"If you can't say anything nice,
don't say anything at all!"

~ Every mother on the planet

Rare have I written anything offensive and I hope never divisive, but sometimes I feel like I've failed in blogging because I've never received a negative comment.  Spam, yes; negative (strongly dissenting opinion) or trollish (just plain mean), no.  I'd like to believe it's because the readers who comment on PENSIEVE are decent people who subscribe to the axiom above.

But I might get a few if you continue reading because I have a little confession…

With very few exceptions (i.e., newborns),
I don't agree with bringing children to adult gatherings
(especially where childcare is available);
if you need to, should they become distracting,
out of courtesy to others in attendance, you should
take them to a place they can be KIDS.

Gasp!  The people pleaser living inside me is running for cover because I know I just stepped on a lot of toes.  Even toes I'll face soon (I'm sure) in real life. 

This is no attempt to create controversy; it's not meant to polarize.  I know in advance plenty of people–people whom I respect–will strongly disagree with me.  I'm not gunning for negative comments, but I hope gently to share the perspective of those who agree with me…and maybe to offer some helpful parenting advice.  

Will you bear with me while I share my thoughts?  I worked as nursery and Parents' Morning Out director for almost ten years at a large church, so I think at least some of what I suggest has merit (though my degree is in business, this was my post-baby, part-time position).  Typically, my experience reflects church settings, but it applies beyond.

[1]    When your child becomes noisy–and I don't blame the  little one, that's what they're wired to do–I'm distracted from hearing the speaker.

Early in our parenting, we were introduced to the concept of "preciousness of others", a principal gleaned from scripture and transferable regardless of faith.  In its most simple form, it's the practice of considering others and how your actions affect them, regarding them more highly than your own preferences.  We have been diligent to instill this in our own children, and have tried to model this in our lives.

Sunday, sitting directly in front of me (on the front row) was a young mom with her two-year-old child.  Throughout our lesson, her daughter squirmed, walked around, talked, "fought" her mother when the mom tried to do something with her, knocked over a cup of coffee–twice–and scribbled in her mom's Bible. 

Our teacher was gracious and said, "She's fine…she's not bothering me…" but I could barely follow him!  I wasn't the only one.  We have a wonderful nursery the little girl would have enjoyed much more than an adult class, but the mom brought her to class instead.

I felt for this mother; I wondered if she was a single mom, overwhelmed, or not quite confident in parenting.  She came in late and left early, so I never had the opportunity to meet her, to learn more about her. 

[2]  Sometimes children have MAJOR MELT-DOWN separation anxiety.  I know this mama-pain experientially; my middle child had to be pried off my body when I dropped him off at the nursery.  But…I firmly believed that I was helping him by teaching him to separate even though it was a month's long lesson.  Some things to consider (again, both from my personal experience and from observation of others):

  • Never sneak off when leaving a child in nursery/preschool!  Never!  Tell him you're leaving for a little while and that you'll return later.  This teaches him to trust your word.
  • Nine times out of ten, he'll settle down shortly after you leave; for some kids, this is a power play to manipulate.  They're savvy little creatures. 
  • Sometimes, Mamas, you're feeding this; perhaps you're equating their love for you by the tears shed at drop off.  Don't make that mistake, it has nothing to do with love.  They might be mad…or even scared, but their crying when you leave doesn't mean they love you more than the child who happily skips into the room.
  • For the record, I'm not talking about the first time you take your child somewhere!  That's a totally different story!  (Then, I think it's good to stay with your child a time or two, even for just a few minutes, to help her grow comfortable with environment, teachers/caregivers and classmates.)

[3]  Some derivative of "My child [is running a fever/threw up/isn't feeling well] and the nursery has a 24-hour sickness policy."  Oh, dear ones…someone needs to stay at home with that baby!  If your child is sick, germs can be spread in adult classes, too, and if your little one needs to lie in your lap because he doesn't feel well?  This might be a time you have to miss out.

Certainly there are times when it's necessary to bring your child to an adult event; but the courteous, other-minded thing to do if he/she starts crying, talking or can't sit still, is to remove her from the setting to allow everyone else a distraction-free class/lesson/wedding/whatever.  I've been to more than one wedding where weeping and wailing accompanied the vows.

Once children reach an age of self control, it's important to train them to sit quietly and respectfully when attending grown-up events.  Years ago, I about DIED when our church dropped "children's church" for four and five year olds.  I wondered how our kids could sit still (or at least quietly) for over an hour in "big church" and seriously thought we'd have to take turns attending for a while.  We clearly explained our expectations for them, packed some quiet activities (crayons, books), made sure we had snacks (hey, I'm not above bribery, I never said we were perfect parents…and sometimes you DO have to do whatever it takes…!) and they rose to the occasion!  They didn't disturb those sitting around us and eventually learned the self discipline of sitting still. 

It doesn't come naturally, it takes practice.

I just had a conversation with my daughter about writing this post, and she asked me why I would bother…wasn't it just inflammatory?  Sincerely, that isn't my intent.  I think it goes back to the parenting class we took when she was three, and "preciousness of others" always rings in my ears; to me, it demonstrated a lack of regard if I subjected those sitting around me to the perpetual noise and motion of my then-young children. 

Please…nicely…share your thoughts in comments.  I'd really like to hear your heart in this; if you're of the opposite opinion, please share your logic.  Also, especially, if you have helpful tips, I'm sure parents who struggle with this would be most appreciative.

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