Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Church Heckler: Strangers With Toys

Happy Fatherhood Friday everyone! I promise not to pressure you too much into heading over to to check out all of the great bloggers over there. Do it! You know you want to.

So our family had quite the unusual experience at church last week. (And I'm glad we've been going there for years, because if it was our first time, I think we'd be looking for a different church).

Things were going pretty well for us from a made-it-on-time/kids-being-quiet-and-attentive/not-going-potty-every-2-minutes kind of perspective.

Maybe about half-way through the service, Big Brother was acting a little "restless". Not loud, not disruptive, just needing some urging to "stand when it's time to stand, sit when it's time to sit, etc."

We just happen to feel that if we don't expect the boys to behave properly at church (or wherever), then they'll never learn how to do so.

Apparently, this lady about 3 rows back cued in on Big Brother's restlessness.

Next thing you know, she reaches forward with a (non-Transformer brand) Transformer--intact in original packaging--and kinda shoves it upon Mom-E to "here, give this to him."

Granted, we should've politely just said "no thanks", but the shock of her action--coupled with not wanting to talk out loud--resulted in the reflex of the hand closing on the package.

Amazingly, Big Brother didn't blurt out, "I want that." In fact, he really didn't even acknowledge it.

In addition to being slightly beside myself that this lady was trying to "parent for us" in a way, I felt strongly that Big Brother's restless behavior should not be rewarded/reinforced with giving him a toy.

(Not to mention the "fight" that would ensue between 2 brothers if only 1 child was given a toy.)

(And also not to mention that we've been trying hard to keep the boys from bringing ANY toys to church).

So quietly, politely, I put the toy under a chair behind the diaper bag, such that it was out of view of small children.

It wasn't that long thereafter that she started making comments (to the lady sitting next to her) OUT LOUD. (I mean a little bit louder than a typical speaking voice.)

"Let him play with it."

"If they're not going to open it, they're never going to get another toy from me."

"C'mon, give it to him."

At that point, so many thoughts were swirling through my head:
-Regardless of your faith background, I imagine most everyone would consider it more than slightly rude/offensive to be talking out loud like that at a church service.

-Why aren't the people sitting next to her not so politely asking her to SHUT UP?!?

-Is she playing passive aggressive with me, trying to bait me into a Royal Rumble of words right in the middle of church?

-What kind of person brings toys to give to kids at church?

-You are NOT Big Brother's parent, and perhaps you should--I don't know--BUTT OUT!

A few minutes later, Mom-E had to step out to feed Bab-E Brother. As she's headed out, I hear a voice call out--even more loudly--


I wasn't even going to turn around and acknowledge her--why add to the disturbance--but another person tapped my shoulder.

"Do you want that (toy)?"

"No," I nodded silently, and handed it back.

Fortunately for us, the lady left before the service was over (we don't know her personally, but have seen her there before and she always leaves early).

As we were leaving, I was somewhat surprised that no one else in the vicinity said something like, "Uh, that was weird."

We were also fortunate that Little Brother never saw the toy, and Big Brother was content with the explanation that we gave the toy back because "That lady did not have good behavior at church. You did a good job. What she was doing was not good."

Next week, I think we'll sit in the front row.

Have a good weekend,


  1. I can't stand the plastic crap as much as the next dad, and on one hand am glad you dodged having to deal with it. on other hand, can't help thinking that, however clumsy and unasked for and out of line with your style, this lonely lady in the back may have just been trying to help - not thinking, unawares of how this gesture might be received as a rude interjection, or an undermining you, or a spoiling your kids, but imagining herself to be performing a christian act of service for a member of her church family

  2. Next time bring her some Depends and say here, I am trying to help you out. Is she kidding? You know she is annoyed by children in church and thought her toy would solve her problem of out of countrol children. Otherwise, why else bring a toy to church? It was pre planned, and willing to bet bothered her all week. Bet she even chatted about it at Bingo-nonstop. One toy for two children is no good, forget one brand new toy.

  3. Good for you for sticking to your guns. We never let the Weasels bring toys or coloring books to church or to climb all around the pew.
    They learned proper reverence in Church from early ages.
    The woman was most likely trying to be kind, but that was rude and overstepping.

  4. Sounds like maybe she's not praying with a full deck. :)

    Church is sometimes the best place to learn how to exercise grace.

  5. Bless her heart, as we say in the South...which can be a euphemism for a lot of things. She may have just been trying to be helpful...or she may have been planting a seed to get some good Bingo fodder, as someone else suggested. Either way, good for you for sticking to your plastic guns and teaching your children with grace, and as you see fit.

  6. I do believe everyone who interferes with how we are raising or handling our children is trying to be helpful in their own minds. I typically think this is the case as people tend to have good intentsions. The truth is, people should butt out. Good intentions are great, but it is totally unfair and intruding to do something of that nature. Parents typically know what their doing and have a method to their madness. Also, if she was going to give the toy, that's one thing, but to sit there and loudly make comments is uncalled for. At least she has already vowed to never give a toy to your family again! ;) love, aunt-e

  7. What can I say the others haven't? Yes, it was a weird situation, one you handled with grace. The same grace you are teaching your children. I'm glad you reacted the way you did. As for the woman? I can't guess what she was thinking, or her motivation. Her actions, though, were thoughtless, rude and embarrassing. She turned out to be a prime example of how not to act in church, a teaching tool as it turned out. Hopefully this week you have a little more time for prayer and spend less time fighting off old ladies with good? intentions.

  8. Her heart may very well have been in the right place, but her behavior was unusual and inappropriate. How uncomfortable sitting in church and hearing someone talking like that behind you.

  9. Her original intentions, although strange, were probably pure. However, her behavior was unacceptable. Not only was she completely irreverent, but she totally interfered with everyone's church experience. That was completely unfair.

  10. We have a experiences like that where our parenting style bumps up against the way an older generation would parent and I have found that there are time when we can communicate that difference without offending them and times when we can't. When you can't you just have to let it be awkward I think.

  11. I'm often shocked at things that go on in church..Cell phones, texting, chit chat...To me it's not Starbucks...Sounds like you had quite an experience and I think you handled it perfectly.

  12. When i read the story, i can't help but picture her as Max von Sydow in Needful Things. In a dress.

  13. Uh.. I guess somehow I'm off the "butt out" and older generation. But unless the kiddo is screaming like all get-out, and mom/grandma/whoever brings the kid to church is sitting there like a bliss-ninny, I will just sit there and stew about it..and think about my kids that I yanked out of lots of places for misbehaving. But I've noticed that alot of parents nowadays let their kids just sit there & argue with them "it's time for bed" "no" "ok, its time for bed now" "no" and this goes on for a couple hours. Just pick em up & deal with em. As for the toy, I would have done the same as you, stuffed it away. No time like the present to learn manners in church. But I do love reading your adventures with kids. My youngest is a teenager now, almost college age, and I do miss the fun times when they were young.