I do believe I shall!
Well, here's the situation. Our church puts family-integrated worship as a high priority. We don't have Sunday Schools, or staffed nurseries....we believe that children should be welcomed into the worship service as part of the family, part of the church, and not separated from their families.
So, this is a big thing for me, and I love it about our church (although to be totally honest there are times that I can definitely see an advantage to a staffed nursery so that I can actually HEAR a sermon for once!
). But seriously, I love that we worship as a family. And I love that it has always been that way, so the church members are--FTMP--very understanding and patient with small children....and with the parents of small children!
Many of our sister churches do have "cry rooms" where the parent(s) can take their children to tend to them if they need to leave the main sanctuary....our church does not have any such facility. This was simply a matter of budget issues when the church was built years ago, and for a long time, there weren't many families with small children. Since dh has been pastor, that has changed and there are now LOTS of families with children of all ages, and more growing families coming in! And our expansion plans for the building definitely include a cry room, but for now it's not very convenient.... Right now, the only place I can "escape" with my child is to the foyer (which is only separated from the sanctuary by thin, not-soundproof doors), the ladies' room (Ick! Not. Happening.), or the fellowship hall, which is right off the sanctuary and also offers no sound barrier. Which makes it all the more important that everyone be patient and understanding, right?
Soooooo......it was (needless to say!) a sucker-punch of a shock when 2 deacons pulled dh aside after services Wed. night to tell him that they were "deeply concerned" about our 21mo ds's behavior in church, and that it was a "potentially explosive situation" that has been "going on for such a long time" and that it could very well be offensive to visitors and turn them away, and that "several" members of the congregation had come to these deacons, expressing how frustrating and distracting it was.
Now, let me reiterate: Ds is 21 months old! The church service is, on average, 1.5 hours long. He has, for the last 2 months (max--prolly more like 5 or 6 weeks) gotten very agitated when dh gets up to preach. He is VERY attached to his daddy, much more so than the other two were at that age, and he gets frantic when he sees daddy up there and he can't go to him. And he can be quite loud. So yeah, it's somewhat distracting, and I am certainly trying to gently teach him the appropriate behavior for church, etc. We have family devotions at home and "practice" our church skills, sitting still for a few minutes at a time, talking/playing quietly, etc. And I have been agonizing about this for the last couple months, trying to do everything I can to (first) prevent a meltdown.....with appropriate toys, snacks, sippy cup (he hasn't nursed in several weeks, which I suspect is part of the whole issue, but one thing about child-led weaning--you can't FORCE them to accept that comfort!), etc.....and then, if a meltdown starts, to deal with it in the best way for him, that is also least distracting to the rest of the congregation. It's not a perfect situation by any means, but I'm doing the best I can, and his behavior is TOTALLY AGE-APPROPRIATE!!! That doesn't mean he gets a free pass or that I allow/encourage/condone it.....it simply means that he CANNOT be expected to know or do any better at his age. He doesn't have the maturity, the growth, the mental/physical/spiritual ability to conform is behavior to adult expectations!
And ya know, that being the case, it seems to me that the adults in the situation should refrain from putting unreasonable expectations on the children, not to mention putting such a heavy burden of stress on the parents!
Especially since the leaders of the church (including these deacons) like to stress the importance of "family-integrated worship" when they talk about the church, and when they rave about how many families are being drawn to the church....and it is BECAUSE they see this church as being family-friendly!
But they told dh "you know, in your position, you are always going to be under more scrutiny..." Yeah....I know.
But does that make it right?? Do my kids deserve no patience, no compassion, no understanding, simply because their father is the pastor? Do I deserve the burden of being blamed for disrupting the entire church, when I am already feeling the stress of mothering a child who is moving into a difficult (but totally normal!) stage of development? And especially when I am simultaneously preparing for a newborn? Is this attitude of rigidity and impatience going to begin to affect the other families in the church, who have/will have small children who will also eventually go through trying stages? Is "family-integrated worship" just something they give lip service to, something that sounds good in theory, but only so long as it doesn't encroach on their comfort zone? Because we have to "look good" to the visitors, you know...
So, at the end of their "reprimand" (well, actually, in the middle, because dh was so peeved that he walked out on them before he said something nasty!), dh said that 1) ds was going through a difficult stage right now, but that it was right on schedule with our other kids, and that we were helping him through it in the best way we knew how, and that 2) we would continue to do the best we could do for our child
, and that 3) if that wasn't good enough, we would leave. He also mentioned that he was concerned about these "several" members who allegedly had approached this deacon, because according to Mtt 18, they should have come to dh or me to discuss it, not to a third party. And before walking out, he mentioned something about it would be more Christ-like for people who call themselves brothers and sisters in the church to reach out and offer to help
a mother who is struggling, rather than talking behind her back and then offering nothing but reprimand!
Sigh.....I love my husband!
But I'm just so peeved about it. First, I'm truly concerned that this might spread to one of the other families (there is a new family who has just started coming in the last couple months, and they have a one year old who will doubtless be joining my ds before too long, lol! On top of that, they have just this week taken in two 18 month-old twins for foster care....they are definitely going to have their hands full for awhile! And I will be so far beyond LIVID if anyone dares to offer them anything but help, compassion, understanding, patience, and did I mention HELP!!
But at the same time (while I truly don't want anything of this nature to happen to anyone else), I can't help but feel irked that we are not considered worthy of that same sort of understanding. Why do other families get unwavering support in their decisions, but our decisions are looked at as fair game for judgement? Other families' pregnancy announcements are met with unreserved gusto and joy, but ours was met with a slight
increase in dh's check, accompanied by this statement (direct quote): "I hope that the church will be able to give your family even more once the baby is born, but you know, it's going to be awfully tight." We don't even care about the money...we certainly didn't ask for a raise! But when did it become their right to judge our family size??
Oh, and as for those "several" members? Well, it turns out that it was the 2 deacons, their 2 wives, and one other member who all had dinner together one day and the topic happened to get around to us.
: Hardly a church in uproar, in my opinion!