I have about five readers (and I love each and every one of you) but today, I'm soliciting opinions from those of you with older kids.
At what age did your children sit through a church service? Or, perhaps more accurately, at what age were you forcing them to sit through a church service?
Some background: I was raised Catholic, but am now Episcopalian. (That describes half my congregation, actually. I only know a few "cradle Episcopalians"-- most of us are ex-Catholics. Although, as my dad says, being raised Catholic is kind of like being a recovering alcoholic-- you're always Catholic, even if you're not practicing. Heh. Anyway, I digress.)
Our church is small but warm and supportive, and it has an active kids' program. We go to the children's service; it's short, and no one minds noise or activity. Elle is about as far from a shrinking violet as it is possible to get, so we spend most of the service walking around the church. She's quiet and well-behaved, and comes back for communion and part of the pre-communion stuff (she likes the Great Amen, and is a fan of bells), but mostly, we're active. She'll also stand in front of the little low altar (the space is customized for the kids' service) and watch, or dance if there's music.
My parents think "children need to learn to sit still in church." And I agree with that. I also think, however, that an under-two toddler is not likely to sit still yet, and I don't care-- as long as she is quiet, and not disturbing anyone, it doesn't bother me if she wants to walk around.
My mother actually said that she's quite sure that Elle is "bothering the crap" out of everyone at the children's service by her behavior.
Now, I wouldn't allow her to do this at the full-fledged adult service. That's why we don't GO to the full-fledged adult service. There's a nursery, but right now she's in her clingy mama phase so she won't stay there. Our church also has a little side area for kids, with books and soft toys, but she's not really at the age where she has the attention span to stay there for more than a little while, so an hour-long service is just not a great idea right now. I absolutely agree she'd be a problem at that.
But for the 30 minute children's service? Where kids are handing out communion and babies are on the floor?
Opinions, moms, please. (If there's a dad out there, he's welcome to chime in as well.) Do I need to start forcing Elle to sit in my lap? Because I can do it; I'm a stone bitch if I need to be. I just feel like if she's quiet, and not getting in anyone's way, that it's all right. She goes to church every Sunday. She's starting to learn the songs. She knows many of the other kids and parents. We are part of the community there, and she looks at this as part of our life, and she will grow up with this community and this faith woven into her childhood.
Isn't that my priority?
If I'm off-base, please tell me.