"I notice the wriggles and giggles, the crawling under the pews. I notice the growing pile of crumbs and wrappers."
I want you to know you are doing something really important when you parent in the pew.
I want you to know that what you do is significant now and for eternity.
I want you to know that it is worth it.
I notice you flustered and overloaded with a nappy bag, bottles, dummies and children, juggling them all as you come in the door and struggle to a seat.
I know all too well the battle you have had to get the children up, fed, dressed and to church. It is real, it is messy, it seems so unholy at times, but know that it is worth it.
I notice you nervously trying to shush the children and keep them quiet and occupied during church.
I notice your embarrassment as the child sings loudly and out of tune, or stands on the pew and begins to preach at the top of their lungs, or screams and yells loudly at the top of their lungs that they are hungry or bored, and are not using their inside voice.
I notice you pulling out the pretzels and juice.
I notice you juggling the toys and books.
I notice when the baby adds to your outfit a little personal "gift" of their own.
I notice the wriggles and giggles, the crawling under the pews.
I notice the growing pile of crumbs and wrappers.
I notice the disapproving stares, frowns and clicks of the tongue.
I notice and I weep, feeling your embarrassment, feeling with you the condemnation from those who do not know what we do.
I hear the children's questions and loud observations of what we do and why we do this thing we call worship.
I notice, I hear, I sympathise and I understand.
I notice the children watching the adults, observing as they sing, pray, give the offering and read the scriptures.
I notice them taking their turn sitting on aunt Gertrude's lap because she is so welcoming to all the children.
I notice them shouting loud amens, mimicking the adults next to them.
I notice them peeping through their hands as the prayer drones on, watching the people around them in various attitudes of prayer.
I notice them rubbing shoulders with the congregation, watching, listening, interacting, mimicking, making a joyful noise and playing their part—a very important part in the community of faith.
I notice your child's spontaneity, their joyfulness, their realness and their boots-and-all mentality.
Jesus noticed it too and rebuked the disciples when they declared, "Adults only."
I notice because the kingdom of heaven is present when children are present in our worship. Church worship is the nursery of the Holy Spirit. Church worship is messy, it is authentic, it is spontaneous and it is real. In the long run, it seeps into their bones.
I notice because I would rather have a fractious baby present as a sign of the kingdom than none at all.
I would rather have interrupted moments of holy pandemonium than none at all.
I would rather clean up the crumbs because the crumbs are a symbol of the kingdom, both now and for eternity.
I would rather welcome a child into the pew than send them out the back.
If I see a rambunctious child running towards the platform or an excited child dancing on the pews because it’s church time, I inwardly fist pump (sometimes outwardly) because the kingdom of heaven is very near.
So mum, next week, when you struggle to get your child ready and present in the pew, remember it is worth it.
As your toddler gathers with the assembled saints, ignore the stares, grimaces and directives. Know that the thrills and spills of parenting in the pew is worth it and know that what you are doing for your children has eternal repercussions.
We teach our children about God best when we parent in the pew in an intergenerational environment. It is not a tool, it is not a measurable achievement or a matrix we must immerse our child in.
It is you, with your children, worshipping God together.
Because of this, I applaud our parents and do all I can to encourage them in the pew—it's so worth it.
Mums, I notice and I want to thank you for battling in the trenches.
Welcome to worship.
Note to the pious deacon, deaconess, church elder, matriarch or patriarch: If you disapprove or feel the urge to remove a child and/or parent from worship, then please proceed to the "cry/mother's room" and stay there until the urge passes!