Anyone? Anyone…?

Remind me why we do this. Please.

Remind me why it is important to drag ourselves to services each Sunday. Even though it’s been four years, I still feel like such a newbie on some things, and the last six Sundays have made me want to run screaming, and left me exhausted and frustrated.

If I could go to church alone, or with only my husband, I know I could be edified, lifted up, study the passages, heck, maybe I could even hear the sacrament talks and learn something. But “alone” is not my lot.

Getting five people ready for church every Sunday is a task many an LDS woman does. Some seem to do it better than others. I am definitely an “other” here. By the time we get everyone dressed and out the door, any wisp of the spirit has long departed us, and we are often mad at each other and the kids.

If we make it on time to take the sacrament, should it even be taken frantically in the hallway with crying kids and our coats still on? It doesn’t quite feel right. Yet we keep trying.

Neither my husband nor I have sat through an entire Sacrament meeting this year. With a barely-five year old, a barely-three year old and a seven-month old, we are always out in the hallway, pacing, walking, or putting someone on a time-out for throwing a paper airplane, or for chucking a race car and the boy behind us, or for hollering during the song, or for filling her pants, or for tossing cheerios. You get the idea.

It feels so futile most Sundays. We fuss and stress to get there, only to miss absolutely everything edifying, and pace the halls in heels while carrying a heavy baby. Even though the older kids make it to their classes for hours 2 and 3, my husband and I have yet to sit through SS, RS or PH- we pass the baby to each other when our skills are called upon.

We’re still so new at this- and we have no parents or extended family to call upon for advice or example. It just hardly seems worth it- and yet I know it must be, somehow.

So I wonder, as we drag our tired, stressed, frustrated selves and our fighting kids home late in the afternoon of yet another Sunday. Why are we doing this? I really want to know.

Comments

  1. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    To show your children that you feel it’s important to go even despite the difficulties you have. I know that my mom’s determination to have us go impressed me when I was young. Even if you yourselves aren’t always very edified (Hang in there! Nursery will be there soon enough!) your children are getting used to the atmosphere and learning how to behave in Sunday School. “As the twig is bent so is the tree.” It would be harder and your children’s grounding in the gospel wouldn’t be as deep if you waited until they were all of an age to go and be counted on to behave.

  2. I hate Sunday mornings. No matter how much prep I’ve done Sat night to try to alleviate Sun morning stress and chaos, inevitably most Sundays I end up completely freaked out by the time we’re buckling everyone into the car. I often leave church feeling undone by dealing with the kids and not completely satisfied by the “feast” I was supposed to have partaken of. Yet when I miss a Sunday or two or sometimes three from sick kids or travel or newborn babies, I definitely feel something is not quite right–I’m listing a bit. There are very few specific moments in my church going experience that I can remember feeling profoundly edified or even touched by the Spirit, but when one of those moments comes it makes all of those weeks or months of just trudging through so worth it. Hang in there.

  3. I’ve wondered the same thing sometimes. I’ve decided that the reason to go to church even if you don’t hear a word of the talks or lessons is for the Sacrament- you stay for the rest of the meetings because you’re already there. As long as you can have that moment (split-second though it may be) of repentence and recommitment then the hassle is worth it.

  4. I have small kids and I feel your pain. Like PDoE, I feel like the influence on my children is a huge reason I go to church even when I don’t get much out of it. I see lots of reasons it is important for my kids (the habit of church attendance, the example of parents who go to church no matter what, the practice of sitting still, the primary lessons, and on and on).

    I also go to fulfill my calling, which happens to be a Sunday calling, so I go to contribute. But, I sure hope that some day when my kids are older I will be able to get more out of Sacrament time–with screaming kids it can be difficult.

  5. Same here, Tracy. We’re always so frazzled – we get in the car and then come home more grumpy and un-Christlike than we do on any other day. It seems counter-productive. But, I go to instill a habit in my children that church is what we do on Sundays. It’s hard for me too, especially with a non-member spouse, and the kids would really just rather hang out with their dad and have a “day off” as my 5 year old says. I go because of them, even though they’re the reason it’s such a hassle in the first place! I think laying this ground work will be worth it. I have faith that this is the right thing to do. I hope it is.

  6. I remember reading an article in the Ensign once, for a mother in a similar situation, frustrated at not being able to sit through a meeting without taking a child out to the foyer etc, I can’t find the article but I remember that she felt the impression that she was doing what she needed to do in taking care of her children, and the sacrifice of missing the meeting would be made up to her…or something like that. I found a couple of articles in the gospel library on children and sacrament/church meetings that might be helpful (here, here and here) although I’m sure there is more on the subject elsewhere also. I hope it is helpful. I recall my mothers sacrifice (5 kids and inactive husband) who took us each week to Church as we grew up, and was our strength, despite the challenges. I have faith your children will appreciate the sacrifices you make on their behalf in order that they can learn and feel the spirit and bring it back to you.

  7. I’m all for having the kids with you in the sanctuary. I have noticed that no other church does this. Fortunately, my 3-y.o. sleeps through the Sacrament meeting for the most part. She stays awake long enough for the bread and water and maybe a song or two. She learned that we look at the hymnals during the singing and has finally quit trying to pull pages out. Of course, I usually prefer to attend the Sunday School and Priesthood rather than listen to talks any day, but that’s another subject.

  8. Tom Manney says:

    We do it because that’s the way we do it. I don’t mean to be cheeky or tautological. We have done it this way for generations, and look at the results — the Church is surviving from generation to generation. The early exposure, no matter how difficult for the parents to sit through while their children crawl and scream and seem to pay no attention, makes strong imprints on their little active spirits. Some kids learn contempt or complacency, others feel inspired and stick with it. Some of the other kids reencounter the inspiration after a few stresses in life, running home to mama, so to speak. I would be interested to know the stats on what percentage of active families’ children remain active through the first 20 or 30 years of their adult life. I bet it’s in the seventies or eighties, maybe higher. I do know that LDS religious activity peaks during parenthood of underage children — an interesting stat if you regard church as, most importantly, a conditioning device for the stability of a productive, surviving society.

