Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rules, rules, rules...

I thought I'd write about my morning and what I think I've learned from it. Hee hee. We'll see if I still feel the same way later on.

Today I had my CBS study again. For the past couple of weeks, I've been reminded that this week was the week that we'd sign up for the "core group luncheon" at someone's house. We were told whose house it would be at, and I'd vaguely been looking forward to it as a nice way to get to know some of the other ladies in my small group. We really don't spend time with each other outside of core group, but I've enjoyed hearing their insights on the Bible study, so the thought of a luncheon was pleasant.

This morning, the group leader started to pass around a sign up sheet for things to bring. As she was passing it, I thought, "Nobody has said anything about accommodations for the kids," so I asked if Seth could come. Nobody had said anything about kids at this point. So I asked, and my leader said, basically, "CBS has a policy that children can't come to luncheons. I'm sorry."

I passed the sign up sheet on. And then I proceeded to sit there and feel the tears welling up behind my eyes for the next hour. I thought, "It's ridiculous that something like this is making me so upset," but it didn't stop the fact that I still felt like crying. I fought my emotions, and I fought them, and it was still surprisingly hard. When the core group time was over, and it was time to go up for lecture, somebody had another question about the food. I quietly slipped out. This morning, I was the only woman in our core group who has a young child in nursery, and at that moment, it was too lonely to sit there with all of the older women, most of whom are retired or have teens, listening to them discuss a luncheon that I wouldn't be attending. Which leads me to this thought:

If you are going to make a rule, be extremely careful that you don't make one that will hurt or exclude others. If you can forsee that that's what it will do, don't make the rule. CBS puts women of different ages and walks of life in core groups together. I like that idea, since it means that I will learn from older women who've already walked in my shoes. But as a result, only 3 out of 10 women have young children in my core group. When a rule is made that children can't be brought to a luncheon that is supposed to be for the whole group, then effectively, the luncheon is not for the whole group. You might as well call it "luncheon for people in the group without small children." Because that's what it is. These luncheons are scheduled to take place during the day, right after Bible study. Where is a young mother supposed to get a babysitter for an hour at that time of day? Is she supposed to pay someone to keep her child so she can go to someone's house for a bowl of chili and some fellowship? This is not a fancy dress dinner held at night. Would it really be so hard to include children?

My core group will be having three luncheons this year. I will not be able to go to any of them. And in my opinion, no group luncheon should have a restriction that creates a high hurdle for some of the members to come. It might be possible to have something at night, so that each mom might be more likely to be able to find someone to stay home with the children. Or, in the alternative, they should have a luncheon where young children are welcomed, if they bring their own toys, and where the hostess has been warned that she has to be willing to host children as well as adults. NO ONE should have to face a big roadblock to being able to come.

Yes, I know, young children are messy and loud and destructive. So the rule was probably made to keep houses from being trashed by young kids. But in making this rule, and in the interest of protection of furniture and bric a bric, another valuable interest is lost. And I think this interest is far more valuable than the other one. That is the valuable interest of providing a setting where older women can minister informally to younger women, many of whom are overwhelmed with parenting small children. Younger women might want the older women to get a taste of their lives by meeting their children. Maybe they wouldn't want that; I don't know. But I do think that they should have the option of it. The option is all that I care about, really. Take it or leave it, but it should be yours to take. There are enough places that a mom of young kids can't easily go. She shouldn't be excluded from another one in a name of some rule.

Rules can inhibit spiritual community. So just stop making so many of them...
I'll give you an example. I helped with child care one week at CBS, and afterward, I stayed for the lecture on video, since I'd missed it being in child care. In order to do this, I had to feed Seth there. He wouldn't eat well for anyone else, being very new at it, and his teacher told me that she'd fed her infant last year in the video room, and she told me that would be fine. So I plop his Bumbo on the table and take out his baby food. The video is going, and people are are eating. Seth is quiet; just grinning, making the occasional coo, and eating himself. The lady next to me is smiling at him, and he's grinning back.

I go into the bathroom while the video is still running, having to go while holding a baby, no easy feat, and when I come out of the stall, there is the head of the children's program, standing there waiting for me. Disconcerting, to say the least. She says sweetly, "I'm sorry, we don't let children come to the video room. They're too distracting to others during the lecture." I stammered something and left, embarrassed. When I got back to the room, the lady who had been sitting next to Seth said, "Thank you for bringing him to the room today. He blessed me so much, and I just wanted you to know that I appreciated that." So, because of an arbitrary rule, a retired woman whose grandkids are far away won't have the blessing of helping me feed a quiet baby while listening to a lecture. The rule decides exactly what kind of spiritual nourishment a person receives, not the person themself. They don't get a choice; the rule decides.

So avoid making community policing rules if you possibly can. Deal with it on a case by case basis, if needed. If there's a real problem, take care of it then. Most moms aren't going to let their kids disrupt others or destroy their stuff. They'll remove them before that happens. So why hurt them or single them out for rejection or criticism? Let their common sense operate, and give them grace. Grace, people. It's a beautiful thing...

Yes, I know this is a rant. But I'm hoping that somebody who might have some authority somewhere might see this and think about the possibility that building community and relationships might be better accomplished by letting go of some of the rules.


Andrea C. said...

Yikes! I'm sorry you had to deal with any of this. It stinks when someone else doesn't welcome your child b/c of rules they've set up...and why is it so easy to cry when you find out? I did the same thing not too long ago when my daughter, Kate, wasn't welcome. I took it so personally..and didn't attend the event. I felt Kate was more important than the shindig (sp?)...C'est la vie.

Kiddies in the Sun said...

I had a similar experience with Emma last year in CBS. She was 9 days old and I was told that I could take into our core group time. Again, she was 9 DAYS old! Even though she was very sounds asleep in her carrier, she head lady came into the class, and asked me to come in to the hall with her for a min. She said that I couldn't have Emma in there, no it didn't matter that she was 9 days old and I didn't want to leave her anywhere. I had to take her to the nursery, or leave, and of course she never woke up in the nursery, she would have been fine with us in the core group. I was pretty upset about it.
But I've had a few things happen with BSF too, with Collin this year.

This makes me think of our parenting too. Sometimes we make rules that really aren't necessary, and as you said, we really should take it case by case and see what needs to be for that particular situation.

The Mom said...

I agree that this rule is bad, and you are right about how the rule affects people with small children.

But there is another side to this. While you are a responsible parent and Seth a well-parented child, there *are* families in churches who really don't control their children, and if those children are brought into any "fellowship" setting there is just chaos.

And houses do get trashed and it isn't fun if it is your house.

I have always worked hard to keep my children well behaved in group settings, and I try to be extra extra vigilant if they are in someone else's house.

I am not suggesting that you do this, but there are parents who don't seem to care what chaos their children cause, how they climb on furniture, tread food into carpects, destroy electrical equipment etc.

I know we are to "suffer the little children" - but parents have a responsibility too, to make sure their children don't cause havoc. If more parents did this, maybe there would be fewer rules.