Tag Archives: church

Sunday School Lessons

Our church has two homilies (sermons) every Sunday – one for us adults and a short one for the kiddos just before communion. It’s a nice setup for those of us parents who tend to leave after church instead of lingering afterwards for Sunday school to let out. I’m not always a deserter, but sometimes (translation: most of the time) I’m too tired and not feeling the obligatory socializing that comes with the aforementioned waiting. Like I said, this mini sermon checks all the boxes.

With every children’s sermon, the priest gives an assignment to be discussed the following Sunday. Last week’s assignment was simple enough: Do something nice for someone you don’t know. Leave it to the small and innocent to have the best ideas of what this assignment entails.

The priest called on the first eager hand:

“There was a kid at school that was too full, so I ate his lunch for him.”

Second eagar hand: “I was riding my bike and there was someone walking down the street and I didn’t run over him!”

Well done, kids. Well done 👏🏼


Noisy Kids, Tired Moms

It could be pregnancy hormones adding to my already sensitive nature, but I’m becoming increasingly annoyed by people’s idea of “children should be seen and not heard.” This is not an isolated phenomenon of the fine art museum and it’s crotchety old curator, but a very frequent occurrence in many places.

Last summer, the kids and I took a two week trip to visit our cousins in Arizona. We visited a few caves during our time there. On one cave tour, it was my six children, my cousin and his son, myself, and a woman and her teenage son. My naturally inquisitive ten year old son was fascinated by the cave and had many questions for the guide. These were not your dumb “do dragons live here?” type, but real questions. Like “how old is this cave?” “When did people first discover it?” “How did they see since there were no lights?” etc. But the guide was annoyed and told him to stop with the questions until the end of the tour. My son was not interrupting; he usually asked after the guide was done talking about one room or as we walked to the next. I thought maybe it was a cave man thing, but then…

We took a tour with my dad of the LBJ ranch and mansion in Johnson City, Texas. This time it was my little three year old who said “YAY!” and clapped his hands. The guide asked if I could please ask my tiny child to refrain from happiness (okay maybe not his exact words). I apologized and said I didn’t bring my muzzle (those WERE my exact words).

The ten year old asked questions, and while the guides usually answered, sometimes they ignored him or said “sorry, have to keep moving.”

Again, if either were being obnoxious or disruptive, I would have taken them out. I do have some common sense when it comes to what’s appropriate and what’s not.  But I appreciate the fact that my kids want to know more.  And I also appreciate the fact we paid to be in the tour and ask questions of interest. Why discourage kids from their natural curiosity? Disclaimer: unless they are being obnoxious.

This week, both my elementary kids had school plays. Both were during the day, so I brought my little three for my son’s, whose play was first. My daughter came to sit with me. At one point, the three year old let out a noise. Every kid in that school, and I do mean everyone, turned and stared. My daughter was embarrassed and said, “I don’t think they want you here. They’re all staring at you!” I felt bad. No one else had little ones there and now my daughter was feeling the heat of all those stares, too. 

The worst, however, is in the church, a place where all should feel welcome and wanted, especially children.  In the Orthodox Church, children actively participate in the services from the time of infancy. It is customary for babies to be brought in and baptized at 40 days old. There are not special services for the littles so the grown ups can pray in peace and quiet. There are usually cry rooms within the church for very noisy kids or nursing moms.

My kids have grown up attending the long services of the Orthodox Church. And while they are familiar with the length of the services and the quiet that is expected of them, they do need to be taken out at times. I have four, soon to be five, age 7 and under. An hour and a half of baby and toddler juggling, in and out, back and forth, swaying and bouncing, is very tiring, especially since my husband rarely attends with us.  I think I leave, more often than not, thinking WHY DO I BOTHER?! I’m exhausted when I get home on Sundays, and frequently upset.

And I see the struggle of other mothers and the frustration and exhaustion on their faces. And I admire them for being there.

