Have you ever considered how often we, as a culture, communicate to parents that children are an inconvenience? It hurts my heart so much when I hear the things people say and do. As a culture, we have become so self-focused that children are often seen as an interruption. It was an old adage "children should be seen and not heard". I feel as if that adage is unknowingly reinforced by how people treat parents and their children.
I was explaining to my mom why we don't invite any guests over for Christmas Day. When we have guests over, we try to make sure they are comfortable and receive our attention. We do have guests over on Christmas Eve. It's a tradition with the family that comes over--one that we look forward to every year. But, on Christmas Day, we want to focus on our family--our children, our parents, and siblings, and celebrate with them. On Thanksgiving this year, we had family over and a couple who has spent several holidays with us. In my eyes, they are like family. I don't focus special attention on them and neither does my husband. We're all glad to have them with us. My mom felt that we had neglected them that day. I wasn't able to explain to her then how we hadn't neglected them. After I explained how we felt about Christmas Day, I explained that we felt the same way about Thanksgiving and that was in part why we didn't single our guests out on Thanksgiving. We treated them and included them like family.
I have begun to notice this in myself--that at times I pay more attention to the people around me than to my children. I can take my children for granted. But, I don't want to be this way. I want to fight this.
A few weeks ago, my husband read an excerpt from a book to me on Amazon. It was mockery of Good night moon. It said something like "Good night, my child, go to sleep, everybody does it, now quit the racket and GO TO SLEEP!" There were also some cuss words added in there. I was alarmed. My husband and I had quite the discussion about it. He thought people wouldn't read it to their kids--that they would just laugh at the irony of how we feel as parents when we're so tired at night and just want our kids to go to sleep-now! I didn't have that same perspective. I thought people wouldn't see anything wrong with reacting that way. They would feel justified and might even read the book to a child. At night, I'll be honest, I am tired. I do really want my kids to go to sleep. I fight myself inside from snapping at them when I'm totally exhausted and just need to get into bed. But, I realize that is my own sin and selfishness. It is something wrong with me. It isn't all right.
When we make sarcastic jokes about a child being a disturbance at Bible study--the mom knows there's always a seed of truth that prompted someone to say it. That person may not be speaking for the group at all, but a seed of discomfort and being a burden to others is planted.
When we say that children can come to an event if they have to (and you have no other care for them), we are saying the children are not fully welcome. They'll be endured, but it will be a burden.
When we say to a family that in order to come to Bible study, they have to find child care for their children at their own home, then we are often shutting the door to families who can't afford to do that on a weekly basis.
When we let a child cry for an hour in the church nursery instead of trying to comfort the child, we communicate to the child and witnesses that the child is not a gift, but a burden to be endured.
Well, I could go on. I've had all of these things happen to me or have watched them happen. And my heart breaks. Our children are a precious gift. We have the honor of caring for them and raising them. The church has the opportunity to give children unconditional love and support--to help them feel safe. I have seen this happen too. And I've known it. I can picture the church I grew up at in my head. I can walk all over the church grounds and it makes me smile. I was known by the adults and welcomed. I desire that for my children.
Well, I better get back to my kiddos, lunch, errands, and a concert tonight with my family. I need to remember that they are a gift, not a burden. Their interruptions and conversations are a gift and not a burden, too.