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Challenge: Finding Your Voice as a Parent

An open letter to the woman who shamed my toddler and me at church

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To the woman at church who shamed me for bringing my toddler to the worship service,

You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. So I won’t stoop to your level and pass judgement on you as you have upon my child and me. But I will say this…You were out of line.

You told me my child was a distraction to many people in the service, and that you were glad I finally stepped out to change his diaper. And that you were going to ask me to leave. Yup. You actually said that to my face. I promptly hurried off to the bathroom with tears stinging my eyes. Appalled at what had just happened.

And if I had not been so shell shocked by your hurtful words I would have said this to you…

You had absolutely no idea what it took to get out the door to get to church this morning. Rounding up three kids on a Sunday morning is no easy feat. One fought me on which dress to wear and another on how her hair was to be done. My toddler clung to me with every step, like a koala, begging and crying to be picked up. On top of that, kids needed teeth brushed, shoes on, diaper bag needed packing and snack cups and water bottles needed filling. Not to mention I needed to get ready, myself.

Once a month, my husband serves on the audio/video team and let me tell you, it means the entire family serves. By that, I mean, while he serves, I fly solo at church. We eat breakfast at church (a total lifesaver), and I take them to the bathroom, drop the older two at Sunday school, while lugging my “velcro baby” and diaper bag in tow.

I sit with my toddler in the back of the service. He is a stage four clinger, and cries if I leave him in nursery. Armed with my bag of tricks, we settle in for the service. For the most part, he is content. We sit and look at books quietly, he plays with his cars, sucks his paci, and stuffs his face with crackers. Sometimes he fidgets, makes a “joyful” noise, says “mama” or lets out a loud squeal. BUT he is 19 months old! What more can you expect? If he cries, I promptly take him out of the service. But today, he NEVER cried. Loud? Yes. Cry? No.

I can’t even tell you what the sermon was about most weeks because I am too focused on keeping my toddler happy, as quiet as possible and content. I leave feeling less than fulfilled and exhausted. What is it about going to church solo makes me feel as if I have just run a marathon?

It would absolutely be 100% easier not to go to church on weeks where I do it alone. A lazy Sunday morning in our jammies, watching a show with my kids, snuggled on the bed. No race or rush off to get ready for church. But no, I go because it is important to me and important for my KIDS to learn about Jesus, how to worship him, and that Jesus loves THEM.

Yes, church is hard now, but it matters- teaching them that God love us-all the time. Children are part of the church too, and they are the future of the church. Do you really want to push their mothers, who are raising up the next generation, away?

You see, all you thought about was yourself and what church was going to offer you, and apparently a joyful toddler in the service was not part of your “plan.” What if you, instead, asked, ” How can I be a blessing to others?” And what if, in place of passing judgement on my toddler, you prayed for him and me?

Church, above all, should be a place where grace abounds, love overflows and kindness runs rampant. And you have, sadly, fallen short of displaying any of these things.

Imagine, for a moment, if I had been a single mom coming to church for the first time, instead of a long time church goer. And if that was the response given to someone looking for love, looking to belong, looking to understand what Jesus is about. Think about a first-time attender being treated like that. She’d probably NEVER come back and it could be the difference in her and her child spending eternity with Jesus.

And this is tragic.

So thank you for solidifying my biggest fear, and the source of most of my anxiety in coming to church. And that is that my child is a distraction to others. If I was not a strong woman, I would probably crumple into a ball and forget church completely, but I love Jesus, you see. And if I let you stop me from coming then Satan AND you, win.

So, my toddler and I will see you next week. Hopefully, we are sitting next to you, and some of my toddler’s “joy” rubs off on you.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those such as these.” Matthew 19: 14

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