Tag Archives: religion

Visitation Day Blues: Kid Edition

As we all piled for our morning cuddle on the couch the kids asked what the plan was for the day. I told them, “Don’t forget, you guys need to pack your backpacks with quiet activities, today is visitation.”

Captain, my oldest asked, “Is it the one where we go to the coffee shop?”

“No, that’s the other visit. Today is the one where you need to sit quietly in the car in the parking lot so your baby sister can sleep while the baby is visiting with his mom.”

Both my preschooler and kindergartener groaned. This is the least favorite day of the week. We eat an early lunch, every one goes potty, and we load up into the van and head to the other side of the county for our fosterling to visit his mother for an hour. Because of when it’s scheduled, my little ones end up stuck in the car for two and a half hours. I don’t like it either. Trying to keep my older kids quiet and occupied so that my youngest can get some sleep is stressful. On good days, she gets half of her normal length in nap. On bad days, it’s a 5 minute nap and a whole afternoon of meltdowns. It’s not easy on our foster baby either. Some how it always works out that he gets awoken to go to the visit or awoken once we get to the visit. Lots of interrupted sleep usually equals a very long day with lots of crying, nap fighting, and fussiness for him.

“Mom, we don’t like this visitation day! It’s boring!” I sighed as the day had just started and the complaining was already starting. Milkman looked at me sleepily from the corner of the couch where he spent the early morning after a very early wake up call from our foster baby. We trade off nights, so I actually got sleep last night, but I couldn’t say the same for my sweet husband.

As much as I wanted to reply, “Stop complaining, too bad!” I realized this was a teaching moment. “You know what guys? I don’t necessarily like this visitation day either. It’s stressful for me trying to ensure every one is quiet in the car. But… Well. Do you know why we do this? God says that we need to care for orphans and widows. Do you know what a widow is? It’s someone who has lost their spouse and has no one to care for them. Do you know what an orphan is?”

They looked at me blankly.

“An orphan is someone who either doesn’t have living parents, or their parents cannot currently safely care for them. The foster children we’ve had in and out of our home are considered orphans. So we actually have a really important job, because we are obeying God when we care for foster children. We don’t just do this because babies are cute— even though they are! We do this because we love them, and have a duty to obey God, and this is how our family has been called to obey. And one of the jobs of foster families is to make sure foster children get to see their parents.”

They nodded slowly. Well, the older kids did. My youngest, Peachy, was dancing around like a wild maniac to Celtic Christmas music. Never a dull moment.

Milkman chimed in, “Can you imagine if you only got to see mama and papa two hours a week?? You would miss us so much and we would miss you so much, right? The baby’s mommy wants to see her baby.”

I continued, “Exactly! And that’s one way we can serve his mommy, too. She loves her baby. So I know that visitation day is kinda lousy and boring for us. But it’s a sacrifice we make together as a family to obey God and to serve the baby and his mommy. Can you understand that?”

“Yes, mama.” They replied. I’m sure they didn’t feel super happy to go on with the plan for the day, but at least they now knew there was a valid reason behind their boring day ahead.

Sometimes teaching moments are hard to come by, and sometimes they fall perfectly in your lap, like it did for us today. My kiddos do sacrifice a lot for our family to continue fostering. While it’s not as much as Milkman and I have to, it’s a decent amount for very young children.

I hope they know, for as long or short as we have to foster, it’s not just something we do for the heck of it. It’s something that takes self sacrifice. It’s something that is hard to do. It’s something that takes giving up our schedules, preferences, and desires. It’s certainly not something we do for praise from others or accolades. But, most importantly it’s something that we do in love and obedience— together. As a family.

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It’s Not a Season, It’s a Baby.

“It’s just not your time.”

 

“It’s only for a season.”

 

“It doesn’t last forever, this is just how it is for all of us.”

 

“You can get spiritual feeding in AFTER your kids are older.”

 

These are just some of the responses I have received many times when I have lamented that I am struggling with my place in the church since having children. But guess what? I got sick of it.  I’ve talked to my spiritual advisors, to my elders, to my husband, I’ve cried out to the Lord about it, and here’s what I came up with in response to those statements:

 

This is absolute crap.

 

Okay, okay, so maybe that’s not the nicest way to put it, but that’s what I’ve wanted to say.

 

When I had Captain in 2012, I spent an entire year worshipping apart from my husband.  I use the term “worshipping” very loosely.  I spent a year in a room either alone, or with 2 other wonderful nursing women and their babies that had a TV with the sermon being piped in, while my husband sat in the service and got to listen to the sermon like the rest of the church, because he wasn’t lactating and I was.

 

At the year mark, after countless Sundays and Thursdays being stuck in a room apart from my husband where the audio or the visual wasn’t working at times, I had had it.  I went to my wonderful husband, my sweet spiritual head and with tears pouring down my face I said, “I can’t do this anymore. I haven’t heard a whole sermon, let alone a quarter of a sermon in a year.  My daily devotional time suffers, I never get to fellowship with the body anymore, I am sick of being in a room apart from you and not hearing the word preached.  I need help because I feel like I am drowning.”

 

My husband held me while I cried and we decided it was high time I made my way back into at least the lobby, if not the sanctuary of our church.  Thankfully, the lobby of our church at the time has two large glass windows and the sermon audio piped in, so we were able to take Captain into the lobby from the sanctuary if he got too loud, without me being segregated from my husband, and without feeling shut up in a dark room by myself.

