Alone in the pew
“Can we sit up in the balcony, Mom?” I had been sitting in our church pew for a good five minutes after choir practice, waiting for the kids to come up from Sunday School.
I must have looked a little hesitant, because he continued, “we’re old enough!”
“I know you are…” And what was it our pastor had just been saying about friendship and fellowship? My kids just wanted to sit with their friends.
“Okay, honey. But if there’s any trouble up there, you’ll be back down here next time.”
When we first started attending this church, my sons were five, four, and three months. We sat in the balcony the first few times, maybe the first month or two. On our debut at the church, my older two were dressed up like Incredible Hulk and SpiderMan (it was two months before Halloween) with noisy little cowboy boots that made the stairs creak as they clomped up and down them. “I’m thirsty,” “I have to go to the bathroom,” “Can I get crayons?” The day that my middle son was sick to his stomach and hurled all over the balcony (the one positive aspect is that that section is uncarpeted) was the day that I decided, that was it. We could not sit up there anymore. It was too noisy, too distracting, for them and all the others who frequently turned around to look at us.
“Oh, kids, Mommy didn’t realize, but you have to be eight years old to sit up in the balcony…we’re gonna need to find different seats downstairs.” I asked the pastor to back me up on this.
I figured the best place to sit would be right up front, and we’ve sat in the second row in front of the lectern for the last five years. That way if anyone was looking at us, I surely wouldn’t know about it.
More than two years ago when my oldest turned eight, he announced, “I’m old enough now, so I’m going to sit in the balcony.”
“Okay, honey,” I’d said.
He did it once, and realized it wasn’t so fun to sit alone up there. There was no way I’d let my middle son up there with him, since he was only six at the time, and not only would that be “not fair,” but also, I didn’t think he was mature enough then. So, for two more years, we all sat together, except when my youngest went off to sit with his “big friends.”
“Why does he always sit with them,” my middle son had asked one time.
“Because they’re nice to him.” It’s the phenomenon where older kids are able to be nice to other kids’ younger siblings, but not their own (if they even have any).
Today there was no trouble at all. My younger two came forward for the children’s sermon, and after that my youngest went back with his big friends and my middle son sat with me until it was time for communion, and then he sat in front of me with the kids who had come back from bell choir practice (and did his very best to remain reverent, despite all the other squirming, poking, and bread ball rolling in the pew, one of the deaconesses kindly assured me). My oldest remained in the balcony for the entire service.
It felt weird not to have to wrestle with someone, hush anyone, or insist someone get up off the floor and out from under that pew right now. (“No, I don’t care if the ministry dog is on the floor. You are not a dog.”) I thought about whether I should insist that we all sit together as a family, but realized that the whole congregation is, indeed, our church family.
I want my kids to have friends at church, and I want them to enjoy being at church. So, as long as there’s “no trouble up there,” I’ll let them sit wherever they want.