How to make it through church with children

Sitting calmly in one spot, standing on cue, holding a hymnal without letting it become a projectile, going for communion without scaling the rail- do these sound like your goals for your little ones for church?

How can an hour (give or take) seem so long sometimes? When your toddler just wants to run and every few seconds you are blocking the latest escape attempt the time crawls. When your preschooler won’t stop asking questions- loud ones, it’s easy to feel like every eye is on you.

When I had one child, I traveled to church will a massive, well stocked bag. Not just stocked with diapers and wipes and spare outfits, but toys and snacks, books, anything and everything to try to occupy my child. It was stressful. I dreaded it some weeks.

It’s not the toys that taught her to sit. It wasn’t the books that helped her walk to communion, not try to vault the rail. Actually, it seemed like the more stuff I brought, the more time I spent keeping things together, trying not to let her items sail at some poor unsuspecting person’s head, rows away.

Now I have four children. My bag is small and mostly holds diapers. I have an emergency snack and treat.

I actually feel like I listen to the whole service and get to participate. Some of it is having some older kids to help- my oldest is almost ten and an enthusiastic participant in the service. Some of it is less stuff. My one year old doesn’t throw things because he has nothing to throw. When I’m really having a hard time keeping them in line, I share small pieces of something- goldfish crackers or tiny neat candies.

The biggest help to having my kids be well behaved (mostly!) in the pew is just having them there. A lot. Weekly. Multiple times a week. They know when we climb into our pew that it’s time to sing what is supposed to be sung, not loud songs about worms. That it’s time to try to look forward. To listen to the Word being read. To be blessed at the rail. To be forgiven. It’s incremental and constant and learned from the time they were sweet sinners, brought forward to baptism. And relearned weekly, as I relearn weekly, that we all fall short, we all mess up, and we are loved by our Lord regardless.

When the type of parent you want to be doesn’t exist

Have you ever followed a big mommy blogger? Someone who has time to do everything you don’t while taking gorgeous pictures, running an ad rich blog, pursuing interests and hobbies, and seems like an all around amazing person?

Pinterest and blogs, twitter and Facebook, Instagram… It’s all supposed to inspire and connect us but often seems to do the opposite. People compete, compare, and ultimately fail.

You’ll never live up to the highlights of someone else’s life. The polished parts that are shared will never remove the tarnish of your latest embarrassment.

In fifty years, no one will care how decoratively your napkins were folded. Whether you arranged spices in matching containers. These things have worth only as far as they help and improve your life.

Perfect parents don’t exist. Perfect families are a myth.

Forgiveness is for the flawed. For the fallen. For the spills, for the tears and tantrums. For the wasted moments, the regrets, and fears.

Thank God we are covered in the blood of the One who was perfect for us.

Wonder and joy

For wonder and joy

Most children start life looking around at their environment in wonder. When you watch a baby learn something for the first time the sweet joy on their face is a gift to everyone around.

The pride in every accomplishment a toddler masters is so fun. I wish putting my shirt on made me beam like my three year old does!

Somehow, somewhere, most of us seem to lose that pride and joy. The wonder dulls. The question of why and how is complex and everyone has a theory.

I am daily working to regard my world with the wonder it deserves. And to maintain and encourage my children’s sweet joy.

Embrace the excess

I have an ideal for most things. Ideal home management. Ideal interactions with friends. With my children. With my husband. Ideal homeschooling. Ideal me.

It’s easy to get lost in the ideal. And while lost there, it’s easy to miss out on the real.

I think you can pine after the ideal or work to move the real and ideal closer together. It’s my constant goal. If they are far off, it’s time to reevaluate.

Why isn’t it working like I want or need? Is it that my expectations are unrealistic or is something not right?

Usually it’s that I’m expecting too much of myself, others, or both. I’m working intentionally to simplify and streamline.

I think we could all seek a little more peace.

I’m not that kind of homeschooler

Homeschooling is in and out of public focus and tends to be represented by extremes. The very religious family that doesn’t watch tv. The radical unschoolers who don’t impose rules on their children.

I am not that kind of homeschooler.

I’m not even the type of homeschooler I thought I’d be.

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When I took my first steps down this path I thought I knew the right way because I read a lot of books about it and even some websites.

There is nothing so insufferable as a new, self proclaimed expert. I can say that having been one.

Now I’ve changed everything and learned as much as my kids have, if not more.

It’s not just about the end product of churning out literate little citizens- it’s about our journey together.