ARTHE BABY ROOM—A Mother’s Reflections
Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven—Matt 18:10
The soundproof baby room at the back of the chapel—most churches will have one of them. In our case, it is a modest twelve- by-five-foot partitioned room with glass panes and rickety sliding wooden doors that have not been working for as long as anyone can remember.
And ours is not soundproof. Ah, how many young parents have had the pleasure of sitting in this room with their young, noisy charges during services.
This is a room where you sit with Junior and have problems listening to sermons for about three years until he toddles off to religious education classes. I’ve just finished doing time in one and can breathe a sigh of relief as my youngest is now off to kindergarten.
I now have the pleasure of listening to a sermon from beginning to end, no longer needing to make up a feed, to entertain, or to referee a fight.
I often sympathize with the poor sermon-giver, who has the unenviable challenge of trying to concentrate on delivering his message while witnessing parents keep lively children from using the pews as an obstacle course.
Only a few months ago, while I was engrossed in looking up a Bible verse, my two-year-old dangled himself on all fours on the back of the pew whilst triumphantly shouting, “Spiderman!” before crashing loudly onto the floor.
He was sufficiently embarrassed not to cry out loud, so he sheepishly climbed onto my lap as the whole congregation turned around to look at the culprit. The speaker bravely continued amidst stifled giggles.
Junior, bless him, does not understand proper church etiquette and, specifically, the need for quietness and solemnity. Inside the baby room is another world, where he has to learn these rules from scratch, but never, it seems, at any great hurry.
I do believe that my two youngsters have been the most raucous of all its occupants to date. “No, it’s mine!” or “I want…” amidst great wailing has been heard most Sabbath days in the baby room as Christian virtues are expounded on the pulpit.
With a bit of perseverance, something does eventually sink in. It is in here that Junior starts to learn the practice of formal worship with hymnal singing, prayers, and sitting quietly while someone speaks on the pulpit.
Not only that, but useful by-products include Junior learning how to share (admittedly toys) and taking turns without resorting to fist fights. It does not seem like Junior is taking anything in as he plays, chatters, and bargains with his fellow inmates, but he does.
And not only that, but Junior watches your every move and copies you by ‘reading’ the Bible and standing up to ‘sing hymns’. So it’s worth us parents setting a good example. If we chat during services, we show Junior it is OK for him to do so as well.
In my limited experience, it takes a good two to three years of training and many gray hairs for the parents before children sit reasonably still and quietly through a service. This is unless they have inherited quiet genes (alas, they skipped a generation in the case of our kids).
But even then, things do not always go according to plan. Last week, during Holy Communion, I was feeling quite proud of my youngest as he helped himself to the bread and the cup with the appropriate level of decorum.
All went well, until he spied a friend, walked over, clinked his cup with hers, and called out, “Cheers!” Oh well, it’s back to the drawing board for this mom…