Wendell decided a few months ago that we would try a new seating arrangement at church. Instead of sitting all seven of us on a single long pew, we would sit, layered on two small pews on the side. This seating arrangement has several benefits. Every child is now within arms reach. If Emma is sitting immodestly, we can tap her, if the boys are talking we can whisper in their ears that if they don't stop right this minute they'll be sitting on the couch at home in silence forever. You get the idea. Plus I get to sit next to Wendell the entire sacrament meeting, something I haven't done in years.
It also has some disadvantages. Like the little ones wanting to move from row to row, sitting with mom and dad for part of the time and sitting with the big kids part of the time.
Today, the little kids (Beck, 3 and Annika 4.5) were sitting on the row in front of us (Wendell and me) when they decided that it would be a good idea to put their feet on the pew in front of them. Now, you likely have all had children do that, thereby kicking your "neighbors" in the head, arm and accidentally pulling hair.
Unfortunately, for me, I wasn't aware of what the little ones were doing. I did hear Wendell chide them to get their feet down, but when the lady in front of us, heaved a big sigh, stood up, turned around and looked at us (the look said, "Please! Control your children!") I flew into action. I whisked Beck out of his seat and dragged him over the pew into my lap. Annika, quickly straightened up once she saw the consequences Beck was experiencing.
During Sunday school, I put my arm around the lady who has very long hair and apologized for my kids' behavior. Her reply, "I can understand if the kids make a bit of noise. But today, as if the noise weren't bad enough, then she (meaning Annika) started pulling my hair!"
"Oh, goodness!" I said. "I thought Beck had been the guilty party and once I realized what was going on I got him right out of there. I'm so sorry! I guess I got the wrong child."
But my kids were actually quite reverent. We had no major outbursts, until I hauled Beck into my lap, and the kids were quite quiet. So the, "As if the noise weren't bad enough," part kinda rankled me.
I found myself praying, "Please help me to not be upset. Please help me to be forgiving."
In May of 2003, when my kids were ages 4, 2.5 and 10 months, we received a letter. It was typed, unsigned with no return address. It read, "Dear Brother and Sister Wood, We hope you will not be offended by this, but your children are rather disruptive during Sacrament Meeting. It would be better if you sat at the back of the chapel so that your children would disturb fewer people."
Wendell had the good sense not to show me that letter for seven years. But he made sure that we always sat near the front of the chapel, if at all possible. That fact still makes me smile.
There is no way that that letter would have come from this family who was struggling to keep their own three-year-old quiet at the time. But this impatience with children bothers me. We are a family church, are we not?
Still, I learned a lesson today. I will make for darn sure that we never sit behind them again.