We sat in the front row during the Ash Wednesday service at church this past week. We includes all three kids. The sign outside the sanctuary said to “Enter in silence.” When I read those words, my anxiety peaked a little but we kept walking in regardless. Bree HAD to sit in the front row. Cool, I thought, when this experiment fails, at least everyone can witness it and pray for us.
I had brought some paper and extra pencils for the kids, but that was my only plan B. I just hoped the service would be short and quick and interesting enough for the kids to at least pay a little attention. We had never come to a weekday service before due to the kids – we knew that was asking a lot on a week night after school all day. But for some reason, I felt like this year, we should just try. We have also been talking a lot about Lent and what it means. I figured it was time to help them see how Christians start Lent.
Fast forward lots of colored pictures and 5 ash covered foreheads later, we left the sancturay. I wasn’t exhausted or mad or dramatic about how we were never going back, I was in a state of complete SHOCK. We had just sat through a church service together as a family that was not kid focused (aka Christmas) and it was successful.
Sure Bauer had stated very loudly that his ashes were itchy, there was the escapee pencil or two and Bennett started saying the letters in the alphabet halfway through the service, but we survived. I actually listened to the message and I think I even said a few prayers.
This is one of those milestones they don’t write about in baby books because it would have to be chapter 840 after they get through all the “how to keep the baby alive” first year advice. But it is huge nonetheless.
I remember going to church when Sean and I just had one kid (those long 18 months) and we would sit in the cry room and just count down the minutes til the torture and wrangling was over. One of us would take her out and tag team back and forth until we completed our obligatory church presence. Every week we threatened to never go back. Once we had two, it got even worse and most of the time, we left church mad at each other probably because we blamed the other for the idea of having kids in the first place. We spent most of those first 5 years wondering if we would ever get anything out of church again. We spent most of those first 5 years comparing our children to the others in the cry room hoping to be reminded that it could always be worse – our kids weren’t that bad. We spent most of those first 5 years with a spotty church attendance record.
Once we moved to Plano and started going to our current church we were able to put the kids in Sunday school and go to the services and our own Sunday school class alone. Sunday mornings began to resemble what they had looked like pre-kids. At first it was almost hard to focus because you become so used to being interrupted every 4 seconds.
While the guarantee of 2 solid hours of free childcare is what gets me to church most Sundays, I still watch the families who sit as a unit in church. I wondered when our time would come.
It still hasn’t completely. Today, in the service, there were lots of interruptions from my 3 b’s – coloring pictures, bending pipecleaners, laying in our laps , bathroom trips, needs for the water fountain (60 minutes is just so long) – but it was so much better than it has ever been. They were excited to go to the service with mom and dad and see what we got to see each week. This may become a special treat until we finally transition completely.
I introduced myself to the family in front of us and asked how old their two children were – 14 and 10. I told them I was looking into the future seeing them sit so still during the service. The mom just gave me those sympathetic eyes saying this too will pass, but I also sensed a bit of longing in her for those little kid moments again. You always want what you don’t have I guess.
Regardless, I feel like we are making progress and I’m excited to share CHURCH with my kids. My mom did such an amazing job of never allowing church to be negotiable. There was no reason – sports, vacations, or sleeping in – that could ever keep you from a Sunday service. We were there early, dressed up and ready to participate. The Murphys are definitely still working on the early and dressed up part. But we are there more than we are not. And for now that has to be good enough.
In between getting a drink of water and then laying in my lap this morning, Bauer heard the pastor say “And they wandered around the desert for 40 years…”. He looked at me with incredulous eyes and said “40 years?? That’s a long time. What were they looking for?” He is starting to listen and to me that is a milestone I didn’t even know I was waiting for….