  9. Oh Powers That Be,
    The people want two hours, not three.
    Thanks.

  10. Tracy – I’m with you! I posted a very similar post at FMH about 18 months ago. It’s often very frustrating for me, but we still seem to do it every week!

  11. I think there is a lot to be said for them learning how to behave, how to feel the spirit occasionally, and to pick up bits of this and that. And my children weren’t too terribly close, so I could also pick up bits of this and that even while I was standing in the back with a baby.

    One of my grandchildren was out of church for a year due to cancer, and it was much harder coming back at 18 months. Much easier to teach them right from the beginning. (Although I guess those parents are fortunate because there are grandmothers and aunts in the same congregation who will take their turn with the baby.)

    One day you will sit in sacrament meeting and find that the younger children are coloring or something quietly, and the older children are actually listening to the speaker. And even though the moment of peace will likely be shattered when somebody kicks somebody else, those moments are worth it, and will become more commonplace as they mature.

  12. Y’all are way too good. I hate Sunday. I hate Sacrament meeting – it’s torture. I hate being at church for three hours, and I hate making my three active kids (all under five) be “reverent” (quiet) for three hours. I hate getting ready for the weekly fashion show. I guess I’m all about the hate right now. Sue me. (And yes, I know it’s probably all my own fault, thanks very much.)

    We attend about twice a month right now because it’s all just an exhausting fruitless exercise, that makes everyone angry and grouchy and upset. We’ll go one Sunday, have a horrible experience, and skip the next, then resolve to be better, and go again the next Sunday – lather, rinse, repeat.

    We generally feel a lot more spiritual and happy as a family when we just hang out together and listen to church music or read the scriptures at home or something.

  13. Don’t take more than a passing glance at this month’s Ensign article about teaching your children to worship… it takes the VERY long view, and won’t be much help while you’re in the trenches. I’ve got 4, and we have come to church and sat alone on the pew independently of my husband since the fourth one was born over 6 years ago (and for some years before that too) as he serves in leadership callings. Yes, it feels isolating and futile for you right now. Yes, you’re not “getting” much out of the meeting. It might help, some weeks, to think about what you are bringing to the meeting instead of what you are not getting out of it. Not “your family on display,” but where your heart is – is it oriented towards God even a little – some days – that can be enough for now. Also, even though you may not think so, or realize it, you are giving something to the meetings you are in. No, I don’t mean the Cheerios under the seats. You may say something to someone that that person really needed to hear, be an instrument of his love to someone else, contribute to the quality of the community in ways you might not recognize or know about.

    If you think your kids are unruly, think what they would be if you never gave them the opportunity to go to church. That expectation needs to be there for them to develop self-discipline – over the long term, and they can do it. Don’t give up. Start earlier if you have to. Play the soothing music in the car. Bring your broken heart each week. That’s all you need to do for now. The kids will get it, and you will be at a different life stage later and it would be harder to start coming then, to “wait” for them to be reverent, or older, first before making the commitment to God to worship with consistency.

    Also, I hope this is helpful instead of sounding dismissive, but also take this problem to the Lord in prayer. He’s got an answer for you and will show you a way forward, even week by week.

  14. Three years ago, Sac Mtg was a nightmare for me. My husband is inactive and I would go alone with my 6, 4, and 2 year old kids (the baby stayed home with my husband). I was constantly having to take the 2 year old out, leaving my other 2 sitting alone. I kept plugging away, but truly wondered if it was worth it, especially as they fought me every week because they wanted to stay home with daddy. Three years later, I go with my 9, 7, 5, and 3 year olds and the baby stays home with my husband and it actually feels manageable. I still don’t feel as if I absorb much from Sac Mtg, but it’s not such a battle to keep them behaved and we generally stay in the whole time. So, give it time; church is so much easier as they get older, as long as the habit is there.
    For my kids, I found that the less I bring in the way of food and entertainment, the better my children behave. When I brought snacks, they fought over who held the bag, who got more, etc and I was frustrated and embarrassed when food ended up all over. When we brought toys, they fought over them and generally seemed to make twice as much noise while playing. Now, I have a spiral notebook and a pack of 8 crayons for each of them. There’s no fighting b/c they don’t have to share. They’re not supposed to tear the pages out and there are no paper airplanes allowed. To get them out the door after church, they each get 1/2 piece of gum in the car. Oh, and playing church music in the car helps all of us calm down after a stressful morning – at least it causes me to take a deep breath and let go of some of my frustration before we get to church.
    The Ensign article was definitely a confidence-killer. I thought I’d been doing a reasonable job just having quiet children and now they’re supposed to be listening to the talks?? I still haven’t decided what to do about it.

  15. I wanted to add: just the mere fact that you have a baby makes church difficult. I’d prefer to that my husband came to church with us, but it sure makes life easier to leave the baby at home. And, our ward is a very down-to-earth ward. They care more that you’re there than what you’re wearing when you come. I imagine that it would be that much harder to get everyone ready if you have to look perfect for church only to have the “perfect” image be shattered every time you sit down in Sac Mtg.

  16. I have started looking at going to chuch as a way to contribute and serve others. Not necessarily about what is in it for me. Also out of respect for the Lord and His church.

  17. Tracy M, all I can say is that I’m grateful my parents made such a consistent effort to take myself and my sister to church every single Sunday. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but the children are probably learning more from the experience than you realize.

    My mother was a visiting teacher to a woman who eventually was re-activated in the church. However, by the time this woman was re-activated, her children were teenagers with minds of their own – they had never developed a habit of attending church on Sundays and by then they had no disposition whatsoever to accompany her in her newfound faith. From what I gathered, this caused her (the mother) quite a bit of distress.

  18. Danithew (and others),

    It seems we are conflating two things. That Mormons should be taking their kids to church is a no-brainer. It doesn’t follow from that, however, that church should be a struggle.

    So, whilst Tracy should fight the good fight, I respectfully suggest that the fight need not even exist.

