Deprivation of the Spirit

Today was one of those Sundays. It started at 5am, when J woke up and wondered where his bed was. We are out of our house, and staying with family while we await the movers tomorrow. All of our stuff has been packed since Friday, and J is sort of freaked out. Hence, I think, the 5am wake-up call. Anyway, he was cranky the entire morning, and the prospect of church did not cheer him up any. He cried almost the whole way to church, a trip that took us 20 minutes longer than usual, coming from my family's house instead of ours. We slipped into the 2nd to back row in the overflow just as the Sacrament hymn was ending. J whimpered during the entire Sacrament, and intermittently moaned that he was hungry and loudly whispered, "I don't want to go to Primary!" After the Sacrament, we finally got him calmed down enough to play with some toys, and he sat down on the floor to entertain himself. I usually do not allow him to sit anywhere but the chair or bench, but as we were in the overflow, and as we were all very near the edge, I let it slide. He seemed content, for the first time in literally 4 hours. The meeting progressed, as did J's play. He started crashing his Spiderman into his space ship, with the appropriate sound effects. DH and I shushed him, pulled him away from other chairs, told him he was not allowed to slam Spiderman into the chair, etc. He responded pretty well, I thought, to our instructions, and I actually heard most of the speakers, and felt myself starting to relax just a little bit. Then a member of the ward I did not know come up to us during the meeting and harshly whispered, "I have an investigator here, and your son is depriving us of the Spirit!" Well then. Have you ever heard of the straw that broke the camel's back? This was the whisper that broke the Mamma's very thin veil of sanity. We blew out of that Sacrament meeting so fast that J was too stunned at Mama's behavior to even cry. We spent the rest of Sacrament meeting taking a "family walk" around the idyllic neighborhood while I worked extremely hard to pull it all back together. If DH wasn't scheduled to teach Elder's Quorom, I think we would have left altogether. I was shocked, hurt, angry, appalled, and embarassed, all at the same time. Shocked that somebody would have the guts to say that to my face. Hurt and angry because it had been such a struggle to even get there, the entire weekend has been draining and exhausting, and I just needed the peace of the fellowship of the Saints. Appalled because that man did not know our situation, he didn't know us at all, and still felt like he could say something like that. What if we had been investigators too? What if we had been inactive and were just coming back to church for the first time in years? What if we our testimonies were hanging by a thread, and this would have been the cut that lost us forever? These are the kinds of things that make people leave and never come back. And, finally, embarrassed that J's behavior was clearly disturbing others, and I truly did not notice. What kind of mother doesn't realize her son is running amok and depriving others of the Spirit? One who is totally fried, is the real answer, but that's not really an appropriate excuse for not controlling my son's behavior at a time when others are trying to worship, too. Our church prides itself on focusing on the family, and yet our 3 hour block sometimes makes it tough on families to stay focused on the Spirit. I think sometimes as mothers we have a certain threshold for noise (ie, I apologized to the woman in front of us at the end of church for J's behavior, thinking that if J disturbed that guy, he certainly disturbed her, and she looked at me blankly. She honestly hadn't heard a word from him or the whisper from the man because she was completely wrapped up in keeping her own 3 year old from losing it.), but we can forget that other's don't have that same threshold. I don't know, I'm just completely at a loss, here. Has this kind of thing ever happened to anyone else? How are you supposed to handle something like that? I saw the Bishop later, and he said he wanted to talk to me in his office. It was mostly about releasing me from my calling, but he said, "You look like you could use a treat", and he pulled out his candy jar. I told him what happened, and he said, "Yeah, I saw you guys leave. I wondered what he had said to you to make you depart so abruptly. Not super tactful, that guy." And he gave me a miniature York Peppermint Patty and told me it was going to be ok. I guess my point in all of this, besides just getting it off my chest, is that there should be some middle ground. Mothers, we should do what we can to make sure our children aren't disturbing other people's worship. And other people--when you see a mother dealing with a cranky, rambunctios 4 year old whose sound effects aren't exactly spiritual, remember that she might be a stressed out nutcase who is functioning on 4 hours of sleep and is living out of a suitcase at her mother's house and is three seconds away from a major meltdown before you suggest her family is less than righteous. And remember this: Good bishops should always have a candy jar in their office.


Blogger Mrs. M said...

Heather, it sounds like a really rough day. Good job for getting through it. I'm glad your bishop noticed your departure and was sensitive enough to identify that you really did need a treat.

I used to be a person without kids who complained about noisy kids, but now I have my own and I have eaten my words. It has taught me a good lesson. I try hard not to make judgments on other people, lest I end up in their shoes and really understand their position.

Good luck with the move!