 

Once we had Mamitas, we were told by a well meaning woman that there were people uncomfortable with me nursing in the lobby– even with a cover.  Back to the nursing room I went– feeling alone, defeated, and an outcast.

 

Even for women’s functions, I was told were for adult women, and to leave my nursing child home with daddy.  Women’s teas, retreats, and social events weren’t the place for my nursing baby.

 

I began to see a common trend.  The people who were the most unsupportive of me in my young motherhood were not some chauvinistic, patriarchal men– it was women.  Every time. And not just women who didn’t have husbands or kids, no!  It was always middle-aged to older women, who had children at one point in their lives too.  These same women had probably sat in the same dark rooms, nursing under blankets in bathrooms or lobbies or hallways, not hearing the Word preached, longing to be fed, and they were probably placed there by other older women themselves.

 

I’ve talked to many young mothers about this in the church, and we all seem to be frustrated with it, but for some reason, the squeakiest wheels seem to be the older women, and so, we young moms end up in a dark back room because we have noisy babies and milk in our breasts.

 

I can’t help but think this has only become an issue in the last 100-150 years in the westernized world, due to two things:

 

  1. The change from biological feeding with breasts to bottles and thereby making breasts single (and sexually) purposed in our societies.
  2. The popularity of segregating children from adults into their very specific age groups– namely because of the public school system and the rise of Sunday School and mandatory nursery care in churches.

 

Tell me that Ma Ingalls had to nurse her baby in a cry room, or that Mary had to take Jesus to the nursery each Sabbath.  That just wasn’t a thing.  This has not been the norm for thousands of years, and because of tradition and popular culture, the church now has no place for young mothers and babies.  How is a church to grow and sustain itself without young families?  It can’t.  It will die out without children.

 

What other sector of the body of Christ do we tell, “It’s not your season to listen to the preaching of the Word of God”?  What if we told teenage boys that they were excluded for this season, or old women, or elementary aged children?  We would all be in an uproar.  The gospel message and preaching of the Bible is for ALL Christians.  Its commanded that we be in fellowship and following good, solid teaching and doctrine, and yet, I hear it constantly. “It’s just not your time– we all go through this.”

 

As for the claim that I have heard the most: “It’s just a season in your life”: I hear the “season” comment mostly from women who have chosen to have 1 or 2 babies.  Most of these women either didn’t breastfeed at all, or they did for a very short period of time. That was the perfect amount of babies for them.  That was the perfect amount of time for them to nurse.  Milkman and I desire a large family.  Thus far, I’ve been nursing 2 days short of 48 months straight.  We choose to let our kiddos wean sometime after 2.5.  What if my “season” is 10 years?  Is it okay for any Christian to miss out on preaching for 10 years?  My grandmother had 15 pregnancies, and raised 13 children over a course of 21 years.  TWENTY-ONE YEARS.  By the season argument, if my grandmother had been in a modern Evangelical church, her season would have been about 23 years.  

 

23 years of no women’s retreats.  23 years of not sitting with my grandfather in church.  23 years of audio/visual mishaps on the CCTV in the nursing room.  23 years of not getting spiritual feeding with the rest of the congregation.  Many years of also not sitting with her older children in church, leaving my grandfather with 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, kids to manage on his own. Many years of being alone and lonely and told by her older sisters, “Sorry, Panchita, it’s just not your season.”

 

Let’s be real, sitting in a sermon with young children and babies is still going to have you struggling to get the full message uninterrupted each week.  I’m not ignorant of the fact that children distract us in church and need parenting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week– meaning I’m not off duty for 2 hours each Sunday, and my kids are still going to need my attention.  But if my husband and I are tackling the parenting in church together as a team, we can support each other, be encouraged that we aren’t alone, be with the rest of the congregation on a Sunday (what a concept!), and most importantly, we can worship together, teaching our children of the importance their parents place on the preaching of God’s Word, and honoring the Lord’s day.

 

I don’t think we should do away with nursing rooms, I appreciated ours when I was in the early stages of nursing and needed 17 hands and a boppy to get a good latch.  I don’t think we should do away with nurseries.  I think they are excellent options for parents of children who are happy to go into childcare.  I don’t think we should do away with Sunday School, I loved Sunday School as a kid, and it serves a wonderful purpose for families who would like their child in a more kid-friendly environment.

 

In fact, this isn’t even so much about where to nurse as it is about women tearing down other women.  I see it constantly, not just in the church, but I see it there a lot.  I am incredibly thankful for a husband who advocates for me, for elders who have listened to me while I weep, and for the few, very special older women in my church who have been there to encourage me and help me through this sometimes lonely journey of being a nursing mother.  But the naysayers are always the ones whose comments seem to be what sticks with you.

 

To those older sisters, I just want to say, I know kids can be a distraction.  I know they can be annoying, believe me I have personal experience in dealing with their frustrating behaviors!  I know it is easy to forget that you were once in my shoes, but dear older sister, would you show me some compassion?  If not on me, then on my helpless infant. She needs love from her church, to hear as a baby what the Word says.  She needs to hear her pastor praying and she needs to see her parents lifting their hands to the Lord in worship.  She needs to hear the Psalms read, so that one day she can say, “There was never a day I could remember that I didn’t know the love of Jesus.”

 

Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room.

 

–Joel 2:16

 

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**as an addendum, I would like to share that after meeting with our elders and lots of prayer, we are happily worshiping with the congregation each Sunday, and it feels so good to be with my brothers and sisters while still nourishing my youngest, tending to my olders, and standing next to my husband.**

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