I have a sweet friend who is mother to four children, ages 2 to 8. Her husband is our pulpit minister at church. This means that, for the majority of the service, she corrals these four children on her own. And, of course, they sit right up front.
I only have two children, but I can remember when they were small. The struggle to get ready for church in the morning. The struggle to keep them quiet during church. The necessity of taking them out when they misbehaved or were crying for one reason or another. To have four of them… it’s daunting. But she handles it with grace.
I am the youngest of four children myself, and my mother was the young preacher’s wife, taking care of all the kids by herself during church. My husband is the oldest of five, and his mother was also the preacher’s wife.
Of course, you don’t have to be the preacher’s wife for it to be difficult to have young children in church. The problem really isn’t even that you have to wrangle them to church and then wrangle them during church. The problem is that it’s very difficult for any worship to go on in the mother’s heart during this time.
Scenes from Sunday morning getting ready (do these look familiar?):
“Get your dress on.”
“I HATE that dress!”
*sighing* “Well, what about this one?”
*Exasperated* “Well, what dress DO you want to wear?”
“The yellow one.”
*Trying hard for patience* “The yellow one was too short, we had to give it away.”
“MOOOOM! I can’t find my other shoe!”
“*sighing* Did you look under the bed?”
“YES, I looked EVERYWHERE!”
“Well, you’ll just have to wear your white shoes instead.”
“I don’t WANT to wear my white shoes! *sobbing*”
“It’s time to go. Get in the car.”
“It’s my turn to sit in that seat!”
“Nuh uh! It’s my turn.”
“GET! IN! THE! CAR!”
Exactly how worshipful do you feel after being the Wicked Witch all morning trying to get the kids dressed and in the car? Exactly how much worship do you accomplish when the two-year-old is doing the parachute-jump-arched-back tantrum for which you have to take her out five different times during worship service? Are you even able to concentrate on the Communion service when Child #2 and Child #3 are fighting over the crayons?
Let me give you some reassurance. Yes, this is a difficult time. Yes, sometimes it’s embarrassing. Yes, you may even get through the entire service without once feeling like you’ve worshipped. I know. I’ve been there, and I’ve watched countless other young mothers in the same boat. But, I promise you, God understands.
Furthermore, as difficult as the process is, you are doing the right thing. I know it’s tempting sometimes to just say, “It’s too much trouble. We’re staying home.” But doing it anyway, going anyway, every time, even when it’s bedlam, is the right thing to do. You are investing in your children’s souls. You are teaching them: “This is what we do. We go to church services. Every time. Even when you are being demons.”
It’s the same with any part of parenting. Consistency is paramount. This is the way we do it, every time. We always tell the truth – always. We follow the house rules. You do not hit, even when you are really angry.
Insisting on doing the right thing when they are little, even when it is hard, is waaaaaaay better than giving in to the temptation to go the easy route, and then having to play catch-up when they are teenagers – which is nigh on impossible. Doing it the hard way NOW is an investment in your children’s future, and in your own as their mother (and father, too).
My sweet friend I mentioned at the beginning has the right idea. You can already see it working in her older kids. I know she is so tired. But she maintains a beautiful attitude, and keeps on coming, even though it is hard. I remember hard days with my own kids, standing in the shower after finally getting them to bed, and just crying from exhaustion. I don’t know if my friend does that or not, but I know she knows the feeling.
Some of us are blessed to have a husband who takes on some of the load. Mine did and does. I’m sure my friend does – I see her husband holding the baby when he is able to, before going up to preach, giving her a break when he can. A true partner in parenting is a blessing not everyone can claim, so I am grateful for mine.
Bottom line: Hang in there, young moms. You’re doing the right thing. Even if you don’t manage to get any worshipping of your own done, you’re teaching your children that this is what we do, every time. Eventually, they will grow up enough that you will be able to worship, and you will have the joy of knowing that your children are worshipping, too. Good job, moms.