Alia

Please can you give me some advice on attending church with a baby?

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Since May last year my church attendance has been almost non existent. I think I have attended 4 times since May, but I was determined to change that and attend every week in 2019. The thing is that since my husband stopped coming to church with me around March last year I wasn't able to handle my son and pay any kind of attention to the meeting. I went to church on the first Sunday of the year and ended up sitting in the hall with my son and then left when the sacrament meeting ended. I haven't bothered going back, but I do really miss church and I want to attend regularly again. Do you have any advice on how I can attend with my son who is 17 months? 

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1 hour ago, Alia said:

Since May last year my church attendance has been almost non existent. I think I have attended 4 times since May, but I was determined to change that and attend every week in 2019. The thing is that since my husband stopped coming to church with me around March last year I wasn't able to handle my son and pay any kind of attention to the meeting. I went to church on the first Sunday of the year and ended up sitting in the hall with my son and then left when the sacrament meeting ended. I haven't bothered going back, but I do really miss church and I want to attend regularly again. Do you have any advice on how I can attend with my son who is 17 months? 

Ask for help. I was a torment to my mother and father st church when I was a toddler. I would get pawned off to the bishop’s wife every week.

Now I have a child and I know dozens of people that would love to watch my kid (he is actually a pretty stinking cute baby and we have a lot of sisters that debate over who gets to home and watch him).

if you don’t know anyone, ask the bishop or relief society president :) you will get the help you need. 

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2 hours ago, Alia said:

Since May last year my church attendance has been almost non existent. I think I have attended 4 times since May, but I was determined to change that and attend every week in 2019. The thing is that since my husband stopped coming to church with me around March last year I wasn't able to handle my son and pay any kind of attention to the meeting. I went to church on the first Sunday of the year and ended up sitting in the hall with my son and then left when the sacrament meeting ended. I haven't bothered going back, but I do really miss church and I want to attend regularly again. Do you have any advice on how I can attend with my son who is 17 months? 

I hear you there.  My husband is not a member, so I'm always flying solo with our little girl.  Here's a couple of tips

1) Have realistic exceptions.  A toddler is not going to sit like a statue on the pew- it's just not happening.  Sometimes kids scream, everyone understands that.  

2) There is a larger purpose of going to Church than just being able to perfectly listen to the meeting.  Having fellowship, partaking of the Sacrament, and just taking time out for God are also big points.

3) Don't be afraid to ask for help.   For example, recently my daughter has come to love this empty-nester family in my ward, so we always sit with them.

 

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12 hours ago, Jane_Doe said:

I hear you there.  My husband is not a member, so I'm always flying solo with our little girl.  Here's a couple of tips

1) Have realistic exceptions.  A toddler is not going to sit like a statue on the pew- it's just not happening.  Sometimes kids scream, everyone understands that.  

2) There is a larger purpose of going to Church than just being able to perfectly listen to the meeting.  Having fellowship, partaking of the Sacrament, and just taking time out for God are also big points.

3) Don't be afraid to ask for help.   For example, recently my daughter has come to love this empty-nester family in my ward, so we always sit with them.

  

My husband is a member but he doesn't want to come to church with me any more, although honestly my church attendance may still be worse than his. 

Fellowship genuinely scares me. 

Did your daughter go to other people when she was around 17 months old? My son wont go to anyone, even my mother in law who he goes to during the week, if I am around he won't got to her.  

 

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13 hours ago, Fether said:

Ask for help. I was a torment to my mother and father st church when I was a toddler. I would get pawned off to the bishop’s wife every week.

Now I have a child and I know dozens of people that would love to watch my kid (he is actually a pretty stinking cute baby and we have a lot of sisters that debate over who gets to home and watch him).

if you don’t know anyone, ask the bishop or relief society president :) you will get the help you need. 

My son is a torment to me but he has only been to church a handful of times in his life so I can't expect him to behave. It isn't so much that he cries it is his energy

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14 minutes ago, Alia said:

My son is a torment to me but he has only been to church a handful of times in his life so I can't expect him to behave. It isn't so much that he cries it is his energy

Yah, welcome to that club :)

It seems to me that the bigger issue is the reason why your husband won't go to church with you.  Normally I'd say you and he could take turns with the baby.  If that isn't an option, maybe it should become one?  It juts feels like solving that problem would kill two birds with one stone.

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1 hour ago, Alia said:

Fellowship genuinely scares me. 

Oh I COMPLETELY get you there.  I naturally a huge introvert, and find fellowship to be frequently draining, or a chore, and sometimes just downright painful.  