    It is my view that three hours is simply too much for kids to tolerate. We are often told that church should be about taking the sacrament; it is to my regret that the sacrament is drowned under so much other “stuff” that it is barely the focal point of our worship.

    From what I have studied of ancient Christianity, communal worship was intended to be a joyous occasion. In these kinds of discussions, it is very rare for LDS with kids to speak of Sunday services in terms of “joy.” Typically, we speak of “endurance.” This is a crying shame.

  19. I take the same view as Brigham Young: very young children should be left at home with a babysitter. God clearly intended babies and toddlers to be very active and quite noisy, except when sleeping; that is how he created them. Insisting that they be “reverent” (by which we mean still and quiet) is nearly blasphemous. Judging people’s parenting skills and righteousness by how well they are able to force their children to behave unnaturally is the only worse sin Latter-day Saints commit in this regard.

  20. UnicornMom says:

    At the same time, it can’t be debated that all of the church meetings are important. I would submit that the most important meetings for the kids are actually the ones that fill out the “extra” two hours – Primary.

    Saying that you shouldn’t take small children to church because they can’t handle it seems rather like saying it’s okay for young girls to wear immodest clothing, but not older ones.
    Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

  21. I didn’t know BY advocated leaving small children with a babysitter during church. That must have been the genesis of the nursery program.

    While the nursery will provide some relief for the parent who drops his or her child/children off, at the same time it will add to burden of the poor nursery worker. As a Bishopric member, staffing the nursery was the most challenging calling to fill-bar none. So, while the nursery will make your church going experience more pleasant, it will make someone else’s more difficult and draining.

    Two hour chuch sounds idyllic for many reasons, including shortening the time to endure the plethora of small, whiny children-mine included- that permeate three hour church services.

  22. At one point I had a 4 year old, a 20 month old and a set of infant twins.

    The only thing that kept us sane was getting up at 6:30 in the AM on Sunday morning and getting all the way prepared ourselves prior to the kids getting up.

    Now with a 6 year old 4 year old and 2.5 year old twins things are awesome at church. The older kids love primary and the twins love nursury and ask the whold time during sac meeting if they can go to Nursury.

    It will pass and become better as the kids get older.

  23. I think we definitely have two competing interests here: the need for pedagogy– long-term pedagogy– and the need for sanity. I don’t think either interest need win at the exclusion of the other — and I certainly don’t think that there are uniform answers to be found.

    Tracy, I can certainly identify with the sense of futility you feel. Heck, even before I had kids I sometimes felt that way. But like planting trees or building cathedrals or whatever long-term development metaphor you want, it’s probably not going to always satisfy you in the present.

  24. Ronan: Your comments make no sense on this thread. The kids aren’t going to be more reverent or easy in Sacrament meeting if priesthood or sunday school are removed. As a former Catholic who did the 1 hour block, let me tell you, whether it’s 1 hour or 3, it’s the same.

    Tracy, as a curiousity, could you make a deal with your hubby that he deals with the children one week and you the next (If what you feel you need is child free time.) Thus he would take them to the hall, etc. Is your 5 year old capable of helping?

    Personally, I only have 1 so far, (next is due in april) and she is very easy and I enjoy my church time with her, wandering the hall sometimes, looking at the pictures on the wall, etc. My expectations have changed overtime. I used to take notes in every church meeting and shoot looks of death at parents with children who were misbehaving. Now I smile and love those children.
    I still want to take notes, but when I get the notebook out, I accept that my daughter will take it and draw on it and it will soon no longer be my notebook anymore.

    If I recall you and your hubby both have 3rd hour callings. If you teach RS and it is your week to watch the baby, let someone in RS take him or her instead of your hubby, Your husband can do the same in priesthood. If anyone in your ward is like me, there are plenty of hands willing to help, but too dumb or shy to ask if you need help.

    ask your home teachers or visiting teachers if you have them, and if you don’t, demand that you get some. One of the things I have seen in the church is that when blood family is less available, there are always those willing to adopt you.

    I say all this now, but I am sure things will be different, come April when we get baby two, I’ll have to come give you an update.

  25. Matt,
    Kids may still be rowdy, but parents will have more energy to cope. Three hours saps me dry.

  26. I’ve never been a “joiner”, so church attendance was never easy or enjoyable for me, yet I rarely missed church for the first 20 years of my life, due to strict parents that made church attendance mandatory.

    Now that I’m an adult, I haven’t been to church for years. For about 6 months I tried to go with a baby and a 3 year old, thinking church would be good for them and instead experienced the struggle you speak of and wondered why I’d inflict on my children, what my parents forced on me.

    Sundays are spent usually taking walks through Beus Pond with the family now–something we all find enjoyable and even spiritual. When I need church-like guidance, I read books or the internet. My children (age 8 and 11) are free to attend church with their friends or grandparents, according to their will and always attend Activity Days, so they get church on their terms and I get church on my terms and it works for us, granted it’s unorthodox.

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    Like Ronan, I’m all for a shorter block. While it won’t solve the problem, it will make it more manageable.

    And I agree with Steve that there are competing interests, which he summarizes as pedagogy v. sanity.

    One possibility might be to treat church attendance much like you would going to the temple. I know many couples who never go to the temple together, but rather alternate their attendance, so one can stay home with the children.

    I realize this flies in the face of the “train up a child” meme. Maybe the attending parent can start bringing the older children when they turn five or some other more manageable age. Maybe it can even be treated as a rite of passage that they will look forward to.

    Another thought is to take advantage of others to help you with your children during sacrament meeting. In our ward there are women who are either single or older who love children and relish the opportunity to be a temporary mom for awhile.

  28. When had three kids aged 6 and under, I did seem to be spending most my time handling the situation rather than worshipping, contemplating, or being taught. One thing that seemed to help: often the one sentence or thought I would get to hear would be one that was most useful to me anyhow. I’m sorry no one ever steps up and offers to sit with the 4 and 6 year old when you step out. That only happened a couple times a year for me, but it made a big difference in feeling supported and accepted in my church-going.

