Going to Church with Little Kids

Strategies and suggestions to help things go more smoothly.


Before we had kids, my experience of church was involved, but fairly laid back. We would arrive 5-10 beforehand, chat to some friends and then find a pew somewhere around the middle to front region. When it came time to sing, we would stand and sing. And when it was time for the sermon, we would sit and listen. I always enjoyed taking notes – writing down verse references to look up later or phrases that stood out to me. Or even having a good old doodle to keep my mind from wandering. Then, when the service finished, we would turn around and have a chat to whoever was in the pew behind us or catch some friends. All before leaving when we were good and ready.

Ahhh.

Don’t you feel so relaxed reading that?

Because going to church after you have kids is a little different…

Now, we tend to arrive on time (yay!) or 5-10 minutes late (better late than never, so… yay!). We find a seat towards the back of the hall, in order to minimise disruptions to everyone else during one of the 50 million times we will get out of our seats. During songs, we spend about half the time singing the words, and half the time whispering to an inquisitive child what the song is about or telling a child to face the front or disseminating snacks. The two older kids go out to Kids Church during the sermon, but we keep the baby in with us and let him crawl around in the general area in front of our seats. I’m lucky if I can hear an entire sermon these days, let alone process what has been said. And how long we stay at the end of church is determined by the battery life, I mean tiredness, of the youngest members of our family.

So if you’re in a place where going to church just seems too hard or you’re thinking about giving it up, let me encourage you to keep going! Keep trying!

And maybe some of these practical tips will help you out… (And please add your own helpful tips if you’ve “been there, done that”!)

 

Babies

  • When you arrive at a new church or before your baby arrives at your current church, take a moment to suss out a place where you can change a nappy and a place where you can go if the baby gets too loud. Ask the person at the front door if you can’t find somewhere suitable. It’s best to find these places at the start, otherwise when your baby starts crying in the middle of the service, you might get flustered and just leave!
  • When breastfeeding, I prefer to sit at the back of the church. I find that people can’t see much from the front of me, but they might “catch a glimpse” if they are sitting behind and to the side. So sitting right at the back of the church provides the most comfortable place for me to feed. (Our old church – pictured below – had two big red lounges at the back of the church specifically for nursing mothers. It was fantastic!)
  • When our babies were little, we always tried to line up one of their naps to be during the service. We would either put them down to nap in the pram or with one of us using the baby carrier. This often involved one of us going outside or into the hallway until the baby fell asleep. Sometimes this worked well, other times they would either not fall asleep at all or they would fall asleep, but wake up immediately upon entering the church hall again. Which leads me to the next point…
  • Have a plan, but be prepared to go with the flow. Babies often run on their own schedule (and sometimes that lines up with ours). It’s okay for them to miss the odd nap (provided they don’t just scream until the next nap). It’s okay for them to have a shorter nap than usual on one day of the week so that you can make it to church. Our kids never napped for longer than about 30 minutes in the pram or carrier, so we just accepted that they would need the next nap to be a bit sooner.
  • Don’t feel like you need to rush out of the church hall every time your baby makes a noise. There are happy noises and there are not so happy noises, and both of these can be equally disruptive to the church service. We tend to wait a minute or two to see if the baby settles down, and if they keep being loud, one of us will take the baby into the back room (where Kids Church meets) or into the hallway to the side of the church. We have just accepted that we will miss parts of the church service for the time being. It’s just a season – not forever.

 

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What screaming baby? I can’t hear any screaming baby…

Toddlers and Preschoolers

I’m lumping these two together because there is a fair bit of over lap.

