30 minutes early, so that if there were issues, they were the only issues. Trust me, you can do it, even if church is at 9:00!

My boys are pre-teen and teenager now. And there were many Sundays where my husband and/or I each spent the day walking the hallways with a child. It was so tempting to not even go if we were going to be in the hallway the whole time. And, honestly, while my husband was in school and it was sometimes just me at church, there were some Sunday's when I left after Sacrament meeting because I couldn't handle it anymore.

I had a wise bishop who told us of an experience he and his wife had where they each passed the other in the church hallway, each carrying a crying child. They looked at each other and wondered, why are we even here? And then the answer came, that they were there out of obedience. This was their season to teach their children the importance of going to church and learning to be reverent.

I've thought a lot about that over the years as I have learned, once again, about seasons. When my children were tiny, that was my season to be an example of obedience and to teach them about the importance of going to church and being reverent. (We never stop being that example, but it's different now, than when they were babies.)

I also realized that I had a lot of years of singles wards and good meetings and lessons that I could draw on and I knew that I would once again be able to feel the spirit and enjoy a Sacrament meeting. Those years of baby/toddler church hell, were just a period of time, not the way it was going to be forever, and your children really do learn how to be reverent if you make an effort to actually teach it and not simply survive it.

It does get better and it is worth it.

MJ said... [reply]

It's the secret no one tells you. "Get married" they say, "Have KIDS" they say, "It's the greatest blessing!" they say.

What they DON'T say is that church will immediately suck the MOMENT the baby learns to crawl.

At that moment, the parents become a rodeo clown, there only to keep the kids from distracting (or impaling) everyone else.

When I was 19, 20, and carefree and single, I JUDGED my parents for not going to conference when we were kids. Now I understand, and fully intend to stay home next week. We can listen on the internet, or I can just read it online.

La Yen said... [reply]

Thanks so much for this and for the comments. Sunday had me in tears as I left church to take the demons home. The idea that I am now doing this to make it a habit for my children, not to get ANYTHING EVER AGAIN for myself? I can totally embrace that.

Azúcar said... [reply]

I remember the moment when I realized that church was totally different now. It wasn't my first kid, but having a toddler and a baby that clued me in. I was sitting in the pew, with madness going on around me, and I couldn't hear the high priest and I knew; I wasn't going to be able to listen to the talks anymore. It was the profound experience of letting go of listening and learning in Sacrament Meeting.

Now I know that we're there to start the habit of going to church with the kids. If I learn something, great! If I hear 1 minute of a talk and don't roll my eyes, great! But I'm pretty much outta luck for the next few years.

(For a while, DH would sit on the end and not help with the kids at all. One Sunday he had THE NERVE to tell me to control them. Oh, I LOST IT. Soon after that incident I was called to be the ward chorister and he had to deal with them all by himself, because Jesus is my homie.)

These days it's not so bad, with an 8, almost 5 and a baby. The older two are content to draw. There are no snacks. Like someone else said, we stopped allowing toys when they turned 3, choosing quieter items instead. We have a church bag. I try to get all the clothes out the night before. If we're late, I don't sweat it. We even have 1pm church this year and I LOVE IT. The baby's big nap is in the morning and the older kids don't need one. If things are really bad, I can take the baby home.

I DO NOT COOK ON SUNDAYS. That is my day off. We will go eat at Nana's house, we will rummage, and there is cold cereal.

Suffer the little ones to come unto me. The children are there for a reason. We're doing everything awesome just being there.

Cathy said... [reply]

No one has mentioned the hell that exists when sacrament meeting is scheduled last...and small children have already lived through two classes before being asked to be still and quiet.

Also, I add my voice to those who have mentioned asking for a different calling than Sunbeam teacher while dealing with a small child. Been there, done that. Primary was tolerable while teaching the seven year olds and dealing with a toddler during that last hour of sacrament meeting. Teaching sunbeams for two hours and then dealing with a toddler, while being a stay-at-home mom with postpartum depression? Not possible. Life was so much nicer after I spoke with our bishop and got called to teach the gospel essentials class instead. Then teaching = actual adult conversation with no interruptions.

Also remember that others aren't always judgmental of your toddler. He may seem like a demon to you while looking adorable to some. And sometimes having little ones even creates opportunities. We had one friendship grow with an older childless couple who loved to sit behind us so my kids could crawl under the pew and visit them. They got spontaneous gestures of affection; my kids got novel crayons, stickers, and someone whose patience wasn't worn down by constant exposure to them. I learned that my rigid rules needed softening and that I needed to encourage those interactions--that my little ones were bestowing a valuable gift in their love and friendship.

This is harder to do in a larger ward--the one we are currently in is gargantuan and finding and developing such relationships is difficult, especially when sitting inside the chapel requires arriving 15 minutes early. But posting about past experiences is encouraging me to try and replicate the previous pattern. There must be someone in our immense ward who would love to sit near our affectionate monkeys and share in their friendliness.

Cari Clark said... [reply]

From the time your kid can walk until he goes into the nursery, it's a wash--worse if you have a Primary calling. I taught Primary when my first was 8 months old and my husband thought it would be more fun to spend the ENTIRE WEEKEND two or three times a month, six months a year, at Civil War re-enactments. I decided to keep my mouth shut about that, but it left me holding a baby and trying to teach a lesson to a group of 5-year-olds.

I finally asked for, and got, a release.

Let TDL roam around the halls during Sacrament meeting, then when he is 2, start taking him out, but go into a completely boring room and hold him in your lap facing away from you. You don't want to pay off his fussiness with fun time. Let him know he can go back in when he's ready to behave. Find a room with speakers and listen to the talks. I promise this works. But the next several years will be given over to wrangling kids more than listening to the speakers in Sacrament meeting. It's ok. This, too, will pass.

jeri said... [reply]

I thought we had left the days of stomping up and down the halls, throwing things and tearing pages out of the hymnals behind us. And don't forget army crawling under the pews to find a random strangers purse and search it for mints. But then we had another baby. We're crazy.

There were a lot of good comments on here. Get organized. GH needs Sunday responsibilities. Lower expectations (if TDL goes to church in footed pajamas, who cares!?) One thing I've found though is that Heavenly Father isn't going to leave you out, just because you're doing your best to take care of your kids. If you can calm down and focus on the good, His voice is there for you. Maybe it will be in the 5 minutes of the talk you listen to while TDL is slurping down a bottle of juice. Maybe it's when you share a conversation with someone else wandering the halls during Sunday school. Or it will be a talk from a completely different ward, heard over the speakers in the mother's room as you change a diaper. It may not be the spiritual feast that Sacrament can be for others, but at least you get a little snack.

and when Azúcar said "Jesus is my homie" it totally made my day.

Jenn said... [reply]

Ha! I like Liz's strategy - lower your expectations. Personally, I've sort of given up on containing my toddler during church. We are in a super small branch and have no nursery, so during Sunday School, if my 19 month old chooses to go up to the front of the classroom and help the instructor by writing on the chalkboard, I let her. If people get too annoyed by it, maybe they'll volunteer to be the nursery leader!

During 3rd hour, my husband and I both teach, so again, the child gets to do as she pleases, running back and forth between our classes, drawing on the board, or playing with the ipad. It's kind of a circus, but I've decided it's cruel (not to mention impossible) to force a lone toddler to be still and quiet for 3 hours. Just not gonna happen.

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