1 hour ago, Alia said:

Did your daughter go to other people when she was around 17 months old? My son wont go to anyone, even my mother in law who he goes to during the week, if I am around he won't got to her.  

Yes, she's always loved adult attention.

Does your son have separation anxiety?  (I suppose this is a bigger picture question than just church).  That's not uncommon at 17 months, but there are things you can do to help ease it.

1 hour ago, Alia said:

My son is a torment to me but he has only been to church a handful of times in his life so I can't expect him to behave. It isn't so much that he cries it is his energy

Maybe some good pre-church exercise might help?

And as always, try to keep expectations realistic.  No toddler is going to remotely sit like a statue on the bench.

 

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6 minutes ago, Jane_Doe said:

Does your son have separation anxiety?  (I suppose this is a bigger picture question than just church).  That's not uncommon at 17 months, but there are things you can do to help ease it.

1 hour ago, Alia said:

I don't know, I leave him every week day for the whole day and I have been told by my husband and mother in law that he doesn't make a fuss about being left by me. It is just when I am there no matter where we are he won't leave my side. I used to like his clinginess seeing it as a sign of love so I may have somewhat encouraged it but now it is just annoying. 

 

10 minutes ago, Jane_Doe said:

Maybe some good pre-church exercise might help?

 

What is a pre-church exercise? 

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1 hour ago, unixknight said:

Yah, welcome to that club :)

 It seems to me that the bigger issue is the reason why your husband won't go to church with you.  Normally I'd say you and he could take turns with the baby.  If that isn't an option, maybe it should become one?  It juts feels like solving that problem would kill two birds with one stone.

I could leave my son home with his dad but I think in someways going to church alone will be worse than going with my son. My husband doesn't want to go to church I am not really sure why but he does go occasionally. Although, it always seemed to be when I wasn't up to going. Which, is one of the reasons I was wanting to go every week this year because there will be a Sunday where we can all go together. 

Edited by Alia

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7 minutes ago, Alia said:

I could leave my son home with his dad but I think in someways going to church alone will be worse than going with my son. My husband doesn't want to go to church I am not really sure why but he does go occasionally. Although, it always seemed to be when I wasn't up to going. Which, is one of the reasons I was wanting to go every week this year because there will be a Sunday where we can all go together. 

It seems to me that this might be a mechanism to motivate dad to go.  "Ok, you can stay home, but I'm leaving the baby with you while I go."  He'll either go for it, which leaves you free to take the Sacrament, hear the talks, feel the Spirit, etc.  Or he will come along because some dads just get squeamish about being alone with the baby for a couple hours.  Either way, it's a winner for you.  How come going alone would be worse than bringing the little one?

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3 minutes ago, unixknight said:

It seems to me that this might be a mechanism to motivate dad to go.  "Ok, you can stay home, but I'm leaving the baby with you while I go."  He'll either go for it, which leaves you free to take the Sacrament, hear the talks, feel the Spirit, etc.  Or he will come along because some dads just get squeamish about being alone with the baby for a couple hours.  Either way, it's a winner for you.  How come going alone would be worse than bringing the little one?

I think my husband would be okay with having our son at home, he cares for him most of the week. I would feel so exposed like a loner going to church on my own. Before my son was born and when my husband was deployed I would go to church on my own and it was fine, but the thought of going alone now scares me. 

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1 minute ago, Alia said:

I think my husband would be okay with having our son at home, he cares for him most of the week. I would feel so exposed like a loner going to church on my own. Before my son was born and when my husband was deployed I would go to church on my own and it was fine, but the thought of going alone now scares me. 

Gotcha.  I can relate to some of that.  As an introvert I dislike being around people I don't know, especially if there's some expectation that I interact.  Is there anybody in your ward you're friends with?  Then you could sit with them and not feel so much like a loner.

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22 minutes ago, Alia said:

I don't know, I leave him every week day for the whole day and I have been told by my husband and mother in law that he doesn't make a fuss about being left by me. It is just when I am there no matter where we are he won't leave my side. I used to like his clinginess seeing it as a sign of love so I may have somewhat encouraged it but now it is just annoying. 

That does sound like separation anxiety.  It is something you can work through (just for life-sanity).

22 minutes ago, Alia said:

What is a pre-church exercise? 

Just exercise before church.  Get some energy out.  

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8 minutes ago, unixknight said:

Gotcha.  I can relate to some of that.  As an introvert I dislike being around people I don't know, especially if there's some expectation that I interact.  Is there anybody in your ward you're friends with?  Then you could sit with them and not feel so much like a loner.

I could sit with my husband's family but I feel awkward about it. I don't really have friends at church because the people there don't like me, which I completely understand. 