  • Scout out the location of the toilets and somewhere you can take the child for “time out” if they need it. Like I mentioned with babies, it’s best to find these locations before you sit down so you know exactly where to go, should the need arise.
  • Bring snacks. We still bring snacks for our 5 year old, but I’m sure that will stop some time over the next year. I pack a little bag of things like crackers, raisins and nuts and give them to the kids right at the start of church. Morning tea is provided at the end of the service, but that’s too long for them to wait when they have eaten breakfast at 7-7.30, and church starts at 10. (Actually, bringing snacks applies for older babies too!)
  • Explain to them what is happening and your expectations. It might seem like they don’t understand, but they will eventually. Use simple phrases like, “Now we are talking to God. We close our eyes to help us concentrate”, “Now we’re singing a song about God – we read the words from the screen” and “Now it’s time to be quiet and listen to the person speaking at the front”. Over time and with consistency, they will learn what happens in church and how they should behave. (But it won’t be instant!)
  • In the school holidays, when the Kids Church program takes a break, our church hands out colouring sheets and pencils for all the kids to do during the sermon. We also bring along a sticker book each for the older kids, as we find this helps them to stay quieter during the sermon. It might mean we don’t actually hear much – we are busy holding the book steady and peeling off stickers and finding the right page for them to go on, but this is more for the benefit of others around us – so they can hear the sermon.

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Some Bible verses for reflection

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” Matthew 19:14

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:21-27


 

What strategies have worked for you? What hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear from you!

Mothers and Sons

I came across this music video the other day, by Christian hip-hop artist, NF.

And through tears, I watched as he told the true story of his mother’s addiction to drugs, her death by overdose and the impact on this young man’s heart.

You know how some songs just reach deep inside your chest, grab you by the heart and don’t let go? Yeah.

Here are some of the lyrics:

They say pain is a prison, let me out of my cell

You say you proud of me, but you don’t know me that well

Sit in my room, tears running down my face and I yell

Into my pillowcases, you say you coming to get us

Then call ’em a minute later just to tell us you not, I’m humiliated

I’m in a room with a parent that I don’t barely know

Some lady in the corner watching us, while she taking notes

I don’t get it mom, don’t you want to watch your babies grow?

I guess that pills are more important, all you have to say is no

But you won’t do it will you? You gon’ keep popping ’til those pills kill you

I know you gone but I can still feel you

Wow, it makes me teary just reading the lyrics again.

 

 

Recently I watched the controversial (for it’s take on suicide) series 13 Reasons Why.

There were many “moments” that got to me from that series, but one in particular centred on the character Justin. (Spoiler Alert)

He lives with his single mother, but is often kicked out by her on-and-off boyfriend, who doesn’t like Justin. I think his mother struggles with mental health issues and alcoholism.

There is this one scene towards the end of the series where the boyfriend has Justin up against the wall, holding onto his throat, telling Justin to get out of his (the boyfriend’s) house. Justin’s Mum is standing off to the side, watching. Justin looks over at her and pleads, “Mum?” But she does nothing.
Then the boyfriend lets Justin get down. He grabs his bag and runs out of the house, wiping back the tears.

As I watched that scene, my Mumma heart just wanted to reach out and hold that big little boy. To reassure him that he was loved. That someone had his back.

 

 

I’m still only early on in this motherhood journey. I’m in the “sowing” stage, not yet at the “reaping” stage.

But I know that our young boys need us, Mums. They need us in a distinct and important way – different, but no less important to how they need their Dads.

I know they need us to sow into their lives love and security and warmth.

I know they need to see what a healthy relationship looks like.

I know they need to see that we don’t put inanimate objects before them (whether that be pills or phones or anything else).

And ultimately, they need us to introduce them to Jesus. The ultimate source of love and security.

Mothers – myself included – we only get to raise each child once. Let’s not mess this up.

