Moms of young kids, I know you. I’ve been you. I’ve sat in sacrament meeting with children on all sides, pulling my clothes and my hair, trying to crawl under the pew, smashing Cheerios in the bench.
There were some Sundays I dreaded going to church. It wasn’t a spiritual experience. It was wrestle mania, and I felt like the weekly loser.
The Reality of Taking Young Kids to Church
Our Church is a family Church, so our family always started sacrament meeting together on the bench. But there wasn’t a single Sunday for years that either me or my husband didn’t leave it with a child or two in tow. Luckily, we had a game plan. We would have an arsenal of supplies to make chapel time a quiet and enjoyable place: snacks that weren’t messy, quiet books and toys, binkies and blankets.
When a child began to cry—which was inevitable when they were little—we would initiate Phase 1 of the plan: Pick up the child and hold him while we stood in the back of the chapel. This usually did the trick. We could still listen (or try to) and the child would (sometimes) be quiet.
If that didn’t work and the kids were older than a year, we went to Phase 2: The chair in the lobby—or as we sometimes call it, the Thunderdome arena. We had decided early in our parenting that the lobby would not be a playground for the kids. In Phase 2, we would sit in a chair, and that’s it. No crawling around. No fun and games. Just sitting. After some time—usually, like, 30 seconds—they realized this was an awful alternative. Eventually, they learned that the chapel was the place to be and they actually began to prefer being in there rather than in the chair. And as the weeks went by, the time in Phase 2 lessened, as did the time in Phase 1.
Still, it was hard.
When our kids were under a year old, we went straight from Phase 1 to Phase 3: the hallway walk with them in our arms, or the mother’s lounge.
Even though we had a game plan, the point is, it was hard to go to church with little kids. But go we did, even if my spiritual bucket didn’t get filled. Even if I felt more tired at the end of the three hours than before I left for church. (Anyone else excited for next year’s Sunday meeting schedule?)
So, why did I do it? Why do we do it? Why do we spend three hours a week wrestling and refereeing little ones inside the church walls? Especially when they don’t even seem to know where they are, let alone why. There are a few really good reasons.
1. To Take the Sacrament
The sacrament is the most important reason we come to church. By partaking of the sacrament, we renew the covenant we’ve made at baptism. But, there’s so much more than that. We engage the power of the Atonement in our lives more fully. Even if we can’t have that quiet, reverent time to commune with God since our children are yanking our hair or throwing themselves backwards on the bench because they didn’t get to keep the water cup, our simple desire to participate in this ordinance qualifies us for heavenly aid and support. I cannot stress how important this is and how needed this is on our lives. I mean, what mother does not need divine intervention and help not only on Sunday but during the entire week?
2. To Instill Habits in Our Children
From the time they remember, children grow up going to church every week. That’s just what we do. Even when we might not be in the mood. And later, as they get older and can sit quietly as they flip through magazines and color and draw for more than five minutes, they begin to notice things like the young men passing the sacrament, the look on your face as you feel the Spirit, and people they are becoming familiar with bearing testimony.
3. To Set an Example of Discipleship
Through our actions, we are showing our little screaming darlings that we love the Lord and that we believe in His Church. Through our example, we are helping to prepare and cultivate the ground their seeds of faith can be planted and thrive in.
4. We Are Needed and Loved, Welcomed and Wanted at Church
Even when you’re exhausted, you have the right to receive revelation, strength, and support at church, and you can give it as well. I remember Sundays when I felt like an empty well with nothing to offer. But there were times when my well began to fill and I not only felt better but could offer support to others during my own time of struggle and need. The Lord can use all of us—even tired child-wrestlers—to help each other.
Of course, I am not saying that every moment raising small children is hard, or every Sunday meeting with a wee one is a battle. There were for me and are for you, moments of peace and tranquility, joy and satisfaction in our mothering and worship. But confining an adventurous just-discovered-how-to-walk child to a pew for an hour might not be one of those moments.
It’s hard. I know. But keep coming. Hold your little ones under your arms like a football and come. Have a game plan in mind and initiate the phases as needed but come. If you’re married, expect your husband to share in the joy of the “Thunderdome.” He’s in this too. Come. Let your ward family help. Give your child to the baby-stealer in the ward (that would be me in mine) to give you a break. Ask your ministering sister for help if you need it. Just come.
Sundays can be hard, but come. Breath deep. Have a plan. Take the sacrament. Like Paul, fight the good fight, finish your course, and keep your faith. And know that you are right where Heavenly Father wants you to be.