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

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

xoxo, Becca

 

 

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Confessions of a First-Time Kindergarten Mom

My mom has told the story of when she dropped me off at my first day of kindergarten for years. And how when she was crying in the parking lot a woman asked, “Why are you crying? You have more children at home.” I think the comment bothered my mom for years, and I admittedly never understood why on earth would my mom be crying about me going to school or why that woman’s comment upset my mom. Until now.

Twenty seven years later, I understand now, Mom! Funny how sometimes it takes us years to understand our wise mothers. Sending off your child to school is bittersweet no matter if it is your first, second, or last child because you love them, you want the best for them, you worry about them,  you will miss them. More children at home does not in any way dimish the significance of ushering another one into school. It is a milestone for that child. And now it all makes sense, Mom.

So now, here I am, a first-time kindergarten Mom, and I have ALL the feelings. Joy for my girl because she is SO ready. Peace because I know in my heart that she is going to rock school. Worry that she will be okay without me. Grief because I hate change. And let’s be honest, this is a BIG change. Sad because I will miss her and because this means I have to let go a little more. AGAIN.

We went school supply shopping today–finally. Something I had put off for weeks because I was in denial that this is where we are at. I know this is the next natural step for her. I could see the joy and anticipation in her face as she picked out her pencils, markers and 20 glue sticks. (seriously, why so many glue sticks?) But as the mom, it is never easy to let go.

With each milestone, I see that I have to let go a little more so they can grow and be strong without me. And this is HARD. But they need me, I rationalize. Well, yes that is true, but not always in the same way, you see. It is our job as mothers to guide them, teach them, encourage them, love them, but not hold them back from who they are meant to be. We have to loosen the grip so one day they will fly. 

I am excited for my girl, really! But at the same time, I am, selfishly, sad for me. The first day of kindergarten is as much about the Moms (and Dads) as it is about the children. Because for the kids, it is about the beginning of the “school days” chapter, until graduation, which I will completely ignore, for now.

And for the moms, it is the realization that daily life as we have always known it, will never be the same. And that is why I fight the tears from falling. It is a reminder that my children will always be growing. Even though some days feel like they last forever, each day ends and another begins and time carries on.

The days of all three of my littles at home with me everyday are done. It is the end of an era. A chapter in my life that was both filled with the greatest joys and also some of the darkest days. Are we really here, already? And I am just a little bit nostalgic about it all. We get one shot at being a mom and doing it “right.” So now I sit here and question everything these last five years.

Did I teach her enough?

Did I prepare her enough?

Did we laugh enough?

Did we read enough?

Did we snuggle enough?

Did I encourage her enough?

Did I do ENOUGH?

And then I hear the little voice in my head. Relax Momma. You DID enough. You taught her enough. You prepared her enough. You laughed enough. You read enough. You snuggled enough. You encouraged her enough. Now LET GO, Momma. She’s got this and so do you.

So on the first day of school, I’ll pack a carefully planned lunch, make an extra special breakfast, pick out the perfect photo-worthy outfit, take a thousand pictures with her chalkboard sign and walk her bravely into school. I’ll smile and tell her I am SO proud of her and that she is going to have so much fun and that I love her to heaven and back. Then I will kiss her goodbye and let go of her hand so she can grow up a little bit more.

And once I am sure she cannot see me anymore, I will almost certainly burst into tears.

xoxo, Becca

Spoiler Alert: It Doesn’t Get Easier

Parenting is HARD, y’all. I mean, really hard. Anyone else with me? Do you have days where you feel you are totally failing on all levels? I do. It is days like today when I am so exhausted from the demands of my littles and nothiing is going the way I plan, that I wonder, what am I even doing? I try so hard to do my best at this parenting gig. But sometimes I just want to throw my hands up and admit, I am winging this whole thing.

Either we are trying to avoid giving our children a dysfunctional childhood, like the one we had. Or by some miracle, you had the “perfect” childhood and are desperately trying to recreate that for your children. In any case, both instances set us up for failure because placing this pressure and expectations on ourselves will eventually crush us. Let’s be brave enough to let go of these weights and just be present for our children. Now. I think if we can do that our kids childhood’s will turn out just fine.

My children are 5, 3 and 18 months, so I am still in the “trenches” so to speak. I am out the “baby” phase of parenting, so I have overcome sleep deprivation, chasing a toddler or two, nursing in public, crying it out 3X (don’t judge until you have an 11 month old waking up 3 to 5 times a night), first day of daycare dropoffs and the “velrco baby” stage.

But when I was in the baby era, I used to think if I can just survive “this phase,” it will get easier. When my children are a little older and can sleep, feed themselves, put on their own shoes, go potty, etc. parenting will be easier.

Oh, bless my little heart. Now, I see that parenting never gets easier. As each phase passes and a new one begins, the new phase is filled with new challenges and experiences that are different, but not easier. Parenting is just hard all. the. time.

I have traded in colic, nursing strikes, and teething for epic toddler meltdowns, endless sibling fighting over legos, battles for control and children who have words and opinions about EVERYTHING! Someday, I will trade in these lovely (can you hear my sarcasm?) occurrences for curfews, homework battles, driving privileges, and dating.

Some nights I lay awake in bed wondering, Am I messing them up? Is there a better way to do this? When will my children listen? Will they ever stop fighting? Will they grow up to be kind and brave and love Jesus? Will they think I was a good mom? But mostly I wonder, will they know that I love them? Gosh, I hope so.

We have this tremendous responsibility to teach them how to eventually be grown-ups, the differences of right and wrong, how to love others (even when it is easier not to), how to be yourself even when others push you to change, stand firm in your beliefs, radiate confidence, be fiercely loyal to those you love and to dream big dreams.

Each day, I realize teaching these life lessons is hard! And as the parent, it would surely be easier to give in to the pressures instead of standing strong on your words.

Last week, we took a family adventure to the Shedd Aquarium. The children were told that only good behavior would result in a stuffed animal at the end of the day. Sadly, one of my children, who shall remain nameless (I bet you could guess which one it was), decided to push her sister while screaming at her to “MOVE,” so she could see the sea lion. A timeout later and the realization that she would no longer receive a stuffed animal was enough to send her over the edge. Oh. My. Word! She was so sad and let me tell you, SO. WAS. I.

At the end of the day, my other two children picked out a special stuffed animal after talking about this for weeks. But my heart was so sad for my one who did not receive the special souvenir. I desperately wanted to give in and delight her with one, but the life lesson was more imporant. (This was the inner battle I had with myself in the gift shop). If I had “given in” than my word would absolutely be complete crap forevermore. But it was H.A.R.D.

Fast forward to today, as I handle yet ANOTHER meltdown from said child. I leave her room in complete frustration and despair, questioning everything about parenting again. And then I find my 18 month old snuggled up on my 5 year old’s lap, and she is reading him his favorite book.

Right there. Heart melted. And I think to myself, just maybe, I am doing something right.

Xoxo, Becca