Harvey (72)

Middle child and I when he was a gorgeous chubby baby. Photo credit: http://www.sophietphotography.com

Here’s a fantastic resource about raising boys, from a Mum who is older and wiser and further along than me: http://jessconnell.com/25-tips-moms-boys/

I Am Thankful…

I am thankful for…

  • The crystal coat of frost on the grass in the mornings.
  • Cold air and warm coats.
  • Three tiny tickly bodies.
  • A new friend, baking up a storm and laughing in the kitchen.
  • The peacefulness of the house at nap time.
  • Little arms reaching up.
  • The warm arms of my husband around me in the night.
  • The subtle citrus candle that makes my house smell clean.
  • Thoughtful conversations with a five-year-old.
  • The tree with red leaves that haven’t yet fallen.
  • The anticipation of exciting things to come (a catch up with a good friend, a date with my husband and a weekend getaway with my family).
  • The pink glow of the sunset across the sky.
  • The feeling of a full tummy.

 

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. In this season, I am thankful for all He has given.

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On Being Needed

I can remember a time in my childhood when Mum was sick enough to need to rest in bed during the day.

I remember my Dad looking after us and saying “You need to stay out of our bedroom – Mummy is sick and she needs to sleep. Come and play.”

And I remember how my little heart felt – that it was unfair that we had to stay away from Mum; that she belonged to us and being unable to access her felt wrong.

Of course, as we grew older, we grew in compassion and saw that she had needs of her own.

Now I’m a Mum myself and I can see the other side of the equation.

Yesterday, for Mother’s Day, I rode my bike over to our church early and had breakfast and coffee by myself from the local cafe.

As I was getting ready to leave, I told the kids that Daddy would be bringing them to church and I would meet them there.

My 3 year old said – in the sweetest, most sorrowful voice imaginable – “But Mummy… I just… love you de most in de whole world.”

I could feel what his little heart was feeling. Why does Mummy have to go away from us? Why can’t I have access to her constantly?


 

Sometimes the “feeling needed” part of being a Mum is so intense.

I can feel it when my daughter follows me into the bathroom. When the baby wriggles to get out of my arms, and then immediately stretches his hands up to me, wanting to be picked up again. When my daughter comes and sits in the kitchen and says, “I just want to do what you’re doing Mummy.”

Whether these moments make me swoon or grind my teeth usually depends on where my head is at. If I’m feeling well organised and refreshed, I see the joy in being needed. But if I’m feeling overwhelmed and frazzled, I just want some space.

It’s actually good to be needed. This means that my kids and I have developed a healthy attachment. But I can’t pour out of an empty vessel.

So I will continue to pour myself out for my kids, and my husband and whoever the Lord chooses. But I will also continue to fill my cup.

First, by spending time with the Lord. And then by spending time on my own.

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Should We Think of Motherhood as a Career?

Whenever I meet new people, the question is inevitably asked: “Do you work?”

I usually answer, with a grin, “Yes, I work a lot, I just don’t get paid.”

Now, there’s no hint of resentment there – the Lord provides for our family abundantly through my husband’s income. But I answer this way because I often think of my role as a mother as my career. This is my job, and I think it’s the best job in the world.

But recently I’ve been quietly self-critiquing this concept of motherhood as career. The way we think and talk about things matters, so I’ve been trying to figure out whether thinking about motherhood as a job does more harm or good – to my relationship with the kids, to my motivation levels and to how others perceive motherhood (especially younger women).

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The benefits of viewing motherhood as a career:

  • It helps me to spend my time during the day more wisely and productively. In fact, just recently, I confided in my husband that I felt one of the main reasons I was feeling so overwhelmed was that I was spending too much of my time on social media during the day, which meant that the important things weren’t getting done. In order to change this, I proposed that I implement a “work hours” policy, where I don’t use social media during specific hours of the day, and I asked his advice on what these hours should be (because, let’s face it, mothers often have demands on our time for all of our waking hours – and even some of the sleeping ones). He said 9-5 would be reasonable, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do since then – thinking of myself as being “at work” from 9-5, and not allow myself to slack off from the job.
  • It leads me to be more serious and intentional about motherhood. I make plans and I try to take advantage of the teachable moments with my kids. I realise that I am “it”, and I’m not waiting around for someone else to come and teach them all the stuff they need to successfully get to adulthood. This is the “thing” I do with my time, so I need to do it well. I guess the opposite of this would be if I just saw my kids as people who happen to be in my life now, and each moment passes by accidentally, with much thought or consideration. Or worse, if I just viewed motherhood as something to get through or something that is a hindrance to my “real life”. Thinking of motherhood as my career leaves no doubt in my mind about where my efforts should be directed.
  • It helps me to feel more valuable and appreciated for my contribution. If we can think and speak about motherhood in the language of career, it helps us to feel like we are doing something worthwhile with our time. Sometimes I have referred to my husband as the Chief Executive Officer of our family, and myself as the Chief Operations Officer.

