Emily Parnell -Children in the pews, butterflies in the stomach

04/09/2013 6:19 PM

05/20/2014 10:42 AM

On Easter morning, I was a little nervous. Our church does not offer kid programs on major holidays. This gives all the adults who otherwise would be teaching and crafting, and I’m sure a healthy amount of disciplining, a morning off. I used to stew the day before these holiday services, wondering if my kid would be the one to squawk, wondering if we’d have to disturb a whole row for a potty break, worrying that their boredom would turn to naughtiness.

The first time we took our son into a holiday service, I was told, “Just teach him to sit there quietly.” Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, that didn’t sound practical. I think back to my early church service career when kids always attended the service. My parents were super-strict, and I was well-behaved. I could draw on the offering envelopes, but that’s about all I was allowed to do.

Even so, I have a vivid memory of dropping to the floor between the pews, and taking in the eye-level sight of everyone’s Sunday shoes. I recall the polished men’s loafers and the women’s pumps topped by hose-clad cankles. But it gets worse. Where I was headed, I don’t know, but I remember worming my way underneath the pews to another row, I guess to visit a friend. I bumped my head on the bottoms of the bench seats, and brushed past the legs of startled church-goers. And I’ll repeat: I was a GOOD kid.

My son had proven to be unpredictable, so I packed an emergency kit, filling my purse full of activities, snacks without loud wrappers, and airline booze bottles for anyone seated nearby. (Just kidding. They were all for me.) We entered bravely, and he was awestruck by the size of the room and the music. I realized that despite the numerous activities we attended there, he had never even been in the sanctuary before.

We stood during the praise music. He hung on us, standing on our seats, eyes wide, then he laid down on the seats behind us. By the time the music was over, we turned around to find him asleep.

Two women from the early child care program, well familiar with his (and all the other kids’) restlessness, were a row or two behind us. “It’s an Easter miracle!” they whispered to us, laughing. He was 3 years old.

This year, when we arrived with our now 9- and 6-year-olds, we scooted into the aisle. “Are these seats saved?” I asked a woman, who stood alone in the middle of the row.

She gestured to seats on her other side, indicating she was trying to save them. “Well, I’m saving some for my kids. But I don’t know if they’ll even be here. I can’t really rely on them to show up.” She told me her kids were in their 30s. She always sat in the same spot, so they could find her and sit with her if they were there. She soon gave up, and relinquished the seats on her other side.

These days, my kids are more mature. I have faith that they can probably weather a service without the Parnells bursting out in a family brouhaha. I also know that there’s no lynch mob to track down the children who couldn’t resist whispering something important into their parents’ ears. My children both sat through the service perfectly, and even (having been bribed) were able to give three facts that they’d learned during the service.

I, too, fully grasped a fact. What a blessing it is to have my kids at my side on Easter morning.

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