A couple weeks ago, The Exponent II blog had a poll about children in sacrament meeting at church. In late July and August, there was a lot of talk surrounding restaurants with anti-child policies and airlines segregating children from first class.
I wanted to tackle the topic then, but I couldn't without a lot of frustration and incoherency. The best I came up with was my comment on the Exponent's post,
These sorts of conversations really irk me because they tend to turn into an us vs. them. Those “other” parents over there aren’t being attentive enough, proactive enough, etc.
The thing is, though, I don’t know a single parent who actually wants their child to disrupt a meeting and annoy every one. I don’t think that person exists.
I work with a lot of newly postpartum women and I guess when I see a parent who isn’t responding to a “rowdy” child (a description that varies person to person- how is a parent supposed to know what everyone’s definition of a “good” child is and meet that kind of standard?) I wonder what the extra circumstances are. Maybe the mom put clothes on for the first time in a week that morning in order to come to church and is just trying to make it 20 more minutes because it’s the first time she got to hear an adult talk to her in days. Maybe the father is alone with 5 children, one who needs a diaper change, but can’t leave to do that because the other 4 won’t have someone to watch them. Maybe a child just has really loud happy screams and isn’t upset at all.
As a parent, the attitude that you just have to deal with not being able to be in sacrament meeting for the decade or so of having small children is a punishment. “Sorry, we don’t want you to participate in our Zion. Zion isn’t for children or parents with small children.” Or it’s a “well, we had to deal with it, so now you have to” vengeance.
If there is a parent who truly is ignoring an upset child, it seems to me it wouldn’t be by choice but by physically being unable to: whether there are other children needing attention or the parent has mentally “checked out” due to not having the extra patience in their own emotional cup or a mental panic attack or other. Whatever the reason, that parent needs help, not eyes of judgment and people telling them they and their family aren’t wanted there. Church is about making the tent bigger, not throwing people out into a foyer.
I am a firm believer in children being allowed in public. It's part of why I'm a lactivist: children and mothers should be allowed to be everywhere everyone else is. I don't know why that's such a point of conflict for others.
It's actually a reason why I want to homeschool. One of the greatest downsides to public school for me was ingraining the segregation of ages. As a second grader, I thought first graders were "below" me. I always wondered why a sophomore would talk to a freshman- they were lowering themselves! It took me years to figure out that my professors in college had office hours, not just to appear helpful, but to actually help the lowly undergrads. Apparently they wanted us to do well in their classes! Today, I still find myself thinking on those lines: I really struggle to know how to talk to elderly people and I find myself caught in the thinking, "Yes! School's back in session so now all those rowdy kids won't be on the playgrounds when I'm there with my kids!" I'm working on fixing this.
If you know Margaret, you know she's the most friendly person ever. She remembers faces and names remarkably well and if you show up at a park or come over to our house and she recognizes you, she can't contain her excitement. She jumps up and down, shouts, "_____ is here! _____ is here!" and runs over to greet the person. She greets babies, toddlers, children, parents of her friends, elderly people at church, family, etc., all this way. I am afraid that the age segregation at school would kill this beautiful enthusiasm.
I want my children to know how to talk to the elderly, and adore younger children, like the boy pictured below. I was at an unschooling activity when I realized Isaac had gone missing. I found this little boy (9? 10?) playing with him on his skateboard. There were plenty of other boys his age, but he was having fun with Isaac. I thanked him for playing with Isaac and told him he didn't have to watch him, but he continued to play with Isaac for a while longer. It was adorable. And better than me. I would have tried to ditch a baby for older "cooler" playmates at that age for sure.
That's the kind of socialization I want for my children, people skills that they can't get in a classroom of peers 6 hours a day. But for them to get that, they have to be welcome everywhere: the library, the post office, the restaurants, church. After all, they can't learn what they can't practice. I know I didn't.
|A homeschooled boy playing with Isaac. He's older, but not|
too cool to play with a baby on a skateboard.
Love your babies, hang out with your babies, bring your babies in public places.