When Lucas was a baby, we met with a small congregation that rented a union hall. The union must not have been very popular. At the end of a narrow hall was the only room big enough for meeting together, and thirty of us filled it up. Five of us were nursing mothers, and since that was over half the families in the congregation, the men agreed that we should be able to simply step out of the room to get ourselves situated, then come back in to sit and listen to the sermons or Bible classes while we nursed our babies. New babies have a tendency to nurse for long periods of time. We might have missed a full hour if these men had not been so mature-minded, and we ladies gratefully learned early how to stay modest while nursing. I doubt anyone walking in would have even known what we were doing.
When Nathan was a toddler we had moved to a place with an actual meetinghouse. It was an old building way out in the country with absolutely no modern conveniences except electric lights, and certainly no nursery. You walked in the door and there you stood in the open auditorium. That meant when you had to deal with unruly children, you dealt with them and then came right back into the assembly.
So why do I think I was lucky? Because I did not have the source of temptation that so many young mothers must deal with today. When you have no choice, there is no temptation. Young mothers today must be much stronger than I ever had to be.
I gleaned advice from several older women during those years. My mother, for instance, was happy to tell me about how she foiled my attempts to ruin her worship services. I always acted up and she would take me to the nursery—she lived in the city. Finally, when I was 18 months old, she realized that she had not trained me, I had trained her—all I had to do was wiggle and squeal a little and I got to go play! The next Sunday, she took me, not to the nursery, but outside, and applied her hand to my bottom in a less than comforting way. Then she marched me right back into the auditorium. She said I looked at her with outrage, as if to say, “This is NOT how it works! You broke the rules!” But I was not a stupid child; I learned the new rule quickly: being taken out of the assembly is not a pleasant experience.
I went to visit her once at this same meetinghouse. Suddenly, my baby needed a diaper change and needed it then. To have stayed sitting there any longer would have broken the commandment to “Love thy neighbor.”
So I got up and took my twenty-month-old to the nursery. I was stunned when I walked in. Several young mothers, and a few who looked like grandmothers, were sitting in there chatting away. A playpen had been placed in the middle of the room, full of toys. The side of the playpen was lowered and each baby was sitting around it, reaching in and playing with both the toys and each other. Could the women see the preacher? Yes, there was a large picture window in front of them. Could they hear the preacher? Well, there was a speaker on the wall, but their talking and laughing drowned it out.
After the diaper change, I got out of there as quickly as I could. I recognized the siren call immediately. I had dealt with two babies at once, while their father preached. We never lived close to family so I never had a grandparent to help out either. It was often tiring, frustrating and embarrassing to try to train my children to behave in the assembly. To have a place to go where I would no longer have to wrestle with them, where they could play and squeal to their heart’s content, would have been wonderful. But it would not have taught them how important the group worship of God is, how precious the rituals we follow, how much it meant to me and therefore how much it should mean to them.
Being a parent is not for the weak of heart, mind, or body. You are on duty 24/7 and you must do what you must do no matter what else is going on in your life. Children will not wait. You cannot easily “unteach” what you later wish you had not taught. I would give anything to undo a lot of the mistakes I made, but it just won’t happen. In the end you hope you did more right than wrong, and that those right things were more lasting and impressive.
Think about what you do, when you do it, and how. Think about what those little eyes see and those little ears hear. Think the most about what those little minds infer from what they see and hear you doing. Your children aren’t stupid either. Whatever it is you do, when you do it, it stays with them the longest.
And [Hannah] said, "Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have given him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there, 1 Sam 1:26-28.