Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Letter

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.


Kari said...

I was just pondering what you said on facebook and now I read this. I'm angry for you. Ive gotten a couple of letters, one from the Bishop and the other was unsigned. The Bishop, well, lets jut say I was sick at the time and unaware it was such a problem. But we moved to the front and my children behaved much better. But he signed it.

I got an anonymous letter once, just over a year ago. That one was hateful. I devoted a whole blog post to it and showed it to everyone who was interested. The bishop, all my friends and anyone who stumbled on my blog got to read it. lol I think I may be a bit passive aggressive.

Sometimes I wonder what people hope to get out of church. Isn't it the Savior who said to Suffer the children to come unto Me? Maybe, just maybe a part of it means that others around them will have to suffer as well. I just wish they would suffer in silence. I know there is much more to that, but He asked for the kids because often people try to shut them away and do not love them for who they are. I'm doing my very best, but kids are HARD. And there are only two of us wrestling them at church.

Tigerlily said...

That is so awesome!! I totally see Wendell doing that!! Thanks for the chuckle. That story makes me smile. Yes...We are a family Church! You are the greatest!

Sandy White said...

I'm curious...this lady--does she have kids? I am surprised that she would be so intolerant of yours. Every Sacrament Meeting I've been to for as long as I remember has had babies crying, toddlers screaming, etc. It is what you expect being a family-oriented church. In fact, it would be WEIRD if it was silent in the chapel. Anyway, I'd be mad too, especially since you apologized! (And I should add that once I got hit in the face by some hard board book hurtled by a toddler, but I held nothing against the parents. I just thought the kid was a "wild man.")

Jenna Wood said...

In a regional conference a few years ago, Pres. Monson again admonished us that we are to tolerate little children in church. He talked about how seeing the little children makes him smile and how we need to be like them.

He also reminded us that we need to be patient with occasional outbursts from toddlers, then went on to tell a hilarious story.

We have had so many people be so nice to us. Once in church Anson, who took his blanket everywhere, whipped a lady's hair. She was a mother of 8 and completely unruffled about the whole thing.

Thankfully, these experiences are the exception and not the rule.

It's also nice to commiserate with others who have had similar experiences. So, Kari, which blog is your letter on?

Emma said...

I must confess, I've never heard of any such intolerance in any of my wards. In Baltimore, we had a ward with 90 children under the age of 5. We also had Sacrament meeting last. You can bet that things got roudy. Yes, I only have 2 children, but they're definitely not perfect and we DEFINITELY have our off moments at church. Fortunately nobody has ever sent me a letter like that or made such a biting comment. Reading things like this make me not want to live in UT. Is that how people are there? Not to say that I haven't seen my share of crazy - believe me I have. It just tends to be crazy crazy, not judgemental crazy if you know what I mean! It sounds like you've handled the situation well - definitely with more grace than I would have!

Jenna Wood said...

Emma I love the crazy crazy not judgmental crazy! I think in Utah we do have people who suffer from hyper morality, where they have a definite set of what is right and wrong and it has nothing to do with the commandments or being like the Savior.