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The drawbacks of viewing motherhood as a career:

  • The flip side of that last point is that this view of motherhood as a “job” or “work” comes from a capitalist system where people are valued based on their economic contribution to society. So there is a pressure on Stay at Home Mums to justify their existence in economic terms, or else risk being labelled a “drain on society” (as this recent OECD study said). When we talk about motherhood as a career, we are playing into this kind of thinking that people are only as important as the money they make (or save) and what they “do” for a living. This thinking is contrary to the Christian perspective, which says that people are valuable because they are image-bearers of God, not because of anything they do.
  • Another problem is that viewing motherhood in terms of a job often leads to a focus on fairness, rather than the service and selflessness that should characterise the Christian woman’s life. Let’s face it – there is so much about motherhood that is unfair. We often don’t get to go to the toilet alone or when we want to. We share our meals, or eat them cold. We have less time to devote to our own interests. And on it goes… Looking at it purely through an investment/return paradigm, we might be tempted to grow bitter about how much we “give up” for our kids, compared to how little we get back (at least in the short term). We can also be tempted to compare our “work day” with our husbands and think about how much longer and demanding our hours are (depending on what he does, of course – my husband has informed me that he too is frequently unable to go to the toilet when he wants to and often has to work through his lunch break!). Constantly thinking about whether something is “fair” or not is a sure fire way to lead to resentment or stinginess. Because even if things are fair, by your approximation, needing to vigilantly watch out for fairness will mean even what you do give is tightly meted out, being careful not to give or do too much, lest you tip the scales into “unfairness”.
  • When I think of my role as mother as my career, it can lead me to measure my success or failure based on things like how much I get done or whether I complete my to-do list. I’ve fallen into this trap before – going from elation when I get lots done to despair and overwhelm when I don’t. But then I realised that much of the work of motherhood is not measurable with pen and paper (or even Excel spreadsheets!). How do you quantify an hour spent in the sunshine, rolling around in the grass with three little munchkins? Even a note added to my list and checked off after the event – “play with kids” – seems hopelessly inadequate at capturing all that was achieved in that hour – the smiles shared, the fleeting embraces, the close examining of the leaves, the time spent watching a beetle, the discussion about why God made the trees. Some of my best “mum days” have been absolute failures according to my to-do list!

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How should we think of motherhood?

As I’ve thought through the points above, it’s become clear to me that I need to stop thinking of and referring to motherhood as my career.

Sure, I should take it seriously and be intentional about it, but I think using the language of jobs and career does more damage here than good.

So how does the Bible view mothers and motherhood?

 

Motherhood is fruitfulness:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” Genesis 1:28

 

Motherhood is hard:

To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
    but he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

 

Motherhood is a position of honour:

Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

 

The happiness of a mother is caught up in the character of her children:

A wise son makes a glad father,
    but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.” Proverbs 10:1

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
    he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
Let your father and mother be glad;
    let her who bore you rejoice.” Proverbs 23:24-25

 

The mother/child relationship is secondary to the Christian’s love for Jesus:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37

 

Mothers are gentle and caring:

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7

 

Motherhood is ministry:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1:5

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6: 6-7

 

Motherhood is a conduit of love:

 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…” Titus 2:3-4

 

“Mother” is not my job title.

To call motherhood my career would only diminish what it is that I do.

It goes beyond the 9-5 and it is more than any list of tasks I can achieve.