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2 minutes ago, Alia said:

I could sit with my husband's family but I feel awkward about it. I don't really have friends at church because the people there don't like me, which I completely understand. 

Well I'd venture to say the awkwardness would be well worth it.  Ultimately it's up to you.  It sounds like you have a workable option to sit with people you know, leave the baby at home so you can get the benefits of being there, and hopefully motivate hubby to tag along.  

So is it worth the initial awkwardness?  That's a question only you can answer.  You posted for advice here so it does seem to be important to you.  I'd definitely encourage you to at least try that.

Why would people not like you?

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11 minutes ago, Alia said:

I could sit with my husband's family but I feel awkward about it. I don't really have friends at church because the people there don't like me, which I completely understand. 

For me (a huge introvert), my tactics back in the day were either

1) Just pretend nobody else is there and focus on the Gospel.

2) *Jane takes a deep breath and tries to work up the courage* "Sally doesn't have fangs.  I can sit in vicinity to Sally.  She doesn't have fangs.  I can sit in her vicinity."  And then after about a month of telling myself that, I do actually start to believe Sally doesn't have fangs.  And then eventually maybe actually talk to her. 

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21 minutes ago, unixknight said:

 Why would people not like you?

Because I have a bad habit of acting like I am better than other people. It is really bad and I totally get why people at church don't like me. 

 

22 minutes ago, unixknight said:

So is it worth the initial awkwardness?

It is the awkwardness of having to go along with my husband's story of why he isn't at church that puts me off sitting with his family. 

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Just now, Alia said:

 

Because I have a bad habit of acting like I am better than other people. It is really bad and I totally get why people at church don't like me. 

 

It is the awkwardness of having to go along with my husband's story of why he isn't at church that puts me off sitting with his family. 

Heh, instead of covering I'd just say "Ask him."  But that's just me.  Put me in an awkward spot?   There will be consequences.  😎

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Just come back to church. Almost all wards are used to having loud kids in the meeting...it really bothers no one. Families are what the church is all about. Plus nursery will be coming up for your child soon for the 2nd hour. We have 4 kids and a set of twins that are 13 months old and sit near the front in the chapel every week. If they get too fussy, we just take them out...no big deal.

Edited by scottyg

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2 minutes ago, scottyg said:

Just come back to church. Almost all wards are used to having loud kids in the meeting...it really bothers no one. Families are what the church is all about. Plus nursery will be coming up for your child soon. We have 4 kids and a set of twins that are 13 months old and sit near the front in the chapel every week. If they get to fussy, we just take them out...no big deal.

Personally, I am very grateful for all those times someone else's kid screams louder than mine.  And there's some weeks they are the one's being grateful for my kid screaming louder than theirs.  

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23 hours ago, Alia said:

Since May last year my church attendance has been almost non existent. I think I have attended 4 times since May, but I was determined to change that and attend every week in 2019. The thing is that since my husband stopped coming to church with me around March last year I wasn't able to handle my son and pay any kind of attention to the meeting. I went to church on the first Sunday of the year and ended up sitting in the hall with my son and then left when the sacrament meeting ended. I haven't bothered going back, but I do really miss church and I want to attend regularly again. Do you have any advice on how I can attend with my son who is 17 months? 

Yes, I do. I'm the father of five, and so have had five very intimate chances to experience what you're dealing with. Here are a few tips and things to remember:

  • Just go to Church. Even if you spend the entire time sitting in the hall, go anyway. You can enjoy the Spirit and maybe chat with some fellow Saints, and at least for the sacrament meeting, you can still partake of the sacrament and listen to the speakers even in the foyer.
  • Stay for both hours. Within a month, your baby can go into the nursery, and you'll be able to attend gospel doctrine and Relief Society.
  • This will not last forever. It's actually a very short time, even if it seems like forever. Children grow up very fast. Two years might sound like a long time, but trust me, it is not. Two years from now, your baby won't be a baby any more, and you and he (and who knows, maybe your husband) will be regular and welcome faces in your ward. Go for that picture and make it a reality.
  • You have lots and lots and lots of company. You're treading the same path that countless others have walked before you, including many in your ward. The only people who might not be understanding are those who haven't yet gone down that path, and in the Church, that's not many people. (And most of the childless are sympathetic to the plight of parents of young children, too, so odds are few if any will be anything other than sympathetic and helpful.)

As for how to handle a toddler at that age in a sacrament meeting, let me offer you some insights into what worked for me during the sixteen or so years that I dealt with very young children at Church.

