I guess the real reason that my wife and I had children is the same reason that Napoleon had for invading Russia: it seemed like a good idea at the time. Bill Cosby
I have a fun going to church.
Is it fun because if the spiritual edification and social solidarity that comes from worshipping with others of your faith?
No not really.
It’s fun because I get to sit quietly and unencumbered while I watch the families with young children try to wrangle them into good, reverent acceptable church behavior (insert a little bit of evil laughter here).
I’m honestly not judging on the success of the other parishioners parental efforts. I’ve been there and done that and I know that sometimes you can fight the good fight and work the positive reinforcement with quiet books, the bible-story finger puppets, the baggies of cheerios, and sometimes you just give up and take the kid out to the foyer and let him run around. But as my kids are all grown up now, I have to admit to a little perverse pleasure in watching other people take their turn attempting to subdue the ankle biting crowd.
Kids are fun to watch and there are some families that I particularly gravitate towards because the little people seem to be such a hilarious challenge for their parents. I sometimes help the parents out if I think they need it by giving the kid The Look as Ebay calls it.
Let me explain The Look.
Through all my years of parenting and school teaching, I have developed a particular facial expression that seems to be effective in stopping an errant child in his/her tracks and helping them take a moment to perhaps re-think their current behavior. Think Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. It usually involves an uncomfortable and lengthy amount of eye-contact, a certain pursing of the lips and, if I think that they really need motivation, I can raise my right eyebrow. I sometimes pull it out at the grocery store if I see some kid throwing a fit right there in the cereal isle while the poor mom is struggling with baby and just trying to get the shopping done. I just kind of stand there perusing the cornflakes till the fit-thrower catches my eye. I give them the stare for a few seconds, raise my eyebrow if I think they deserve it – and I tell you what, it almost always works.
Ebay hates when I do this.
“Mom, cut it out.”
“What?” I ask innocently.
“You know what.”
“I’m not doing anything.”
“You’re doing The Look.”
“I just thought the mom could use a little help.” I answer sweetly.
“Well, you’re freaking the kid out.” Ebay snaps.
“Just trying to be helpful.” I say while Ebay rolls his eyes.
I know I’m freaking the kid out, but that’s kind of the point – mind your manners in public and quit making life harder for your poor mom. And frankly, now that Ebay teaches primary, I’ve seen him use the very same look – so how do you like them apples?
Anyway, watching the kids at church is fun for me whether or not I pull out The Look. It’s kind of like a real-life National Geographic Special. The rambunctious young cubs pushing the envelope of their environment while the parents try teach them to stay by the waterhole and not run away to the elephant graveyard.
There’s one little guy in my ward – about 2 years old - that I particularly like to watch. I’ve taken to calling him “Genius Baby.” This little guys seems super-smart to me and he really gives his parents a run for their money. He’s an only child right now, but part of his genius seems to be his ability to recruit other toddlers into his life of crime so good luck to his parents if/when they have more kids.
A few Sundays ago I got to church late (no good excuse, I was just late) and so was sitting out in the foyer. Well this seemed to be a day when a lot of the parents had just given up the fight, because there was quite the social hour of young parents out in the foyer “watching” their toddlers. Both of Genius Baby’s parents were out there, standing next the doors that went into the cultural hall (a fancy word for the gym) talking to the parents of another little guy who was about the same age. Since the parents were engaged in talking to one another, they weren’t as engaged as they maybe should have been in watching their little off-spring. At first this wasn’t a problem. Genius Baby and Little Guy were just kind of playing hide and seek through and around their parent’s legs. But then Little Guy (who was particularly enthusiastic and puppy-like) grabbed hold of the handle to the to the cultural hall door. It’s a heavy door, and being such a little guy, he was only able to pull it open a couple of inches. But this was enough to catch Genius Baby’s attention. Genius Baby had obviously been in the cultural hall before and realized that that was the place to be.
Freedom! Room to run and scream and play! Genius Baby wanted in the cultural hall.
He too pulled on the door but also wasn’t strong enough to get the door open far enough to get through it before it closed on them again. They both tried back and forth for a few minutes and then sort of started squabbling a little bit over whose turn it was to try and pull – Genius Baby – Little Guy – Genius Baby – Little Guy. After a few minutes Genius Baby got tired of waiting for Little Guy to take his turn at pulling – especially when it wasn’t working. He grabbed onto the back of Little Guys pants and pulled him backwards away from the door. Well, Little Guy was still holding onto the door handle and when Genius Baby pulled on Little Guy while Little Guy was also pulling on the door - together they were strong enough to open the door. Little Guy was so excited that the door was open ( I think he thought he’d suddenly been able to do it himself) that he let go of the door handle, jumped around a little bit in celebration, but unfortunately by the time he was done, the door had shut again. Little Guy, pulled on the handle again, but couldn’t get it open this time. Little Guy was clearly puzzled – why wouldn’t it open now? Where had his massive muscles gone? But the light bulb had gone on for Genius Baby. He waited until Little Guy pulled on the door again then he wrapped his little arms around the waist of Little Guy and pulled with all his might. And sure enough, the door opens wide – Success! The two little dudes run through the door into the grand open freedom of the gymnasium with the door closing quietly behind them. Meanwhile, their parents, still chatting away, hadn’t seen a thing. I get up, cross the foyer to open the cultural hall door and enlighten the parents that their toddlers have disappeared. Just as I opened the door, but hadn’t yet had a chance to say “Hey Parents, you’re little dudes are running around unsupervised in the gym,” Genius Baby’s mom notices he’s gone, looks through the open gym door, sees her toddler running free, and gives me a look like “Why did you open the door for two toddlers?” and heads into the gym with the other parents to gather their kids. I didn’t push it. I just went back to my chair in the foyer. The parents came back with their little dudes and resumed their chatty position next to the cultural hall doors. But now Genius Baby and Little Guy had a system – they knew how to get this done and it didn’t take long before they were off again and had involved a couple of little toddler girls in their escape plans too (shades of things to come?). It took about three times before the parents realized what was happening and that their toddlers had masterminded the great escape on their own (apology to me...anyone…anyone?).
Anyway the whole thing was pretty hilarious and, as I said, reminiscent of those nature specials that describe how the chimpanzees figure out how to use a stick to get the ants out of the ant hill. I wonder if the old chimp parents watch the young chimp parents and just laugh and laugh.