5/22/2006 12:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

When we had our first child, our Stake President told us not to worry about people being bothered by noise, and to remember that the church is for children, too. This is difficult to do, certainly, because we do have to teach our children reverence. But it sounds to me like you were doing the best you could, and the man was definitely out of line.

5/22/2006 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger Kaimi said...

Awww, Heather!

Kids will be kids. They're not perfect, and they're noisy sometimes. We don't bring them into the Celestial room.

But Jesus also said that we need to be more like little children. And that means lightening up about some level of noise in sacrament meeting.

We baptized a family in Guatemala. They had a great little three year old who would escape and run down the aisles yelling "I'm an airplane! Zoooom!" as he waved his arms. Ward members glared at them. But they were a great, great family, full of faith and love and all the things that really matter.

Anyway, moving sucks, and I'm sorry to hear that a rude member made it worse. Count your blessings, I guess. That happened to you, not to someone on the edge of inactivity. And perhaps the member rethought their approach. (Crosses fingers).

In the meantime, e-hug. And hey, just think how great life will be in a very short while when the move is complete.

5/22/2006 01:09:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Yikes Heather! My back would have broken on that note, too. The three hour block on Sunday can be one of the hardest times of the week, let alone when life is topsy-turvey for a four-year old.

I'm glad your bishop was sensitive enough to notice your needs- and have chocolate.

Regarding that nitwit who commented to you- my husband always says if a person needs conditions to be perfect to pray or feel the Spirit, the problem is with them.

That said, had I been sitting in front on you (we were in the chairs today, too) you would have seen my four-year old stealing crayons from my two-year old while said two-year old rolled around on the floor, then delared loudly that he had to poop. Abby mercifully slept on dad for most of the time... I wouldn't have noticed had J turned into Spiderman and jetisoned off the basketball hoops!

5/22/2006 02:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Téa said...

I can certainly understand the breakdown of the emotions, particularly the embarrassment as you realized that this was largely preventable, and wondering what people think of you/your mothering skills.

I have a question--if I was sitting nearby and noticed that your young J's play was disturbing others, what would be the right thing(s) to do in this situation?
As you seemed unaware, should I let you know about it in a kindly way?
Offer to help with J?
Offer some quiet toys as an alternative?
Start playing quietly with J, hoping to he will follow suit with the noise level?
Offer to hold J?
Offer to take him into the foyer?
Offer to take notes for you while you take him into the foyer?

If I had approached you about it, would it have hurt no matter what was said?

I see struggles all around me, and I wonder if I would be helping or hurting the situation.

There have been times when I've been struggling with children in Sacrament meeting, just praying that someone could come help me. It has happened a couple of times. So I wonder if you ever feel like that too, or do you prefer to keep it to yourselves?

5/22/2006 04:47:00 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I'm still in shock over what that member said to you. If I had been his "investigator" and saw his behavior, I would have had second thoughts about the church. Not because of a slighlty irreverent child. But because of a rude, rude adult.

I'm so glad that you weren't "coming back to activity", too! Man, I'm so steamed! My kids are crazy in church, too, and like mrs. moo, I was one of those judgemental kinds ("my kids will never....!). Now I know better. Much better.

Better than that inconsiderate man. I mean, you were in the back, weren't you? I have no idea how I would have responded. Maybe just stared at him...I don't know....

Because I'm sitting there with DH, I don't feel justified in asking for help. Somehow we manage to get through it. But I will say that occasionally, when someone (usually a grandparent-type) gives my kids a bracelet, or book, or something else to look at, it really calms them down and I'm so, so, so very grateful. Offering help in that way can be good, at least in my experience.

5/22/2006 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

When my kids were toddlers, my husband was inactive, and I attended a ward in a retirement town with mainly older people--very few children. Because of that I was always worried my kids were disturbing people.

I'd come from a ward where people let their toddlers wander the chapel during SM. But I knew if my toddler went up on the stand all the old people would be worried about the mic stand being knocked over, or whatever. So I was always taking him out, and my 4 and 5 year old kids would not stay in the chapel without me, so we'd all go out to the foyer together.

There were so many Sundays when I would be out in the hall on the floor while my 2 year old played that I just wanted to pack it all in and leave. And usually whenever I was just about to, someone out there with me would say something nice, like, "You're such a good mom." And that little compliment would help SO much.

I see little kids now who make a ruckus and just love it. I get complimented now on how well-behaved and quiet my kids are in SM (they're 16, 14 and 12). But I miss the little kid days of banging toys on the metal chairs and the "Open your eyes! No pray! No pray!"