But there are those who seem more annoyed with our presence than anything else. They feel the need to continuously look back with disapproving looks, sigh loudly, move to another side of the church, or simply come up and say something. There’s nothing worse when, in the midst of struggling with a child or three in order to wrangle them together and shuffle out AGAIN, than the man, woman or person from behind the altar approaching. I know what they’re going to say. And as I nod that I understand and will remove the offenders (sometimes I do so more humbly than others), I’m usually close to tears.

I get it. Kids are distracting. They are noisy and sometimes downright irritating. And there are times when they need to be physically removed from a situation for the benefit of themselves and everyone else. Be it church, the grocery store, library, wherever. I have two on the spectrum where the simple “please be quiet” didn’t/doesn’t register, and a one year old who could care less.

But we are there. Trying. Struggling. We want to teach our kids and take them places and have them learn how to behave. We want them to learn to properly participate.  We can’t stay shut up inside or on the playground until they grow out of the obnoxious years.

I guess my point is, instead of being annoyed by the mommy and her toddler, wishing they’d just leave, try being sympathetic that she is most likely aware of her child’s noise and movement, and probably overwhelmed at that moment. She may just need a smile thrown her way instead of a scowl. And for all those who do smile or offer a hand, your thoughtful gesture means more than you can imagine. It’s soothing and healing to a tired mama!

In the meantime, I try to remind myself “this too shall pass.”

image


Concentration

Concentration – intense mental application; complete attention (www.thefreedictionary.com).

Not that anyone reading this needed a definition of “concentration,” but there it is.  And I must say, when I read it over and over again, it seems almost like an alternate state of existence.  Or something that monks acquire after years of prayer and silence and vigilance.  So why is there so much emphasis on our children having this ability?  I don’t know about other adults, but I find it nearly impossible to do anything with intense mental application.  And I actually know the importance of it!  I can set my thoughts well into the future and understand that without concentration on the present, it will be a rough journey to get ahead.  Yet, day after day, in most tasks that I undertake, I am distracted, physically, mentally, or both.

How then, can we expect our children to concentrate like little robots on so many things?  As many parents probably do, I throw the word around quite a bit.  “You’re not concentrating… pay attention!”  or “Concentrate on your schoolwork and get it finished!”  in sports, “Concentrate on the ball!”

I remember being in church as a child and wanting to listen to what the priest was saying during his homily.  I tried so hard to concentrate on his words!  But try as I might, my little mind wandered all over the place and before I knew it, he was finished and I didn’t have a clue what was said.

During church, my boys’ eyes dart around and they fidget.  I’m sure their minds are in a million, exciting places.  My daughter, however, actually verbalizes the paths her wandering thoughts take her.  They all start out semi-on task and end up way in left field:

“Mommy, who is that saint?”  She will point to an icon on the wall.  I may tell her, followed by a “Shh.”

“Mommy, how come you didn’t name me Emprazelda?  It’s a beautiful name.”

“Shh!”  But she just can’t help her little self:

“Mommy, what did you do with Isaac’s umbilical cord?”  WHAT?!  Where in the world do these things come from??  Not to mention, he’s 14 months old now!

But concentration during school “hours” is the most challenging.  Some days, for whatever reason, my children finish quickly and most of the day is theirs to do as they please.  Then other days, it takes H-O-U-R-S to write three little sentences in a journal.

Today I sat on the couch as the baby played around.  It was after lunch already and the boys were still struggling to finish up a few assignments.  These three tasks had already been in front of them for at least 2.5 hours.  My oldest came downstairs and said, “Look!”  He proudly showed me a large, gray ball.  It was a perfect, tight ball of something.

“What is that?”  I asked.

“It’s cat fur!  I rolled it into a ball.”  I stared at him and I stared at the ball.  Sheesh!  No wonder it was taking hours!  Had he gone around and collected every bit of fur in the house?  How had he rolled it so tightly and perfectly?  But I didn’t ask.  I just smiled and told him to go upstairs and please finish his work.