My worst experience (what's yours?) was when my baby was just making baby noises (i.e. not crying, screaming, pulling hair, slamming kneelers, or any of the things they are very capable of doing, I won't lie.) So just like "Gah! Goo." The pastor stopped his sermon, and looked pointedly at me, all the way in the back, staring. I realized in a few reddening moments of panic that he was waiting for me to leave. I scrambled to shoulder the baby, blushing and fumbling with diaper bag, nursing blankets, and struggling over people in the pew to leave in disgrace, the eyes of the entire congregation on me as I walked to the back of the church (which fortunately wasn't far; I was already safely near the back.) I held in the tears till I got to the foyer, where my blissfully unaware baby started cooing again, out of earshot of the homilist. "NOW I can continue."
I was mortified. And sad. This was a man I had really respected, whose sermons I appreciated. I later found out the elderly gentlemen was fighting cancer, which gave me more compassion but... that was hard.
Christmas Eve, a few years back, I witnessed the worst exodus of fussing child from church when, in the middle of the Christmas homily on baby Jesus, a baby started crying. Bouncing and shushing began from the mom, and she was almost successful at quieting him completely (you can tell) when the sermon stopped abruptly with, "Hey, is he okay? Cuz I'm not."
The poor, poor mom. I wonder if she ever came to church again. She struggled to get out to the main aisle, the only one available to her, while the pastor said, "Oh thank you," and continued. On Christmas Eve.
Fortunately, I've seen the opposite. A priest weaving a screaming kid into the homily, "Yeah, I don't like my sermons either." Or, my favorite: "You stay right there! It's okay that they make noise sometimes. Thanks for having the courage to bring your kids to church."
Given the variety of reactions from pastors and parishioners alike, and the latter are much more unpredictable, because thankfully (in my experience) over-sensitive homilists are somewhat in the minority, it's hard to know what to do, isn't it? Back row to have a better escape if the above worst case scenarios happen? Or front row so that the children are aware of the action and thus more distracted?
I've had discussions with friends who ranged from not bringing children to church till they were seven, all the while stressing it as a great privilege while they grew up, so that they were honored to go when the time came and they were also happily past the pew chewing stage. (I can still remember what those taste like, myself.:) Or, on the opposite end, to bring children to church directly after conception so they are accustomed to church services from infancy. And every method in between. The extremely strict parents whose kids would rather die than cry in church, and the attachment parenting ones who want to know how their child feels during prayer-time. Then there's the pacifier, no pacifier, nursing, no nursing, snack no snack discussion, or only snacks that are cross-shaped... okay I made that one up but the rest are true. :)
My personal recipe definitely favors my own prayer life. For me, if a church offers child care for preschoolers during services, I am soooo there, because then I can actually listen to the Scripture readings and know what's going on. And I'd love it if the child care involves crafts of cotton ball sheep and talks about the Good Shepherd, but honestly if it's Veggie Tales playing with baby dolls available to practice showing love to.... I'm good with that. If not, I'm in the "cry room." As long as it's not being used as a "contagion room." I can't tell you how many times I've met people in there who said, "Oh, I came here so I wouldn't give everyone the flu." !!!! Ahhhh!!!
My favorite magnet. :) Again.
The beautiful older churches I sometimes go to have no "cry rooms." They never did, nor child care. Generations of families came and, somehow, they all survived kid noises in church, as I hope all pastors and all moms somehow will too. I wonder sometimes how they did it... Maybe people were more used to the noises of life back then. Maybe children were actually taught from birth not to make any noise. Or maybe people went to church as families and passed fussy babies from grandma to auntie to big brother and back again. I mean, when I can coordinate schedules to attend church with my family, it's magic. They behave. Not a Cheerio required.
Whatever your system is, fellow moms, may it bring you peace! :) It matters that we are there, even if we can't think a rational thought while doing so. Took me awhile to learn that, but I believe it now. The Good Shepherd loves His lambs too.
The floor is open! Adding to yesterday's input, I'm transferring Facebook comments (anonymously) here to get the conversation going. :) Thanks for your thoughts!
"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11