Teaching small children proper behavior for a church service is no small task. Being quiet and sitting still seems nearly impossible for most wiggly little ones—especially little ones who have spent every Sunday in memory playing dolls, trucks, and building blocks in the church nursery and who suddenly decide to try church cold turkey.
That's the way it happened with my toddler. One particular Sunday morning she was determined that Mommy wasn't going to leave her. She clutched my leg like a drowning person, hanging on for dear life. I accepted the inevitable: we were all going to sit in church. Thankfully we found a spot in the back pew.
"Hi, Daddy," she called out as her father ushered a family down the aisle.
"Shh!" I reprimanded her. "You're not supposed to talk in church."
"Shh!," she mimicked, putting her finger in front of her mouth.
She was clearly excited by her surroundings and eager to get to know her new turf. She perched on the edge of the bench, swinging her legs as fast as she could. Suddenly she spotted the books in the rack and yanked out the hymnal. But after a few minutes of flipping through page after no-picture page, she started looking for another distraction.
Her sister's purse looked interesting—especially with a doll's head poking out the opening. But when she grabbed for it, her sister grabbed back. Each was determined to battle it out to the end. Quickly I negotiated a truce and glanced around to see if anyone had witnessed the struggle
By the time the sermon began (ironically titled "Blessed Are the Peacemakers"), we had "read" Lassie's Day in the Sun seven times, dressed and undressed sister's doll five times, and closely inspected every item in my purse. Time for a peppermint.
During the sermon my toddler's restlessness grew. She attempted to take off my watch and my earrings and then began to loosen my buttons. The minister was only on his second point. Unable to get comfortable, she dove from lap to lap, knocking Bibles from racks and bulletins to the floor.
I glanced at my watch. It was 10:30. The children ahead of us sat quietly. One had fallen asleep. (Why don't my kids ever sleep in church?)
Finally the service ended.
"Really a great sermon on peacemakers," a friend commented to me as we walked out of church.
"Right," I said. "But I didn't hear much of it. I was too busy being one."