    I have four kids now, and the youngest is in Primary. It lightens the load considerably when one or two really can get ready themselves. It has helped the kid with behavior issues that we’ve been attending church long before I knew how actually challenged that kid is.

    But now that it’s mostly easy, I still do think church could stand to be shortened–even by half an hour or 45 minutes. Primary may be the more important hours for children in many ways, but especially when I was working there it seemed we could be doing what we do in Primary just as effectively and with less trouble if there were LESS time to do it in.

  29. Steve Evans says:

    Just so long as this person isn’t you, I think we’re ok.

  30. You know, in my old parish, we had the kids attend the service. We took every child who was old enough to sit up and interact and we sat them on the floor in front of the first pew, giving them soft toys, churchy books, and lots of paper and crayons. And we had a shifting rota among the childless folks; two or three people (depending on the number of kids) sat and quietly entertained them. Then, we just let them be. It worked out really well – they were noisy, and sometimes one of them would make a break for it. We had one little boy who used to sit under the alter during sermons and wave. But we all treated it like it was no big deal, and it wasn’t, really. The children were immersed in the service; they saw the way the adults behaved and by the time they were three or four, they imitated the adults’ reverence at the most important times. But they weren’t under pressure to behave in developmentally inappropriate ways (i.e., sitting still and silent for hours), so they didn’t find church stressful or unpleasant.

    It also meant that the children interacted with most of the adults at one time or another; they were really integrated into the congregation. And most of the parents were able to relax and worship, once they got used to the system.

    I wish we could do that. Reverence doesn’t have to mean silence, and since I think it is important to expose children to early and frequent church attendance, I’d like to do it without making them hate Sacrament Meeting.

  31. Worshipping doesn’t necessarily mean silence and reverence. The Spirit doesn’t only come when everyone is quiet and the speaker is speaking in the “spirit voice”. Talks usually aren’t very inspiring so listening to them with no distraction doesn’t guarantee a spiritual experience. What church are all of you with such high expectations going to? The one I go to is full of people with issues, problems and crying babies. Interacting with these people is where I feel the Spirit. Listening to them, joking with them, getting to know their trials is what leads me to love them and be inspired by them. For me church has nothing to do with speakers and everything to do with real people, our community of imperfect people trying to become better. Something that a pond or a park can never bring me.

  32. Ronan, sounds like a personal problem to me. Maybe you need more potassium in your diet. Or some ridillin.

    Anyway, as a sort of follow up to Kevin’s last paragraph (which is where I agree with him, BTW)but hoping not to threadjack, on christmas eve, I realized I had forgotten my lesson material for sunday school in the rush to get to church on time. (getting to church on time really helps get everyone settled in and not feeling angry, IMO) My wife plays the organ, and it being Christmas Eve, every one of my in-laws were in the choir. I needed the material though as the lesson was on Santa Claus and I wasn’t prepared enough to go it without, so I handed my daughter to the woman in the pew behind me, and off I went. Of course I knew her and trusted her, and my daughter was fine, but that is why church is awesome. You ask for help, and it’s there.

  33. SV(30)- in my opinion, most members do that, just not on the floor in the front of the chapel.

  34. I feel for church attenders who go without a spouse, or whose husband is on the stand. While my husband was in the bishopric, Sundays were excruciating for me. Outside of that, however, I have been sooo grateful for one rule I instigated with my children from birth, “no feet on the floor”. This takes a lot of embarrassing wrestling with and assisting a child for the first few years but the payoff is extremely high after that for each child because they have learned to sit still.

    I still highly prefer having my husband’s help with our 6, 4, and 3 year olds, but even during the year my husband was in the bishopric, I only had to take a child out about ten times total and people say our row is pretty quiet. I don’t have the most active children in the world, I admit that, but if someone is reading who has the energy to start this rule with a baby, I would give it a try.

  35. I really agree with Ronan. We teach that the Sacrament is the most important part of the meeting, but there is so much emphasis on all of the other stuff. I feel a shorter meeting length combined with a refocusing on the importance of the Sacrament would do wonders for those who don’t enjoy attending church meetings, or don’t feel that they get much out of it. I also agree with Johnna, I freqently feel that primary would be more effective if it were shorter, or at least broken up into other smaller intervals. I also agree that there are likely to be people in the ward who would love to play with other people’s kids, but are frequently too shy to volunteer.

  36. NoNameNedra says:

    I love danithew’s comment:

    “…the children had become teenagers with minds of their own (therefore they chose not to attend church)…”

    It just struck me funny! LOLOLOL. Of course it should be their choice, and church-goers are not mindless, are they?

    LOLOL

  37. I feel your pain, too, Tracy (except I was doing it alone when my kids were that age). I decided early on that the only reason I was going was to set a precedence for my kids. I gave up on trying to get anything out of it for myself. It’s easier once you do that. You’ll actually start to be able to get something out of it now and then.

    And stop wearing heels, what are you, masochistic?!

    Those years are gone so fast. Learn to appreciate them while you have them. I know it’s hard. But I miss having small kids to chase out into the foyer. And don’t worry about them bothering other people so much. Some of my favorite moments in Sacrament meeting are the loud toddlers. One started singing “Happy Birthday” to her dad the other Sunday when the Sacrament was being passed. It was awesome.

  38. I have attended 2 1/2 hour church in a quickly growing area of Arizona for over three years now. I suppose some of you know how it works:

    70 min Sacra. Mtg. (same as always)
    5 min break (5 min. shorter)
    35 min. Sunday School (10 min. shorter)
    5 min break (5 min. shorter)
    35 min. RS/Priesthood (10 min. shorter)

    Of course almost everyone loves 2 1/2 hour church. From my experience, nursery is the main winner. Breaks are great shortened. RS is more efficient–typed announcements or whatever. Sunday School manages fine. I can’t speak about Priesthood or YW/YM age Sunday Schools. In Primary, fitting in Sharing Time and Singing Time is a sprint every single week. I am completely surprised. This sentiment has only increased with time. I have no question of the children’s ability to listen/sing more in that setting. Relief Society lessons are incredibly rushed. But I still prefer 2 1/2 hour church, overall.

