My toddler’s behavior during church is quite often disruptively athletic. Super wiggly, super chatty, and strong-willed, I’m sure many other moms have had the experience where their little ones insisted on their way or the high way. She’s great at doing what toddlers do–collapsing onto the floor, spinning in a circle, or even bolting across the church at a moment when I’m managing my older children. In the middle of worship (and often at quiet, inopportune times), she’ll often say, “Mama, I want a snack,” as a way to get me to take her to the toys in the nursery.
And so I distract her as best I can (techniques that magicians and mothers share in common). Many churches have icons lining the walls all around, and ours is no exception. In our parish, they’re positioned in between windows to the outdoors along the side walls. If she’s being wiggly, I’ll take her over and ask her questions about what she sees.
Often, when I ask her about a particular icon she says, “I don’t know!” Then I have to exercise my own memory and figure out how to explain them to her. I’ve had to memorize the saints in our church right along with her. And so, slowly by slowly, we’ve learned together that church isn’t all about about snacks. And while she may have a big space to spin around and make loud noises in, she’s in the company of the saints.