5/22/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

In our old ward we had an investigator who was a single-mother with a little girl. A member of the ward went up to her one sunday and said something to the effect of "you need to get your kid under control" and we never saw her again. Her daughter wasn't anywhere near out of control. She was just being a little kid. So sad. Should never have happened.

5/22/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger MaioCampo said...

my husband always says if a person needs conditions to be perfect to pray or feel the Spirit, the problem is with them.

I'm of the exact same mind, Tracy... but I'm a 38 yr-old little boy who would much rather be playing with spider man and spaceships than Sunday talks anyway... so take it for what it's worth. Heh, heh.

5/22/2006 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

I would have said, "well, hell, I'm sorry"--and laughed.

Once when Maxwell came with us, I let him walk all over and told people he was the nephew of the second counselor in the bishopric.

5/22/2006 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Nature said...

Just a note to you: Your dh had a responsibility to help keep J under control, too, so don't take all the blame on yourself!
Kudos to your bishop! And flying boogers to the cruel man!!

5/22/2006 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

Heather, I'm sorry about the mean guy! That's so offensive! My daughter is 19 months old and sacrament meeting feels like a wrestling match - I'm totally worn out by the end of the meeting! Dh is a great help, but I'm learning that these toddler types are just not programmed to sit still. Staying in our pew without any big breakdowns throughout the entire meeting feels like a huge accomplishment, and our daughter really is a fairly "easy" kid.

Luckily, our ward is young and there are lots of kids - and there are lots of books/quiet toys passed between pews during the meeting.

What's hard is when our daughter is just managing to hang in there and the meeting should be closing, but the bishop decides to stand up and add some random comments to the end of the meeting, making it go late - that's when things get crazy!

Good luck with the move, you'll be so relieved to be done!

5/22/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve said...

I'm sorry to hear you had such a trying experience, Heather. I wish that member had had as much consideration for your ability to feel the Spirit as he had for his investigator. Maybe he's got problems of his own that made him shorter than he meant to be-- I'm hoping I wasn't too short with the boys' Valiant class when I popped my head in to ask them to quit thumping the wall. My girls' Valiant class is enough trouble without competing with them but I don't want the teacher thinking I was angry at her.

5/22/2006 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Starfoxy said...

I am of the same opinion that if the spirit is there then it is your own fault if you don't feel it.
Anyhow, I wish I could think of something that you could have said to the guy to let him know just how rude he was, (mostly so I can be prepared if something similar ever happens to me). Maybe just "I'm sorry, but wow! Did you really mean to be that rude to me?"

5/22/2006 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger aquamarine said...

I feel for you Heather. I was having just such a Sunday myself...except I live in a student ward with younger couples that have no idea what it is like to get three kids under the age of 6 in, on time...mostly, and being relatively quiet. In fact I almost lost my 19 month old that snuck out with her dad while I was preoccupied with squelching a squabble happening between the other two. I could just image what others were thinking about the Primary President losing it.

5/22/2006 06:38:00 PM  
Anonymous wbpraw said...

Oh, the anger I feel boiling up inside me when I hear stuff like that. As far as our responsibility as parents in Sacrament meeting - we do the best we can. To @#$% with everyone else, and a few more choice words as well that even @#$%@#@# can't do justice!

5/22/2006 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Totally talking out of place here, but spurred on by this string of comments:

Tea-(I don't know how to make the accent a droit- sorry!) ALWAYS I am grateful when I'm struggling with my kids and someone offers to help me... Always. I've got three with the oldest being 4, and it's tough, even with DH there. My feelings are never hurt or offended when someone I know says "Let me take him" or "Come sit with me" or "Look what's in my bag!"- but it would drive me away if someone actually commented on my parenting. Some days it's a miracle we are there at all!

Anyone with no kids yet- we were all where you are once upon a time, and we too said, "Not my kids!" and now we have to eat our words- learn from our mistakes!

Church is just the last place any of us should feel maligned or alienated or anything like that, and it's such a bummer when it happens.

wbpraw- I'd add a few choice words myself too- but the asterisks and the pound signs are just never as satifying as the real thing!

5/22/2006 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger HLH said...

While I was in the Temple once I had someone tell me I was making it hard for them to feel the spirit. It was in the basement, and we were done, but sitting and waiting for others to finish. A woman in our ward who was much older than me whom I respected very much- had struck up a great conversation with me. I felt that we were bonding and really enjoyed my conversation with her. This man came over and told us to please stop, as he couldn't feel the spirit becuase of our talking.

I am of the mind set that I cannot make anyone do anything. All are responsible for their own behaviors, so if he couldn't feel the spirit that was HIS issue, not mine. Pretty sad to look at it like this: this man and his investigators whole opportunity to feel the spirit hung in the balance of your and J's hands, sad that he would give you that power...