  39. You are teaching children. You are teaching them that you love and value church and the gospel. You are teaching them that it is important for them to behave in certain ways in certain places. You are learning to sacrifice. Every time they go in time out for chucking the car behind the bench you are teaching them. You are doing great things. Each Sunday your children are learning something, usually something too small for you to observe, but it accumulates. I know a family who just couldn’t make it through sacrament meeting because it was too much hassle to make the kids behave. They sat in the back and left as soon as possible after the sacrament. The kids were impossible in primary as well, on the rare occasions they attended. The kids still don’t know how to behave and are now school age. If you have anyone giving you dirty looks or even saying things to you, I would ignore them. Soon enough your children will be well-behaved, and then gone. Then you can admire the antics of other little children and be glad that you can smile at them instead of have to take them to time out. I hope the rest of your Sunday is really a rest and that you don’t make yourself do anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. After taking three young kids to church the rest of the day you should be OFF! Cereal for dinner for the kids, PJ’s for everyone and some great chocolate for you.

  40. Here at our household we are wondering what we are going to do now that the new year has started and we have to be at church at 9AM instead of 12:30. Afternoon church was hard enough but morning church. Oh well, I guess at least now the boys will be able to come home from church and take a nap.

  41. How do I sign up for the 2 1/2 hour ward? Is it some LDS offshoot or just many wards packed into one building that require it?

  42. Many good words of advice- I’ve been out running carpool, and wasn’t expecting quite so much activity. Thanks to everyone.

    I’m not argueing for my limitations. While I suspect (and hope) most of what many of you have pointed out is true, it is just another leap of faith that going will yeild good fruit. \

    My kids are not mild mannered. There is a serious reason they are jokingly referred to in the ‘nacle as Terrorists. Active doesn’t cover it. I’m glad I am not the only one that feels 3 and 5 year old boys it is unnatural to expect children to be silent and still. It’s not just unnatural, it’s an impossibility with ours. That doesn’t mean they are bad boys- not at all- they are kind, loving and wonderful, too. But “Still” they are not.

    Anyway, thanks for all the advice and support. We are not about to stop going- and our faith is fine- we just look at one antoher over the haze of the fray each Sunday and wonder, sometimes.

    We’re moving to 9 o’clock, too, starting this week. I actually think it might help…

  43. JJohnsen- if it’s the area of AZ that I think it is, then there are just that many wards packed into a building. My brother’s family lived in an area a few years ago where there were 8 wards to a building and the wards were splitting every three to four months. They had to shorten the meetings because they just couldn’t keep up with the growth.

  44. My boys are 3 and almost 5 and, yes, “still” and “silent” is impossible. But we’ve managed “not too disruptive,” for the most part. I have no idea what the key is, if there is one. I doubt there is one. But for the most part they crawl around on the floor playing with cars, they color, they crawl on me, and they eat. They annoy me with all their activity but I don’t think they annoy anyone else. We sit way in the back when possible.

    There were times when going to sacrament meeting was so stressful that I couldn’t see the point. Now, it’s getting more bearable. Plus I’m more chill about it. I’m not too concerned about keeping them 100% in line. I make sure they’re not being too disruptive and I’m fine with that even if they aren’t still or silent.

  45. we cherish the two hours of free childcare.

  46. LOL The kinds of kids who cannot be still are often the cutest and usually very precocious. But the parents look so tired! Not much that can be done except damage control. I agree with everyone who says that many ward members are very willing to help. I laugh because I am thinking of specific active children who say the funniest things in church or in Primary. I think they are adorable.

  47. We actually just moved to 9 a.m. also. I dread it, my 9-month-old usually has his nap around 9-10 a.m. and is miserable the rest of the day without it.

  48. What a topic. I do not have 5 kids but here is my experience. In my 28 years before kids I went every week (Unless I was deathly ill) We have an almost 1.5 year old and my wife and I have the rotate system. We switch every other week. For the most part our daughter peers over our shoulder and waves to the people behind us She is a big flirt. We get there during the opening hymm so we are the folks you see walk up to the front row because nothing else is left. Sometimes she spots a nice person and wants to say hi so she’ll walk over and they will set her on thier lap and she will be quiet for a few minutes then walk right back to us.

    So far as the quiet factor. It drives me nuts. If it is too quiet and especially when it is warm I fall right asleep. I do better in the cold. I think it makes me more alert. (Plus when it is cold the kids are trying to keep warm. That might be something to consider in highly unruly wards :)

    Church used to be Sacrament and Sunday School. Primary and priesthood RS etc were in the middle of the week. They moved them all to sunday to be convenient. (People were complaining about why so many meetings throughout the week so they combined) See the pattern here. We could go back to the old way next decade then in 25-30 years we could switch back to all sunday. It is not going to make everyone happy. We can always find something to complain about or make excuses. We just need to learn to relax. I had no idea church was considered a fashion show. I guess I had been going for the wrong reasons.

    Although cutting the meeting back is a good idea. I wish things could be more organized I am a little OCD when it comes to Organization it has to be my way. (Just ask my wife, I’m working on that one.) I almost lived in the 2.5 hour ward In Queen Creek Az where the church population was booming but the former mayor put a cap on meeting houses. She was voted out and a Mormon Mayor came to town. Now there are some 5 new buildings being built planned etc.

    I digress, I am an EQ teacher and spend much thought and time planning my lesson only to find out in my new ward of 2 months the opening exercises of Preisthood last on average 30 minutes!!! What?! I’m used to having 45 minutes for the lesson but in this ward we have more like 20 min for the lesson in EQ. Plent of time for a good quick lesson if you are expecting it instead of 45 minutes. My second lesson there I was aware of the length of my lesson and planned accordingly. So a 2.5 hour meeting might be fine if it were run efficiently other wise we’d have 5 minute lessons in my ward!

    Tracy, the only advice I would be fit to offer is well NONE. I am not qualified. But maybe my rantings have proved entertaining.

