We haven't graduated to the point where someone might say, "You boys were so quiet I didn't even know you were there!" But we are making progress.
It hasn't been all that long ago that my husband and I had to pump each other up for Sunday morning church - like soldiers preparing for battle.
Week after week we would rush into church, always late, settling into our pew, hoping shirts were on right, we had remembered all of our shoes, and hair and faces were in order.
It would always start out OK. They usually made it through the children's sermon relatively unnoticed. The music over the next few minutes would usually drowned out all the ruckus coming from our offspring.
But then... the sermon would begin.
Our time had run out.
We braced. It was game time. Us versus them. Civility versus complete chaos.
We were up against twenty solid minutes of only one man's voice. It wasn't even close to enough to cover the screams, untimely laughs, occasional harsh words and tears that would be coming from our children.
On bad weeks we would drag them out of the sanctuary. On good weeks we might make it through the sermon but our neighbors probably wished we had drug them out.
For what seemed like ages this went on. Each week I left feeling defeated, often wondering if it was worth it. I wasn't hearing the message, they certainly weren't, and because of us half the church wasn't either.
At some point, it stated getting better. I've found more weeks than not that I am actually hearing the message. And recently, I noticed our oldest proudly and easily joining us all in the Lord's Prayer while he colored. He was actually taking something in.
With light at the end of this tunnel, I suddenly have time to be grateful. Not one time in the last years has any of our church family said anything hurtful about the boys' behavior.
No one told us to stop coming. No one told us we were bad parents.
One time, in response to the frustration showing through my face, my pastor told me that if he couldn't preach over the noise of the children than he shouldn't be preaching at all.
On one particularly bad day, I remember a man kindly winking at me while I marched an unruly child to the back of the church. He was reaching out, saying "It's OK. This too shall pass." That meant so much to me. I never told him that.
I am so grateful for that kindness shown. I am so thankful our church gave us time to get where we are, without judgement. Even if it took our boys longer than most.
"But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children." Matthew 19:14
To any parent out there, dealing with those same Sunday struggles, I want you to know it is worth it. And remember, this too shall pass.
And to anyone else having their Sunday worship interrupted by a child behaving like a rabbid raccoon, know you're doing the right thing by biting your tongue. Or better yet, giving a kind smile or joyful wink.
That mother and father are working on it. But they need your kindness or they may lose the battle.
Even though we've gotten better, we still aren't perfect. I imagine for quite some time I'll continue praying with one eye opened and continue being grateful for the kindness and forgiveness of those around us.