5/22/2006 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Nicki said...

That guy needs to be blessed with quintuplets to teach him a good lesson.

Once when we were at a friend's baby blessing my three year old sneezed two huge snot strings out of his nose. We didn't know before the meeting that he was getting sick so it was a shocking, scramble for the kleenex kind of moment. The little boy sitting next to us was playing with our son and his mom jerked him back so fast I'm sure it hurt his neck. Then she GLARED at us and made her little boy sit on the other side of her. I felt the same way you did; what if we weren't members? Such a big deal out of a little snot.

5/23/2006 05:14:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Tea said, "If I had approached you about it, would it have hurt no matter what was said?"

No way. I am always grateful for a new distraction, or for somebody else to pitch in, especially if it is intended kindly. And J will always behave better for others than he will with his own parents--it's just the way life is!

There was a couple in our old ward who had grown kids, but they still brought toys to church, and were the ministrering angels in Sacrament meeting. Many a time I was hugely grateful when that woman turned around and said, 'Hey, J, do you want to see my puppets?' One woman who I KNOW was rattled by J's behavior one time did the same thing--pulled out her purse and let him rifle through it--oh, the ecstasy of a new purse! These women smile at me and I know they've been there, so that kind of help is always appreciated.

Thanks for all the love, people. With you all were in my ward that day!

5/23/2006 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Missy said...

This same exact thing happened to my friend, but the remark was said by two "older" ladies in Relief Society. I have a six week old infant now (first baby) and last Sunday was my first day at church. What a production it was to even get there. And then I was out with a crying baby in sacrament and feeding in the mother's room for Relief Society. If these people even knew what it took to get ourselves there right? Ugh. We're so here for you. Their problem, not yours. It sounds like you are an amazing mom - inspiration for me.

5/23/2006 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger cchrissyy said...

I'm always releived when somebody else passes a toy, or lures my toddler to their area. but if you offered to take him out for me, or to take notes while I go out, I would feel criticized- like you were telling me I should have already removed him. I'm not always hyper-sensitive o ocriticism, but taking kids to church is very stressful as it is, and I'm already doing my best...

now, if I'm giving a talk, and you offer- prior to any noisy behavior- to just keep him out, that's wonderful. again, a huge relief, and not threatening. People have helped greatly at bapitsm and blessings to just keep him outside until it's over so I can focus.

5/23/2006 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Trivial Mom said...

Sorry you had such a bad experience. It's terrible the things some people have the nerve to say.

I am so lucky in out ward there are so many kids my googie has actually thrown a fit in the middle of sacrament meeting before and no one but our row noticed because of all the noise.

A couple of weeks ago we even had a 2 year old run, I mean she was booking, up to the stage just before the opening song, dad was chasing right after her. The entire congregation started laughing including the bishopric. She was so proud of herself for making it that far before getting caught. She was taken back to her seat with the biggest smile on her face. Probably wasn't good for future behavior to have everyone laughing at her, but man it was too funny.

5/23/2006 08:05:00 PM  
Anonymous shanO said...

Heather O - I can SOO relate. . . I dreaded one Sunday when my husband had to work so I would have to take our kids (ages 4, 3, and 1) alone to church. I remembering praying on the way that I'd find someone I could sit with that could help me. I got there just as the meeting was starting. I strategically placed my kids on the bench right next to the door. Then I noticed a dear freind who was recently "re-activated" sitting with the couple missionaries. I asked her to please come sit with me to help - and she happily agreed. BLESSING! I was a little uncomfortable, and worried what others, including the missionary couple would think, but i was DESPERATE. Well, about halfway through the meeting, my 3-yr. old son bolted and ran straight to the opposite side of the chapel(still at the back, but ready to run down the aisle) AT this point, I considered getting up to go after him, but quickly realized that this would only cause one of those hilarious, but nonetheless very embarrassing "chase scenes" so , I chose to simply motion for him to come back. Of course, he didn't, and proceeded to run a full lap around the pews (down the aisle, right in front of the podium, up the other aisle) I was so embarrassed. I quickly took him out (somehow he came back to me) and explained that it was not appropriate to have relay races in the chapel.
Anyway, you're not alone. Taking young children to church is a constant struggle. Although I've seen some families who seem to manage keeping their children reverent the whole time, I think most do not. Although I think I would've felt the same feelings you felt when the tactless man spoke to you, somehow we've got to realize what comments from others are worthy of our concern. As hard as it is, we just really have to try to say to ourselves, "This is NOT my problem, it's his. I am doing my best, and will not let this man ruin my day." It's a skill I'm still trying to develop.

5/24/2006 09:29:00 PM  

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