  49. I hope you could manage my lack of punctuation and spelling errors. My organization ends when it comes to writing and typing etc… Oh well. Use what talents we have i guess and keep plugging away at the others.

  50. Jothegrill says:

    AMEN TO SUSAN M!!
    Church is about building community as well as worshipping. We are to become one. Don’t worry about your kids bothering everyone else. I love holding other people’s babies. I love it when I walk in to Church and my neighbor’s toddler shouts and waves to me. That does more for me than most of the sacrament talks. This is your church too, make it work for you. If it’s too much trouble to get everyone’s hair done, comb it in the car and call it good. I spent many years as a child sleeping under the bench, or pulling the little hair-like things out of the bottom of them. It horrified my uncle, but everyone else got over it. And I still managed to hear and learn things and gain a testimony.

  51. Jothegrill says:

    Oh one other suggestion I have is to sing the hymns, no matter where you are, in the bathroom, in the hall, or in the meeting. You may feel a little silly at first, but I found that it helps me a lot.

  52. Oh yeah my daughter loves those little fiber things as well. She will spend what seems like hours trying to pluck them out and of course then eat them. A little fiber never hurt anyone. Who knew church could be good for you on so many different levels.

  53. My husband said in his family Sundays before church were horrible. His family yelled. His dad swore. His sister took forever in the bathroom.
    When our Sundays started to look like that even before kids(I’d be getting ready, he’d be stalling, I’d get stressed, he wouldn’t want to walk into sac. mtg. late, I wouldn’t want to wait in the foyer) he told me about his family.
    And, like most things, we try to do it the opposite of how his family did it.
    So, now we get ready calmly and happily without looking at the clock. We get there when we get there. We are happy. There are no fights. And there is the added benefit of being late…..which means less time to keep the kids quiet LOL.
    I have decided that family peace is far more important than getting there on time.
    Our kids are growing up and there are hardly any trouble anymore. We taught them how to behave when they were young and now they can actually do it.

  54. any mouse says:

    once nursery comes, you’ll have a MUCH easier time! i have a new baby, 2yo, and 3.5yo and a husband who works sundays. the best thing we’ve done is to not bring stuff. the kids know they get snacks in nursery and now that the oldest is primary age, she knows she’s a big girl who can wait till after church to eat. they are expected to sit quietly until after sacrament is passed, when they can then get s book out of my purse. they sing when we sing (even if it’s garbled or just consists of waving their arms frantically in an effort to emulate the chorister) and pray when we pray. we really just don’t have problems. if one needs to go out, we obviously ALL have to go out, which stinks. they get to go somewhere boring and it’s more fun for them to sit in the chapel and read than to haver to leave.

    i know it’s hard… i frequently feel like i’m only going because it’s important for the kids (and it is!). but if i don’t go, my whole week feels off and i’ve definitely lost SOMEthing. hang in there and know you’re not alone! you’re doing a good job, mama!

  55. Has anyone else ever been in a ward where sacrament meeting was last? While this would lead to total chaos with my children at least we wouldn’t have to rush out the door in an attempt to get there in time for the Sacrament. Then there’s the possibility of the speakers going over time and having church run longer then three hours. Oh, never mind, I can see why there hasn’t been sacrament meeting last for years.

  56. They still do that here in AZ in some areas. I know for certain that is the way it is done in most parts of Brasil. (So they can get to sacrament on time.)

  57. Jared, our Stake has sacrament last. It’s terrible. It was really bad when church was from 10 to 1 and sacrament was 12 to 1. All kids under 4 were tired and hungry and grumpy and noisy. The bishopric appealed to the stake president to have sacrament first but no dice. So they moved the block to 9 to 12, which made a little difference but not much. Luckily we were split off into another ward which is the only one in the stake that has sacrament meeting first because we share a building with another unit. Life is way better with sacrament meeting first.

  58. Re: the babysitter idea–when I was growing up in rural Utah, the church was much more child friendly. It was considered OK to stay at home with babies and toddlers, and the mother might trade off with her own mother, or sister or someone. You could take the babies if you wanted, but it was considered pretty normal to not bring them to Sacrament Meeting. Also, the buildings around me all had “cry rooms”– a place where parents could take the kids and still see into the chapel and hear what was going on. I think mostly kids didn’t actually cry much there, but were allowed to move around and make a little noise. Our cry room was near the front of the chapel, and was just a largish room with french doors, so the parents could see in through the doors. I do remember knowing that this was something you got to do when you were small, and when you were big, you would go into the main meeting with the other big kids. “Big” was probably about 4 in my ward.

    As for my own kids, my youngest is 15. I think that the 10:30 time slot made him hate church from the time he was old enough to know he was at church. Because we’ve lived in two wards that were connected to ethnic wards, our times have not changed. I’m not sure why 10:30 or 11:00 has to be the Spanish branch ward time of choice, but it was in both Colorado, and now California. Because attendance in those wards tends to drop when the time changes, we never change. That’s a horrible time for toddlers and my youngest learned to associate church with boredom, sleepiness and hunger from a very young age. He’s an extremely well-behaved bright kid, but hates church. If I were to do it again, I would take him home after Sacrament Meeting all the time, until he was at least five.

  59. cew-smoke says:

    Three simple words that my Mom told me when I complained about the exact same thing:

    It get’s better.

    It does. Not perfect, but she told me that once your youngest is potty trained and your oldest is mature enough to help, it will get better. As a product of primary I can tell you that it has made a huge difference that my parents “stuck it out” through the miserable times. Primary made me who I am today. Err, never mind that. In spite of that, primary is a very good thing. :)

  60. Our ward is switching to 11:30 now. Talk about a difficult time—lunch AND nap time. Nice. But I’m happy—I get to sleep in now.

    Oh, and one other thing, about getting to church late—when my kids were small, I set all of our clocks in the house either 5 or 10 minutes early, and told no one. And I purposely did the clocks differently–some 5 and some 10 minutes–so that I wouldn’t remember myself which was the right time. It helped us get *everywhere* on time, not just church.

