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Scenario: You're new in town.  I'm your closest friend in the whole entire universe; we live together, we eat together, we hang out together.  One morning, I tell you that I'm taking you to a fun party.  It's early, and you don't quite get to eat your favourite breakfast, but whatever.  It's a party! It's fun, right? Plus we're going together, so it's not so scary; at least we have each other!

As we arrive at the party, you realize that you don't recognize anyone and you're not entirely sure where you are.  Some of the faces seem vaguely familiar, but nobody that you would know the names of or would dare call a friend.  I start to mingle with people that I know well, and soon I let you know that I'll be right back.  Famous last words, right? Suddenly you find yourself alone.  You don't see me anywhere.  As you look around at all the strange faces, you notice that there are several other party-goers who don't seem to want to be here, and are very vocal about the fact that they are miserable.  Their loud complaining and angry tones actually freak you out a little.

You look around for me, but you can't see me anywhere.  It dawns on you that you don't actually have a way to contact me or locate me (except maybe to wander around this strange place aimlessly), plus you have no idea when (or if) I'm coming back to get you.  You have no details about when this party ends, and you can't tell what time it is, but it feels like you've already been here for an eternity.  The hosts try to placate you and the disgruntled guests with some of their best toys and games, which really don't seem all that engaging when you realize that the only fun stuff is already being used, and the people playing with those don't look open to sharing or including you.  The rest of the guests are in varying stages of misery, and nobody appears to be having any fun.

You start to feel incredibly anxious.  Your heart is racing, your face is flushed, and with each passing moment, you get more fearful and miserable, wishing you were home, eating your breakfast in a familiar setting.  Why did you agree to come to this party anyway? Why did I ditch you? Never again! You decide that you hate this place and these people and you never ever want to see them again. You just want to go home, but in the meantime, all you can do is cry.

Now imagine that you're feeling all of this, but you are 17 months old and not an adult, and you're in the church nursery with 10 other screaming babies and toddlers rather than at a party.  It's Sunday morning, your mommy and daddy are inside the sanctuary, and the nursery volunteers are people you've never seen before in your short life.  You desperately miss your mommy, and you have no vocabulary to express how you're feeling.  You have nothing to offer you any security against the raging waters of anxiety and fear threatening to overwhelm your little brain.  Because you have no sense of time, you have no idea when your mommy might be coming back (if at all) and every minute feels like a hour. All you can do is wail hysterically.

This is why mother's rooms are a bazillion times better than infant nurseries at a church.  And this is why Little L doesn't go into the nursery. 

I do not want my baby girl to hate going to church, but to leave her in the care of strangers, week after week, for an hour at a time will probably cause her to associate church with all sorts of negative feelings.  Not quite the Pavlovian response I'm hoping for.

What have your experiences been with church and infant care? How does your child/toddler/baby cope on Sunday mornings? 


Kitten said…
I find this interesting, because a lot of churches that I know of that offer infant care also allow you to do what many expensive preschools allow you to do -- sit in a session or two and allow your child to get to know the caretakers. Even my gym offered this option for its child care. Basically, you sit there and they can walk over to the other adults to introduce themselves and hopefully after a few sessions, it's not like you're dumping them with strangers, but with people you know. Also, they all suggested going at the same time/days so that your child developed bonds with the other children.

Alternatively, my son's preschool told me when he was three that the best thing for him would be for me to start leaving him an extra day a week (3 instead of 2) and for me to NOT stay with him. He was older and more able to make friends then though and my staying with him and keeping him with me more often hindered that. Sure enough, once I upped the days and left more promptly, he made more friends and missed me less.

I go to a Catholic church and we just keep our children with us the entire time. We can keep Belly quiet an entire session with judicious use of Gerbers puffs or mum-mums.
Mrs. Loquacious said…
In our current church, the nursery is volunteer-run, so there is a rotation of people in there that changes weekly. Also, parents are technically not allowed in because the volunteers all have background and security checks, which parents don't.

But my kid refuses to be left. She will wail until I'm there, even if it is after an hour (not that we would let it go that long). Maybe when she's 3, it will be easier?

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