  • Do not expect to be able to hear most of the talks. Just accept that for the next year or so, you won't be hearing much. If you do, BONUS! But have the expectation that you're going to Church and, while there, deal as best you can with your baby, because that's the most likely reality. Do it anyway.
  • Infants and most very small children (about 18 months and younger) cannot really be disciplined, so don't try. Your job is to keep them as happy and comfortable as possible. Distraction often works very well for such children. More on that below.
  • Now, the children will adapt to conditions they're exposed to, so by going the sacrament meeting you're helping them to set their own expectations. If you never go to sacrament meeting, they will never understand that it's a normal environment and get comfortable with it.
  • If your child is mildly fussy, distract him with a soft, quiet toy like a teddy bear or a teething ring. As long as he's not screaming or being very loud, try to stay in sacrament meeting and teach him to be content.
  • If your child is screaming or very loud, take him out to the foyer in consideration of others in the meeting. Sure, it seems unfair that you have to miss the meeting. Welcome to parenthood. We make all sorts of sacrifices for our children and for our neighbors who would otherwise be inconvenienced by our children. This, too, shall pass, and all too quickly (see "This will not last forever" above).
  • NEVER, EVER, EVER LET YOUR CHILD RUN UP AND DOWN THE AISLES DURING SACRAMENT MEETING. Sorry if this seems stupidly obvious, but judging by the number of times I have seen this in Church, apparently it's not as obvious as all that to some people. If you do see other parents allowing their children to do this, please understand that that is an example of poor decision-making by the parents, not a signal that you should do the same. Be the responsible parent, not the other kind.

I have noticed during my (extensive) time sitting in the foyer that many people don't "do" the foyer right with their children. When they go into the foyer, they drop their kid and let him run around while they (the parents) chat with each other.

DON'T DO THIS.

If you do, you are teaching your child that if he fusses and screams, he gets to go out and run around. What small child wouldn't want that? OF COURSE he's going to scream! He gets to run around if he does!

Here is the key to proper foyer etiquette with your child, based on long experience. This is so important that I'll give it its own heading:

HOW TO TAKE YOUR CHILD OUT INTO THE FOYER DURING SACRAMENT MEETING

When you take the child (toddler, say about two years old or more—remember, younger children just get held, fed, and comforted) into the foyer, it's a classic time-out situation. You sit the child on your lap while you both sit facing the corner or wall. If the child wants to get up, you don't let him. Sitting in the foyer is just that: Sitting. Do not be harsh or angry. You aren't mad at your child. Just make sure the foyer is as boring as you can possibly make it. No toys. No food. No books. NO TALKING AT ALL (that includes you, Mom). All you do is sit with your arms folded and stare at the wall. If your child gets restless, he's not allowed to do anything about it.

Just stare at the wall.

Boooooooring.

That's what you want. Boring as all get-out. Staring at the wall. Nothing to do, can't talk, no playing or reading or anything.

Staring at the wall.

After your child has successfully stared QUIETLY at the wall for a sufficient time (about one minute per year of age, so a two-year-old would be looking at the wall for about two minutes—maybe half that time would be sufficient to start out with), you then quietly and kindly ask your child if he wants to go back in. Maybe one time in a hundred he will say "No!", in which case you stare at the wall some more for a couple of minutes.

Eventually (almost always the first time, and never more than the second time for my children), when you ask if he wants to go back in, he will say "yes". You then remind him that when we're in sacrament meeting, we have to be quiet and reverent all the time. That means he can't talk out loud or make noise or scream. He can read his soft book or play with toys or whatever, but no noise. Will he be quiet when we go back in the chapel?

Of course, he will say yes. So back in you go.

And guess what happens? He gets loud again, sometimes 20 minutes later, sometimes two minutes later. What do you do?

Take him out into the foyer again, rinse, and repeat. Same drill. Stare at the wall.

I don't think that even the most recalcitrant of my children took more than two or three weeks of this before they realized that they were much better off being quiet during the sacrament meeting. Of course, they slipped up and occasionally still had to be taken out, but it was manageable. A fond if somewhat embarrassing memory is my taking my toddler daughter out into the foyer when she wouldn't calm down, and as we walked up the aisle with her in my arms, her screaming at the top of her lungs in a tearful and almost panicked voice, "NO!! DADDY!! NOT THE FOYER!! I DON'T WANT TO GO TO THE FOYER!!"

Edited by Vort

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59 minutes ago, Jane_Doe said:

Personally, I am very grateful for all those times someone else's kid screams louder than mine.  And there's some weeks they are the one's being grateful for my kid screaming louder than theirs.  

We have that same joke in our ward between 4 or so young families. :) I personally enjoy it because it shows couples are having children and bringing them to the place that they should be on Sunday, which is pleasing to the Lord.

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