  61. UnicornMom says:

    Perhaps one reason you should go to church with little children is to give those who will be offended by the noise the opportunity to become a little more Christlike.

    I remember an investigator who came to our little branch in Schwenningen was a little disturbed by the high noise level during sacrament. She leaned over and asked why we allowed our kids to make so much noise. I responded “because Jesus loves the little children and our Church is a family Church.”

  62. I would like to bear testimony of my Palm Pilot. It allows me to be in the sacrament meeting but not of the sacrament meeting.

    I don’t even notice the noisy kids anymore.

  63. Ronan, sounds like a personal problem to me. Maybe you need more potassium in your diet. Or some ridillin.

    Remember back when you didn’t have kids? Someday you’ll look back on the days when you only had one and wonder where all your potassium went.

    I find that I hate church a lot less since I stopped having expectations. Which is not to say that I never get anything out of church, but when I do, I see it as so much gravy.

    We take our young children to church so we don’t get out of the habit of going ourselves. Someday we will enjoy it again.

  64. I agree with Ronan. (I’m going to record that as a keyboard macro on F5 on my keyboard, right next to F4 “I agree with Beijing.”) When I was a Catholic, 11:15 mass was over in 30 minutes. Father Schultz said that the Last Supper only lasted 20 minutes, and he didn’t see how he could improve on that. I don’t necessarily believe it, but it was a good line. Forty five minutes after the opening song, we were home. When you’re ten, that’s awesome.

    I had a friend who had three young children. Her husband worked thirds, and every other week she was alone. One week during stake conference #3 was screaming while #2 was running down the aisles and she thought to herself, “WHAT am I doing here?”

    She decided to make it a matter of prayer. “God, if there’s something you want me to hear today, please make sure I hear it.” She prayed that prayer every single Sunday.

    Sometimes, she only got one thing out of any given meeting. But she ALWAYS got that one thing.

  65. It gets better.

    My oldest has autism with severe behavioral problems. Unless it’s something you’ve dealt with yourself, it’s really hard to imagine just how hard that was.

    But he survived. We survived. Even the ward managed to make it.

    Just the other week his Primary teacher remarked to me that my son is one of the best behaved kids in the class. I wanted to cry – it’s not something I thought I would ever hear.

    I promise you it will get better. And I agree that the reason we go is to teach our kids that we go even when it’s hard.

    Sometimes enduring well means you got out of bed that morning.

  66. Here’s the thing: any sensible pedagogy takes child development into account. Most things are VERY difficult (i.e. require endurance, patience, charity, longsuffering for parents, mostly just suffering for children) if you try to teach them at the wrong stage. Learning to sit quietly in Sacrament Meeting is a lot like potty training: most kids are able to use the toilet independently sometime between the ages of 2 1/2 – 3, regardless of whether you start training them at 18 months or the day before they turn three. It’s easier and less frustrating for everyone if you start when the kid wants to or around the 3rd birthday, whichever comes first. Most kids are able to sit through an hour of sheer tedium sometime between age 4 1/2 and age 6–why, oh why do we torture ourselves and them any sooner than that? A one year old is not “learning” to sit still; he’s just enduring an incomprehensible hour of torture by the people he usually relies on to help and entertain him. His capacity for memory is such that when it happens the next week, it will be a renewed shock and grievance to him.

    I get the commitment, sense of duty, endure to the end bit; I really do. I’ve been there, I’ve done it with three kids in under 4 years. I would NEVER do it again, and when I have grandbabies I will offer to stay home with them until they turn 4.

  67. You don’t have to try to teach them to sit still. You just have to try to help them be not-too-disruptive. It’s not been as painful for us as it would be if we’d been trying to keep them still and reverent. It doesn’t have to be that bad.

    I suppose there are some kids that will be more difficult than others. I don’t think my kids are particularly well-behaved in general. They’re probably somewhat typical young boys. But we’ve made it work without much pain for us or them. As they get older we’ll expect them to wiggle less and survive without toys and food, but for now we expect them to wiggle and crawl around on the floor and stuff so it’s not a big deal when they do.

  68. Hello? (tap…tap…) Hello? Did you put a microphone in my house/car/ward building and record what I’ve been repeating to my (poor) husband every Sunday (and lately, Saturday night, too) the past two months? I’ve got to read the comments on this one…I need some big inspiration in this department. Not like we’re not going to ever stop going to church – but inspiration to make me go to church and be happy about it. Because it’s just not there. With a 10 month old and 2 1/2 yr old (that refuses to go to nursery) it’s just not what I need church to be right now. Off to read the comments and hopefully become inspired.

  69. If the boys are really that active, Tracy, then you need to give them a good workout before church. I’d suggest that you park about a mile from the building, and walk the rest of the way. Walk fast, and make the little critters trot to keep up. (Put the baby in a stroller–you’ll never get to church if you wait for the 7 month old to walk there.)

    From the time our third child was born–when the oldest was four–I have almost never had the privelege of sitting with my family in church. But my long-suffering wife would sit near the front and the kids and I would make faces at each other during the meeting. They’d watch me, and not be distracted by whatever was going on behind them. If they’d run up to see me or sit on my lap, it was a bonus for everybody.

  70. any mouse says:

    well, certainly they shouldn’t be expected to sit perfectly quietly… wiggling is fine, but for us, there’s no feet up on the pew in front of us, no standing on the pew, et cetera.

    i see a lot of “right during nap time/lunch time.” one thing we’ve done is try to fine tune our schedules to our church schedule, which works well. we try to have a “quiet time” (certainly not an hour long!) each day when sacrament would be held, for example.

    oh, and sitting up front helps us, too. if we’re late and sit in the back, we’re in trouble. they like seeing the chorister and i can point out the bishop, the “boys” as they bless sacrament, and so on.

    sam mb, we’re with you. once they hit nursery age, i adooooore the “free babysitting.” just after my two-year-old went into nursery, they called me to teach primary. i obviously prayerfully considered it, but turned it down (a first). one of the big reasons was because with my husband’s schedule, that was my only two hours a week away from my kids. i hadn’t been in gd or rs for years and i couldn’t bear the thought of spending that time with someone else’s kids. it was the right decision!

    oh, and tracy… on particularly harried days, i actually shuffled the kids into nursery, went home, put on motab, cried into a handful of chocolate chips, and made it back for rs. we’ve all been there!

