Ever since the first Christmas when Mary and Joseph found themselves away from home with no room at the inn, the arrival of a new baby has put new parents under stress.
I was with my son’s family for a Christmas Cantata at their home church in Georgetown last Sunday. Their two year old had been allowed to stay with them in the sanctuary instead of the nursery because of the special program with a promise of a lot of singing. He loves to sing and was excited about staying with the big people for singing Christmas songs.
He tried so hard to be good, even though it took a long time to get through the service preliminaries before the music began. I watched him trying to wait without getting into trouble. He explored the hymnals, rearranged them in the back of the pew, looked at the offering envelopes 10 times, finding every single one of them empty each time he looked. He also explored the pen holder and the holes in the little shelf on the back of the pew in front of him designed to hold the communion cup.
The cantata was beautiful but very quiet, very long and very adult. I was afraid the adults in the seat in front of us were getting irritated with little hands busy with things on the back of their pew, but no one said anything and for that I was truly thankful.
I know how hard my son and his wife try to be perfect parents. I know how they are training their son to be a little gentleman and to behave appropriately for the occasion. I also know how exhausted they are with the new baby girl, jobs, juggling schedules, and working so hard all the time.
At one point when the cantata had gone long and came to an awkward pause he perked up and said, “I know! Let’s sing wa-hoo do-ray!” If you don’t have a little child in your life and haven’t seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas, this won’t mean anything. If you have seen the movie, cartoon or read the book, you will recognize this as the song sung by all of the citizens of Whoville as they gather around the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.
I was thankful for my son and daughter-in-law’s sake that we were sitting in a back corner near an exit door. His mom took him out for a drink and a change of scenery and before he announced any other opinions of how they might improve the cantata.
I wondered what the people in front of us were thinking, because not one of them ever cracked a smile about anything – not for the music, the performers, the joy of Christmas, or a two year old who had looked so forward to getting to attend big people church in the sanctuary.
I will confess that I’ve seen children in church who behave badly. I’ve seen children in stores who behave like little monsters. I’ve seen children in restaurants who make me wish I’d gone home and heated up some soup instead of eating out. Even the best children, and especially 2 year-olds, will be less than perfect at some point in their day, and more likely every few minutes.
In this Christmas season, it would be a great kindness to a new set of parents or to overworked parents with their hands full to have a little extra help. Instead of getting frustrated, maybe it is best to get involved. If there are little ones in your family or among your friends, the Christmas season is a great time to lend a helping hand. The rewards you will get back are priceless when you get to look at the world through the eyes of a child.