It’s who I am. It’s why I was put on this earth. It is my calling and my passion and my joy to raise these little ones to know and love Jesus.

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If I Could Stop Time

There are certain things that highlight, for me, the swift passing of time.

The changing colours of the leaves is one of them. And each child’s birthday is another.

And so now that my youngest child is one and the leaves are bright reds, yellows and oranges all around us, I can’t help but think about how fast the days and years roll over.

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Sometimes I just want to stop time in it’s place and check I’m doing everything I can be… being the best mother I can, the best wife I can, the best friend I can. It feels like time moves too fast to properly handle everything, and that if I could somehow stop it, then maybe I’d have a chance to get it all right.

Or some moments seem so perfect, I wish I could stay there for longer. Like when my two little boys are rolling around on the bed, “wrestling” and shrieking together. Or when my daughter sits for half an hour at her dressing table, carefully colouring in a picture. Or the chilled air of a perfect, quiet morning.

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What I’m learning is that while I can’t stop time (or rewind it and redo it), I can make sure that I’m pouring my best into each moment I’m given.

Not worry about what’s coming, just handle what is right in front of me in the best way possible.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

Sometimes that means leaving the dishes for another time so I can read a pile of books with my kids. And sometimes it means telling the kids we’ll read books later because I really do need to wash the dishes.

Sometimes that means giving up my “lunch break” during nap time to get through a stack of paperwork. And sometimes it means leaving the paperwork for another day because I need to go lie on the grass and look at the sky.

Sometimes that means getting up at 6am and spending time in prayer with the Lord, while the house is still quiet. And sometimes it means turning off the alarm and thanking God for just a little bit more sleep, after being up all night with a baby.

There is a time for everything.

This can be hard to discern sometimes. When is it time to clean the house, and when is it time to let go of our standards?

I often quote to myself James 1:5 when I’m struggling with my priorities:

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

God has all the wisdom we need about how to give our best self to any particular moment. He knows what we ought to be doing, and He will gladly guide us if we just ask him.

 

One day I won’t have babies any more. One day I won’t have toddlers any more. One day I won’t have little kids, or big kids or teenagers any more.

I will have adult children and the work of “raising” will be done.

For now, I want to fully take in each moment… do the work needed, love with all my heart and point to Jesus with my every word and action.

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I’ll leave you with the words of Sara Groves, “This Cup”:

How many hours have I spent
Watching this shining tv
Living adventure in proxy
In another person’s dream
How many miles have I traveled
Looking at far away lights
Listening for trains in the distance
In some brilliant other life?

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy

So take up what we’ve been given
Welcome the edge of our days
Hemmed in by sunrise and sunset
By our youth and by our age
Thank God for our dependence
Here’s to our chasm of need
And how it binds us together
In faith and vulnerability

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy

What if my whole world falls apart?
What if my life could be different?
What if I sat right here and took you in
Without the fear and loved you whole
Without the flight and didn’t try to pass

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This beautiful reality
Is better than fear or fantasy
Is better than fear or fantasy
Is better than fear or fantasy

Do You Need a Mummy Reset Day?

27 March 2017

Do you ever stop and wonder when was the last time you just sat and cuddled with your kids? When was the last time you gave them a really good tickle – you know, the kind that makes their little bodies hunch over in spasms of laughter?
I have moments when I feel like life has just turned into one event after another. The days start to look like this: meal time, get in the car, activity, meal time, back in the car, nap time, meal time, get in the car, activity, etc.

Instead of cultivating my relationship with my kids, my engagement with them becomes all about the hustle.

“Okay, go to the toilet. Get your shoes on. What’s that in your mouth? Come on – we’re late!”

Now, we all have busy days, but when they start to accumulate, one after the other, relationships suffer.

When I start to feel constantly frazzled by my kids, instead of delighted by them, I know it’s time for a “Mummy Reset Day”.

Read the rest of my post on the MOPS blog: http://mops.org.au/archives/7349