The Noises of Children

My kids are loud but not in the typical non-stop way you might think of for small children.  C is still so little that she can’t make much noise.  Even her cries are pretty low key.  M has her quiet moments.  She is slow to warm up to new situations but once she does, all bets are off.  She does involve herself in reading and quiet play sometimes, but when she is involved in a noisy activity or gets it in her mind to be noisy (as 2.5 year olds do), she is really noisy.  She also is extremely confident and fearless in known situations, so she thinks nothing of flinging herself on and off the sofa at my mom’s house, for example.  Or dashing up to the piano at church to play a few notes.

I’ve mentioned before how wonderful and accommodating everyone at our church is.  It’s a very small congregation and mostly an older one.  Madeline gets a steady stream of cookies at the coffee hour after services, even after John and I tell her no more.   We have child care at church, but it is sporadic and when Maddie is the only child in attendance, I feel guilty asking someone else to miss services to watch my child.  Besides, we want Madeline to experience service.  Our pastor regularly gives thanks for children and for the noises of children.   I try to get my praying done quickly, because I know that after a certain point, usually about 15 minutes into the service, I will have to switch over to containment mode and try to keep M occupied and quiet until the end.  John helps, but since he does the collection and often reads, it’s difficult.

Usually, this is all ok.  Sunday, M was in rare form and C was having a day.  That meant that I was bouncing C while chasing M around the back and sides of the church.  I didn’t always catch her before she had a happy outburst of singing, wishing everyone “happy holidays!” or hitting the piano during a silent prayer.

See how I foreshadowed that?  It’s the English teacher in me.

Bless our wonderful pastor, she took it in stride and made a small joke.  I was kind of embarrassed that I hadn’t scooped M up in time, but no one seemed bothered.  I thought.

Apparently, someone was bothered and mentioned it to our pastor, who in turn mentioned it to me.  She said, “On the one hand, I want to tell them to get over it but on the other hand. . . ”  I agreed at the time.  But the more I thought about it, the angrier I got.  What were my options?  Physically restraining the child with a leash and tethers?  A muzzle?  Sedation?  We didn’t have in-church child care that week, and the distractions of books, crayons, juice and crackers only last for so long.

On the way home, John mentioned that he had been asked to become a trustee of the church.  He asked me what I thought and I said nothing.  Finally, I told him what had transpired and he immediately got angry, for all the same reasons I did.  We were ready to quit all of our committees and find another church for the following Sunday.  When we got home, I called our pastor and left a message saying that John and I needed to seriously reconsider our involvement in the church if our children could not be accommodated.  We waited for a call back and after about 15 minutes, called her on the cell phone.  She came right over.

Apparently, this individual (and there was only this one) said that he would have to look for another church if behavior like Madeline’s was going to be tolerated.  This made me even madder– he was threatening to leave, knowing that every member is precious in a small congregation.  The pastor apparently said to him, “How are we ever going to attract families with young children to our congregation if we don’t allow those young children to make the noises that young children make?”  I don’t know the individual’s response, but I imagine it was a harrumph and a hasty exit.

Of course, our hotheaded reaction to leave the church was just blowing off steam and we still serve on all of our committees and we’ll be back in service next Sunday.  But the intolerance really bothered me.  It’s not as if we let our children roam free and destroy with reckless abandon.  But M is two-and-a-half and full of joy.  She is curious and gregarious and open.  I thought we were all supposed to emulate that attitude.   Church should be joyful.

Our pastor’s last comment on this is that if this individual has further concerns about M, she plans to make him write Luke 18:16 100 times– “But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  Heh heh.  🙂

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  • Zoe Norcross  On January 15, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    My pastor rocks! We embrace the children and their joyful noises. Kids are kids and they are noisy. Doesn’t the Bible say, “Make a Joyful Noise?”

    Obviously ,that one person who does not embrace a joyful noise either needs to find a new, quiet, solemn church or get laid….

  • Chelle  On February 3, 2010 at 2:51 am

    your post has me reconsidering my relationship with church .. i am among other things .. a recovering catholaholic .. i have a relationship with god .. we have much the same types of conversations you do .. me talking and asking and him listening and occaisionally providing the guidance i need .. lord knows he’s pretty busy! .. i am also riddled with guilt that my children are not baptised .. and i’ve been rationalizing not finding a church .. any church .. and introducing them to services in a church because they are so young .. they’re not going to sit thru service so why torture them and the rest of the congregation? .. i’ll wait till they’re older .. maybe if all churches were as tolerant we’d be regulars already .. i’m going to start looking ..

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