We Don’t Play Hide and Seek at Church!

written in 2003

            You know how at the end of Sacrament Meeting people with whom you shared a pew say, “It has been such a pleasure sitting with you at church today, your children are so well behaved”?  Well, I don’t either. 

Through the years I’ve grown accustomed to the stern looks from those sitting around us, even the occasional picking up their scriptures and finding a different place to sit, but I’ll never forget almost 3 years ago when church ended, the man who shared a pew with our family actually got up and ran out of the building.  You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out why.
            In this ward, Sacrament Meeting was last. Before it even began there were signs warning me I was about to experience my worst meeting ever.  First of all, we sat directly behind a family that also has five kids whose ages practically match all of our five kids’ ages.  So we’re talking ten children, all under 7 in a 40 sq. ft. area.  Secondly, on the program there were six speakers scheduled.  Usually this ward had two or three.
            Right before the services begin, our three month old, Johnathan, begin to fuss.  He’d been fussing on and off the previous two hours during church.  My husband, Bradford, offers to go out into the lobby holding him until he falls asleep.  I congratulate myself for remembering to bring brand new books for my 2-year-old, Allie, since she had been so restless the week before.  As I pull out a new book for Allie, she excitedly opens it and begins reading OUT LOUD!  I don’t know what she is saying, but she certainly does and wants the whole congregation to hear.  I try to decide what to do, after all, Sacrament Meeting hasn’t officially begun and she is sitting down and not jumping over pews.  I let her keep reading.
            Just as services are underway, it hits me like a ton of bricks.  I realize why Johnathan has been fussing for the last 2 hours.  He hasn’t had a diaper change since before church!  I grab the diaper bag and quickly jump up and walk out, saying a quick little prayer that my 4 other children won’t start jumping over pews while both parents are gone.  I take Johnathan and go into the changing room and Bradford joins the remaining four kids.
            I get Johnathan all settled for a diaper change and realized that his outfit is soaked.  I look in the diaper bag and find another outfit.  “Thank goodness,” I think to myself.  But as I look at it closer I realize that it is the outfit from the PREVIOUS Sunday. He had soiled it because, you guessed it, he had gone too long without a diaper change. “I’m sensing a pattern here,” I think to myself.
            Upon further inspection of the diaper bag I realize that the only diapers in there are for Allie that are 3 sizes too big for Johnathan.  I wrap Johnathan up in his blanket and head back into the chapel. 
            I sit down and tell Bradford that he needs to run home and grab an outfit and diapers for Johnathan.  As he stands up to walk out of the chapel, I quickly add, “Make sure the outfit is cute.”  We may be rowdy, we may be irreverent, but we’re going to look good doing it!
            After Bradford leaves, I settle down to start listening to the meeting.  Christopher then turns to me and says, “I need something to be able to draw.”  I hand him my special pen that I use to mark my scriptures.  Usually I don’t let my kids anywhere near it, but at this point I’m just grateful he’s not crying, “I’m bored!” like he had the previous week. 
            “I want something too.” Elise whines. 
            “Look in your church bag,” I say.  It’s at this point I realize that the kids’ church bags are still hanging in the Primary room.  Without these bags, my kids will have nothing to do for the next hour.  I decide it’s worth getting up one more time now, rather than many more times later with bored kids.  So again I leave my four kids in the chapel without parents, again the same prayer, “Please don’t behave like monkeys!”  I come back with the church bags and begin distributing them to the children. 
            At this point, Bradford comes back with a newly stocked diaper bag.  I again leave the chapel.  For those of you counting this is my third time getting up and walking out.  The Sacrament Hymn begins and I resolve to NOT come back in until after the Sacrament has been administered.
            I didn’t find this out until later, but while I had been in the changing room changing Johnathan’s clothes and diaper, Bradford sat down to sing the hymn.  He was sitting with the children and discovered that our 4 year old, Bruce, had a dinosaur transformer toy. 
            Normally we try not to let our children bring dinosaur transformers to church.  They just don’t encourage reverence; and it certainly didn’t that day.  Bruce was making this dinosaur dance to the music of the Sacrament hymn.  But that’s not all, he was making the dinosaur dance on top of the head of the man sharing a pew with us! Not over his head, directly on top of this man’s head, in his hair!  I still can’t understand why the man allowed that.  Bradford decided at this point to just keep singing and pretended that he can’t see what his son is doing.  He figured it beat yelling out 10 feet away, “Stop making that dinosaur dance on top of that man’s head!”
            The Sacrament was administered, and I come back in to discover that no parents are sitting with the three remaining children in front of us.  Each parent was with one of the other two children.  I decided that it was in my best interest that the children in front are occupied so that they don’t entertain my kids.  So I sit down in the pew in front of my children.  My kids go nuts!  They want to sit with me.  Well not really, what they want to do is sit with their friends.  Bradford tells them “No.”
            I look through my friend’s bag trying to find something in there for her kids to do.  She has about much stuff as I do- one book and a couple pieces of paper.  At this point Johnathan really starts to cry.  It was his “I just want to go to sleep” cry.  For some reason, Bradford really has a gift at getting babies to fall asleep in his arms.  So I hand Johnathan over to him.  Bradford leaves to put Johnathan to sleep.
            Are you keeping up with the math?  Bradford and I have left the chapel a total of 7 times, and I am left to entertain 7 children sitting in two different pews. 
            Fortunately Bradford quickly returns with a sleeping Johnathan.  Allie keeps hanging over the edge wanting to sit with me.  I decide it’s more reverent to have her with me, than hanging over the pew like a monkey.  I pull her over.  The kids go nuts!  Bradford has just told them they can’t sit with me, and then I let Allie sit next to me!  So Bruce decides he wants over too.  Not knowing that Bradford has told them “No,” I pull Bruce over.  Now I am sitting with 5 kids, and Bradford has three, one of who is asleep.
            As I was fading in and out of the speakers’ talks, I begin to think to myself.  “I am the WORST mother when it comes to keeping my kids reverent in Sacrament Meeting.”  I look around and see other mothers sitting quietly enjoying the talks being given.  I see children reading scripture books and doing puzzles and not a single dinosaur transformer in sight.  They must have be thinking, “What is with that woman?  Why can’t she get it together like me?”  And then I hear a quiet voice behind me whispering the most comforting words I could have heard at that point.  A mother bends down to speak to the floor below her, “Get up off the floor! We don’t play hide and seek during church.”

Now almost 13 years later, I have the opposite problem.  My kids sit still during Sacrament Meeting and don't make a noise, because they are asleep.