On a recent Sunday morning, I observed a frustrated mom and a very unhappy child. There was loud crying and whining - quite the distraction for those who were attempting to focus on the sermon.
We've all been there. And many of us have been on many sides of the equation. Maybe you were that kid who couldn't sit still for anything and was often removed form church as you cried because you knew you were in Trouble. Maybe you've been that parent, with a child who keeps asking questions, can't sit still, and eventually has to be dragged out of church. Maybe you've been in the nearby pew, your listening interrupted by the cries of a child, your spiritual growth momentarily stunted.
I've certainly been in all three roles. My mom can tell you stories of my screaming and crying and being removed from the silent sanctuary. I have certainly been the mom having to deal with my kids not listening, not appreciating the snacks and coloring books, and having to be removed. And I've been the person who finds myself annoyed because someone else doesn't seem to be controlling their kids.
Some churches are very understanding to this situation and it truly isn't a big deal. Some churches have an air of this being one of the worst sins.
I recently read an article - an opinion piece - about this very situation.
And it was a refreshing change of perspective.
I wish I could link to it but can't seem to find it again.
But the basic premise was that if you are sitting in church and you are distracted by a child being a child and a parent being a parent... you need to work on yourself. Because it's really quite selfish and spiritually immature to allow a simple and natural distraction to pull your attention away from God.
It was months ago that I read this article. Then this recent Sunday morning observation. And it struck me...
What if ... When we see a parent having to take a kid out if church... We give them an understanding smile or even a thumbs up? And what if we stopped for 5 seconds to pray - for that child, that parent, that situation?
And the same goes in restaurants and grocery stores, too.
It's so easy to assume that we know that this other parent isn't parenting the way they should, right? Until we find ourselves in their shoes - in a wide variety of circumstances that lead to less than stellar moments in our parenting.
I find that my kids push my buttons in a unique and special way. And I can watch someone else's kid making the same mistakes and see that parent struggling with that child and I can feel their frustration because I have soooo been there. But witnessing someone else dealing with it... I feel empathy. I want to support. But there is this parent code where we don't interfere.
I say we need a new code. One where we support and have a secret sign of support. Or not so secret. One where we come to believe that the parents around us aren't looking at us with judgment but with understanding.
So when those darn kids act up in church...
If it's YOUR kid, stay focused on being the parent your child needs to be. Don't focus on the parent that you think the other people around you think you need to be. And if you need help, find a friend and ask.
If it isn't your kid - try to catch mom's eye and give her a supportive and understanding smile. If it's a friend, mouth the words... "Can I help?" If it's a stranger, give a little thumbs up, show some support and understanding.
If you find your mind going to that judgemental place, stop yourself. Say a prayer for yourself. For that parent. For that kid. And try to remember your own days as a kid or as a parent. Being a little person is really hard on some days. And parenting those little people is really hard on some days.
So if we can do anything to make it even a little easier... I say it's worth it!