  71. We take our young children to church so we don’t get out of the habit of going ourselves.

    madhousewife called it. Not many services provide a balm equal to that available at the Cathedral of St. Mattress or Bedside Baptist, or enlightenment equal to that available at the Church of the Latter-day Meet the Press and Sunday Times (they could shorten their name, though).

    Also, I agree with Ann.

  72. I agree with Kristine. I *only* have a 6 month-old, but church is a total wash for us right now. She has never been a good napper outside of the house and will melt down if we skip a nap or push it back too far. We go to Sacrament meeting and than either DH or I will drive around during Sunday School to give her a nap. She usually wakes about 10-15 minutes after RS has started, so I get to skip the endless announcements.

    This arrangement might seem odd to those who don’t have kids or who have a baby that will nap anywhere. Before I was a mom I had no idea that most young babies really can’t go for more than 2 hours w/o sleeping and that older babies need two naps at roughly the same time everyday.

    On a related note, I know that early morning seminary is going to be a hard decision for our family. Teenagers’ sleep cycles generally are not conducive to getting up at 5:30. I will have a hard time trading off my kids’ health and academic performance for seminary, as wonderful as it might be. I know I got almost nothing out of seminary – I was just too tired and bitter that I wasn’t sleeping.

  73. Tracy and those who still have young children please know I empathize with you. Probably most, if not all of the parents in your ward do too and would be willing to help in some way.
    Our ward is pretty easy going and helpful. Often a few of the teenagers are sitting with the younger kids of other families and that seems to really help. We have also been “passing around” the little ones so much that except for nursing, mommy gets a break.
    Every bit of advice in these comments may help, or may not depending on you and your boys. The one thing I can reiterate is ask for help, and it really does get better. I hope knowing you’re not alone helps.

  74. Tracy, move to our ward and sit by us. I always have snacks in my pockets, and I enjoy playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with little kids.

  75. I was reading in the new Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball manual for RS and EQ the introduction has this to say.

    Simplification
    As the Church’s size and sphere of operations extended, President Kimball and other Church leaders recognized the need to simplify the various programs of the Church so that the most essential could be readily available in some form to those in the newest branch as well as those in a long-established ward. President Kimball said:

    “The mission of the Church to its members is to make available the principles, programs, and priesthood by which they can prepare themselves for exaltation. Our success, individually and as a Church, will largely be determined by how faithfully we focus on living the gospel in the home. Only as we see clearly the responsibilities of each individual and the role of families and homes can we properly understand that priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations, even wards and stakes, exist primarily to help members live the gospel in the home. Then we can understand that people are more important than programs, and that Church programs should always support and never detract from gospel-centered family activities. …

    “Our commitment to home-centered gospel living should become the clear message of every priesthood and auxiliary program, reducing, where necessary, some of the optional activities that may detract from proper focus on the family and the home.”31

    One important change during President Kimball’s administration was the introduction of the three-hour block meeting schedule on Sunday. This combined various weekday and Sunday meetings into a simple and more convenient set of meetings on Sunday. The introduction of this consolidated schedule in 1980 greatly reduced the expenditure of time and money by Church members in order that they might participate in the full range of the Lord’s program.

  76. Interesting. I know it would be difficult to go to “various meetings” throughout the week and sunday. If you are in leadership roles this probably does not apply to you though. You still have plenty of meetings throughout the week.

  77. Another good tip by any mouse: sit up front. The closer I sit to the front, the better my children behave. It is because of the lack of children that they see in front of them. Also, I try very, very hard not to sit near my children’s friends that they have been wanting to talk to. They can talk after.

    But I have heard many church leaders (including Elder Ballard, I think, in a Regional Conference in Utah) state that noise from children is joyful and should not worry the parents or keep them from coming! This is very important! I would be soooo sad if one of my friends did not attend church because they were worried about their children being disruptive. It is far better to attend.

  78. Kevin Barney says:

    When we first moved to Chicago, we usually sat in a row behind a woman and her four children. I remember feeling sorry for her, assuming she was widowed or divorced and was a single mother to those children.

    It was months–months!–before I realized that she was married to a counselor in the bishopric.

    I wonder whether we really need the full phalanx to sit up on the stand every week while their wives wrestle the children.

  79. Kevin, having all three up there greatly increases the chance that at least one of them will stay awake. Otherwise the meeting might just continue on into the eternities.

  80. I’ve been there too. My kids are spaced about the same as yours, and the oldest one is/was very much a handful. At about the same time I got called to play organ, leaving my husband to wrestle two then three kids.

    I sought out a grandma-type to help us out. I looked around for a woman or couple with grown kids, and asked them during the week if they would be able to help us out when I was on the stand or in the mother’s room with the baby. Look especially at some of the widows and singles sitting in the back row, feeling sorry for themselves because they don’t have anyone to sit with. We eventually moved from that ward. The grandma-type and I still keep in touch, and she told me how sad she was that no new family had “adopted” her. I very much recommend it.

    Now they are older, and it amazes me how much better it has gotten.

  81. Try this for a month:
    Sit in the front row. Right in front of the Bishopric. Have a grandmotherly figure, friend, eager YW (or YM) or someone willing to help out behind you. Above all, remember that the example is set by you and your husband. If you can show that you absolutely don’t tolerate getting up, moving around, and talking, toys and coloring books, you’re kids won’t be tempted either. They will never be up to any standard of perfection – but they will be closer to learning how to behave in a chapel.

    Oh, and even if you arrive late – make a proud entrance to the front. And as to lateness…give the rest of us with teens to tots in tow, a break – many of us are able to get there on time (and trust me, teens are worse than toddlers for getting ready).

  82. Mike Parker says:

    I loved reading this thread, if only to know that others feel my pain.

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