To be honest it began fairly well, certainly an easier atmosphere than the day before, there was even a little light hearted banter round the breakfast table as we each came and went – laughter even – and some harmonica playing (beautifully random, I learnt quickly to expect the unexpected once we had children!!) to cheer us on towards getting dressed and out! But it soon began to turn into one of those days – well it was Sunday. I know we’re not the only family who experience this phenomenon – but for us the Sunday morning battle is common and everything that can throw itself at you to make it as hard as possible to get the family to church on time, and in one piece, still speaking to each other does.
So let me summarise yesterday for you. Andrew and A (our middle boy) were ready before us girls as usual, though surprisingly T (our youngest) was ‘ready-ish’ when Daddy declared he was about to go; ‘anyone who’s ready want to walk with me?’. T felt completely ready, standing up tall, shoes on, hair – well passable as usual (hates the hairbrush); ‘I’m coming Daddy, I’m ready’. ‘Have you brushed your teeth?’ – cue meltdown. Needless to say, Andrew set off with A, but not T. So, next for me, wait out the meltdown, negotiate tooth brushing without further meltdowns (difficult, hates toothbrush too), ‘encourage’ B (our oldest) to ‘think about getting dressed’, make sure I have what I need to lead the pre-school group. Easy!
Pleased to say we got there, later than hoped but with enough time to get ready, join the prayers before the service (just!), and for the girls to take a good look at the new notice board I’d finished last week – the incentive to get out of the house. Next setting up for the group which inevitably involved a few niggles and negotiations about who would do what – not that they were reluctant quite the opposite all three very keen to do each other’s jobs!! Then A went to his group, T walked over with him to her group – brilliant – B despite being personally invited a couple of times decide to stay with me and help, which she is great at to be fair. The group time was as lovely as ever, I just love exploring bible truths with little ones, talking about how God loves to talk with us – my favourite comment of the morning was ‘God will even want to talk to us even if we are wearing our pyjamas’ – how true! Then we took little ones back to parents and Andrew quickly brought T back to me before he was next at the front, so we looked for somewhere to sit (whisper negotiating who would sit in the row first, and how close we could of could not be to each other!), and tried to catch up with where we were in the communion prayer. T joined in for one line then her foot touched B’s foot, and stress began to rise. I turned T round to create space, but she saw my bag and before I knew it she was on the floor trying to first things out of it like a dog with her mouth.. Funny enough, but then she lost balance and face planted into the bag! B now finding it funny too, probably distracting for others but I was relieved it was fun at least. T then told the steward we wouldn’t go that way ‘we always go to the front (stern frown), get through communion, last song means dancing (a must for T – exhausting for me). Then tidy up the group… Cue meltdowns and angry outbursts from girls, and peering round the door from those queueing for coffee, the final straw for me was hearing a visiting child sat to their carer ‘there’s a very naughty girl in there!’
Needless to say we set off for home asap before it got any worse!!
Sometimes getting to church is tough – sometimes I’m not sure if I can do it to be honest. But it’s family, truth is I need to be there, and my kids too despite the struggles and the times that feel excruciatingly uncomfortable on those kind of days. Let’s face it getting together at family gatherings has its moments too, there are niggles and sometimes things feel uncomfortable for a while – my kid’s meltdowns or implodes test me in that context too but I would never dream of not being in it all – its family, its a given. I guess that’s the challenge of church – accepting that it’s family & that’s a given – doesn’t make it easy, but I wouldn’t dream of not being in it all (meltdowns and all).
The day didn’t of course end there, what needs adding is the ‘are you OK?’ as I hurried children through the door, and the warm smile. The chat just outside the door as my kids found the space they’d been needing, and the fact that church family time doesn’t stop as I leave the building… Shared lunch, chances for conversation and coffee, meeting people mid week to chat about faith… It’s all part of being in the family, and for the whole package I’m extremely grateful!