26 March 2007

Woman to Woman: Is it really a family night out?

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A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to face our fears and go out to dinner. As a family.

Now. Our kids have energy. And I mean en.er.gy. They have a hard time staying in their seat for the entire length of a meal. We're still working on using our forks instead of our hands to eat, for pete's sake. But, we want them to learn to act as civilized beings rather than animals, so we took the bull by the horns and we went out. To Denny's. And everything went well... because we didn't try to take them to a fancy schmancy place. We took them somewhere they blended in.

I think the same goes for formal events like concerts and weddings. As a musician, I perform a lot. And my 8 year old is just beginning to attend some of my concerts. We made sure she was ready to sit still and listen and appreciate where she was before bringing her. She will also be accompanying my husband and I this summer to her first wedding. Our middle two boys (ages 2 and 4) will not be attending, because they are simply not ready for such an event. It has less to do with their age than it does their temperament, however. Because I have seen some very well mannered toddlers. Some parents are lucky that way!

When my mother passed away 3 years ago, I got a sitter for my children during the ceremony. They attended the viewing and the burial, but the ceremony, which was more formal and quiet, not to mention very emotional for me, was no place for toddlers.

Church, I think, is different. I believe that is one place where children should learn, as soon as possible, how to govern themselves. I am LDS, so the set up we have is an hour long sacrament meeting (where our primary worship takes place, as a family), followed by 2 hours of instructional classes, geared towards the men, the women, and the children ages 18 months and up, respectively. Do they fidget during sacrament meeting? Yes. Do they cry? Sometimes. Do I feel, at times, like I got nothing out of it? Yes. But sometimes effort alone is enough. Do I let them run amok? No. It is simply a teaching experience, and I believe that church, as with some other things, is going to be a sacrifice from time to time on behalf of my children's welfare.

These days, there are many great opportunities for families to attend special events geared specifically towards little children. The environment is such that there can be noise, without concern over disturbing those around you... concerts and movies in the park, and children's museums, for instance. I really applaud the emergence of these opportunties, because they are enriching, and nobody wants to forego cultural experiences for the entirety of parenthood. Nor do they want to deny their children of the learning experiences they provide. So we need not feel like we're excluded from the finer things in life just because we are parents.

Back when we had our first child and could still afford to fly everywhere, we had a very unpleasant experience with a disgruntled passenger. He was travelling on business and wanted complete quiet so he could sleep. While I respected that he had a personal space not to be intruded upon, the air surrounding us was to be shared equally, and I could not tape and bind my child to her seat to assure that she made nary a peep or giggle. So I do believe that tolerance for children in some grown up places needs to be encouraged and learned. I'd even go so far to say out with the "children should be seen and not heard" mindset! But there is definitely a time and a place for children, and parents have a responsibility to consider carefully their readiness for social events, as well as to prepare them.

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Morning Glory said...

Ah, wise words, as usual, and very nicely put. I look forward to what the many perspectives bring.

Jen said...

I think children should be seen and heard and believed. Just in the right places and the right times! ;)

An Ordinary Mom said...

Balance seems to be the answer to many things lately. Children need to be children, but they also need to learn to have boundaries.

Very nicely put post!

Julie said...

I love your comments! I agree with you that sometimes there could be a little more tolerance shown for a child's "spontaneity". :-) Especially if one is trying their best to be respectful.

Lisa M. said...

Once again, I am so glad to be a part of this, thank you for making it open to everyone.

This one was much harder for me, than last weeks.

I've enjoyed reading the few I have been too, so far!

Ah, people on the plane who are not understanding, can be a tough one!

Hootin'Anni said...

Great read for us. I really related to that episode you mentioned about air travel. I remember those days [now, truthfully, it's been a long time since I've had little ones---even my youngest GRANDson is 11!!] --anyhoo, I remember our son once coming home on a plane and wasn't too pleasant, and one assured me to keep the kid quiet or else ---I on the other hand, told them just where to 'get off' ---'cause as you said, the inside of a passenger plane is just that---public. So, eventually sonny boy fell asleep, and I had my say to the nasty adult!


And of course, my thoughts on this subject have been posted. [PS...my header is different than the buttons you provided, I hope that's okay]

Randi said...

I think that "age appropriate" is something important to consider, for sure. Some events are just not meant for kids and it would be better to get a sitter. The kids won't be missing out on anything!

Tigersue said...

I think you and I have the same opinions about things. It is kind of hard to balance at times.

Montserrat said...

I whole-heartedly agree with all you said in your post, especially with how there should be more tolerance for the times a child is somewhat disruptive. Some adults I've seen can be very rude to children and then turn around and 'act-up' themselves.

Susie said...

Excellent post. I agree with you 100% on your views about children and funerals. I'm enjoying reading the different points of view!

Lee said...

I agree with you Lei.. It is hard. Sometimes you have to take them when you don't want to. And often you luck out with the perfect babysitter. Balance.. a necessity.

amyjane said...

It in indeed all about balance! Great thoughts!

scribbit said...

They have here a performing troupe that does theatrical productions for children and I love taking the kids to them because it teaches them how to behave at those kinds of events. The first time we went the boys turned and asked if there would be commercials. I figured it was a good thing I was taking them, evidently their education in that area was sadly lacking.

Liam's Mom - Gina said...

Very encouraging post! I have such a rough time with sacrament meeting. Having a baby makes going to church more a chore than a weekly uplift. I know the sacrifices are worth their weight in gold, but I still have such a bad attitude about it. I guess I am selfish that way... if I go to church, I want the FULL experience like I used to get. Thanks for your wonderful example!

sippinghotchocolate said...

nice to meet you.

Zoe said...

I liked reading this. My views are similar to yours. I really have a hard time at church . . .especially if we visit wards with mostly older families. I know that it is good for them to learn though.

I am bummed that I missed this week's w to w. My mom left town yesterday and it was a crazy day. I will catch it next time.

Lucy said...

I enjoy reading your blog and thought I'd introduce myself. I found you though Shelah's blog but my sister, Emily, has your link too.

Anyhoo, you're a great writer and if you don't mind, I'll stop by every now and again:)

LOVE Woman to Woman. Thinking about joining but I'm not sure I'm inspirational. More of a ranter, really. :)

Lei said...

Please do join us Lucy! Not all topics are deep and probing... some are fun and lighthearted. :)