Retribution in the Church Nursery

18 Jun

I will never forget the first time I saw an adult who was quarreling with another adult using that person’s child in the nursery to take revenge.

I won’t forget it because it totally baffled me.  I am a strong volunteer at my church, but I am not on staff there nor did my child attend our day school (except for one year–he was homeschooled most of his career), so I don’t necessarily get all the personality machinations that can go on when people are together five or six days a week.

It is probably a blessing that I am the way I am, ya know?

However this was blatant, and stuck out to me.  My fellow nursery worker singled out one boy for a scolding when every boy in the nursery was doing exactly the same thing.

I didn’t get why she did that, but it was one of my favorite little boys, so I just held him extra close the rest of that hour.

Several weeks later, I saw the woman who had been in the nursery with me go up to the child’s mother and lay into her about another nursery issue.  Right before that mother had to sing at a service.  Nice!

It was then that I realized, in my naivete, there was a pattern going on.  There was either a quarrel between the two women or the woman who had been with me in the nursery was trying to take issue with her sister in Christ.  

Which is great, when it is done Biblically.  God gave us Matthew 18 for just that reason.

However, using someone’s child as a surrogate in my quarrel with that person is not in Matthew 18.  

Since then, I have seen the flipside of that issue.

I have seen mothers who won’t leave their children in the nursery, probably because they have seen them be used as surrogates in quarrels and don’t want that to happen.

Yikes!  Have we come to this?

It does not so much happen during services as during special events, like choir nursery or the nursery during a youth group activity.  

I will be tending the nursery, look up, and become aware that a family has its children in a nearby room, being supervised by the oldest child.

Which is fine–it keeps the nursery from being overwhelmed with children and, generally, parents will not leave their younger children with an irresponsible older child, as there are many dangers inherent in the church parking lot if someone gets away . . .  

There can be a danger of going too far with this, as in the time when I was tending the nursery during a youth event and one of the adults in attendance chose to keep her daughter out of the nursery (she was a bit older than the other children there).  The child eventually drifted in anyway, taking out every toy in the place, even those that belong to the day school and are not supposed to be used at church events.  When I talked to her, she said I was not in charge of her and she would not obey me.  And, when her mother came to get her in a hurry, she left all those toys on the floor for the younger children, their mother, and me to pick up!  Not cool.  You really can’t have it both ways.

It just makes my heart sad to realize that the issue of using a person’s child as a surrogate for retribution in the nursery must have been going on a lot longer and a lot more frequently than I realized, if we have come to this state of isolating our children into family groups during church events.  And, seemingly, no one has addressed it, parent to parent.

We are fallen human beings.  We get into trouble with each other by things we say and things we do.  Sometimes we get into trouble with each other by things that someone else surmises we are thinking, whether we actually are thinking them or not.

That is why God gives us grace, and encourages us to give it to each other.  We can’t survive without it.  In a nitpicking, tit-for-tat world, we all fall far short.  We all wipe out.

And we can end up using children as surrogates in our quarrels.  

God forbid.  I have many precious children in my life whom I have loved since birth.  My relationship to their parents and my relationship to them has to be separated so that, even if I find I have an issue with the parents, I am able to keep the child out of it.  

Children need consistency.  They need to know if I love them today, I will love them tomorrow and always.  

They don’t need to be used as pawns in quarrels or games of retribution.  That confuses them.  They don’t know, from day to day if a person likes them or hates them, nor why.

Let’s keep them out of our issues, shall we?  



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