Recently decisions have been made that mean under 2’s can no longer be left in the Church creche. For those who bring little ones on their own that means missing most of the service. Every week. For us it means the one hour a week when I get to have a break from looking after young children has gone. We’re going to be doing alternate weeks. Not all of us have extended families within the church to rotate round who misses the service. We don’t have family living locally to call when life gets tricky full stop. For us, an emergency phone call to my parents (the closest) means waiting for an hour and a half. Assuming my Dad is not a further three hours south with my Grandma; meaning my Mum doesn’t have a car. For some of those affected by the decision that has been made, parents are not even in this country, so in some ways we’re fortunate!
You see our children happily playing and chatting but you haven’t seen the family life that happens at home. It often isn’t pretty.
Every day we’ve been woken by one of them about 5:30am for a few weeks now. Many nights have involved broken sleep. Last night I got six hours. Not, I might add, in one go. This morning I got out of bed so tired I walked into a door frame.
Most days by mid-afternoon we’re stumbling. My husband sits at his desk at work with a mug of hot chocolate at this point. I’m often in the throws of starting to prepare tea whilst simultaneously getting the younger two up from naps and finding a snack for all three. Some days I stand staring blankly at the kitchen worktop because I’m failing to mentally process what I need to do to make tea.
By later in the afternoon there may have been a phone call to say the meeting ran over, the train is delayed, there’s an accident on the road, so can you get children fed and through the bath on your own because he’s going to be late home. The workplace isn’t the same as it was, or so my Dad tells me. My husband’s job often seems to spill over to evenings, weekends, etc. But even when it’s a straight 9 to 5, the place can be stressful and pressured. Before you start on an hour, or more, commuting each way.
Perhaps the baby has been teething and just will not be put down. Everything has been done with one hand all week, or struggling to see over her head in the carrier, and the points that couldn’t be achieved have been to a soundtrack of screaming. The baby’s. Most of the time. Yes she is full of smiles and so easy going; right up until she’s not. But my husband leaves shortly after 7am and doesn’t get back until I’m putting tea on the table.
Arguments abound over who had what first, who should have which colour plate or whether it is water or squash to drink. They don’t want to get dressed, get in the car, get out of the car, go to the appointment we could only make at nap time.
Maybe one day it all got too much and there were tears. Mine. Questions about how to keep going. Not the darkness of postnatal depression, just exhaustion hitherto unknown.
Or maybe the loneliness of being a stay at home mum was only compounded by someone saying “you’re always welcome to come round”, because you know it’s actually more stressful trying to get small children through a new front door, with no books or toys on the other side, than staying at home when one really struggles with new and/or different and the other copies everything they do. Its not that I don’t believe me being at home is the best decision for our family, it’s simply there are times when it is overwhelming, for lack of any other word.
That hour they were all in creche was one of my lifelines, so, in short, a point of support has been lost. An hour of not being asked, on repeat, “what are you doing?”, “why?”, “is it [insert meal] time yet?”. Perhaps the only point that week a Bible has been opened; excluding the toddler bible that I can do verbatim. Sit in shock if you want to, but from dragging myself out of bed at 5:30am to passing out shortly after children are asleep, with not even so much as a trip to the toilet on my own some days, the truth is very simply that some days will go by without breakfast, or drinking enough, or completing a since train of thought, let alone opening a book. I’ll often have a Christian radio station on in the background, purely to catch odd snippets through the day. If I’ve found time to write it’s a day I’ve already had time to read and pray.
For some the cost of the decision may be high enough to question whether the effort required to get everyone to the service in the first place is really worth it. As I faced the decision this morning as to whether to sit in the new area for under 2’s on my own or head back into the service and hope the littlest could be occupied in our seats (no, she couldn’t…), I know it’s a question I asked. But I know to stop now with a plan of returning when they are older is detrimental in so many ways, and highly unlikely to actually see us returning.
But children are not the future Church. They are the current Church. They need teaching about God and His love for them from birth, not some arbitrary point in the future. The early years are not about simply keeping them from disturbing the service but a time for letting them renew your wonder at creation and reveal to you new aspects of God’s character as they show you what childlike faith really looks like.
As parents we nurture their faith, but they need to see that God is real to others too. They need to see us giving up time and money to serve God, but they also need to see others doing the same.
Its something the church promised they’d do at each of their dedications. Support us raising them in such a way that they can find their own relationship with God. If you don’t know what to say, spend the time telling them about what God has done in your life. I firmly believe they understand a lot more than they are generally given credit for and the spirit craves spirit no matter the size of the vessel.
Some of the people who have most influential in my own faith are those who poured time into me as a child.