Its a Jungle Out There (or wild monkeys in the halls at church)

By: Craig - January 25, 2007

Years ago, my wife confided to me that Sundays are definitely not a day of rest. To be perfectly fair, I conceded the point. I was serving in a Bishopric and “got” to escape the struggle of getting small children ready for church, loading them into the car, and then sitting with said children alone while your spouse quietly and serenely smiled down upon your antics from the stand. We talked about this and agreed that my responsibility to my children didn’t end because I was on the stand. Many are the sacrament meetings that I have a small squirrly in the chair next to me in an attempt at discipline or reward for good behavior (my son would have gladly submitted to a public thrashing rather than sit in front of people, my daughter was just the opposite). The ward members didn’t seem to mind.

I guess the way we see it is that we were parents before we were members of the Bishopric or Primary Presidents. The problem is, there seems to be a growing feeling that parents responsibilities end at the door.

Last month at our ward Christmas dinner, I had the unfortunate assignment of patrolling the halls as there seemed to be an outbreak between the crips and the bloods in the halls. Screams, cries of pain, muffled whumps as flesh hit flesh…I even think I heard a few gunshots.

As I tried to break up the 9 and 10 year old gang members and send them to sit with their families, one particular sweet spirit breathed out some choice epithets and told me his mom wasn’t there and I wasn’t her anyway so just…well lets just say take a flying leap. My wife, knowing my endless depths of patience for children, came and tried to reason with the little angel (she is the primary presidents and has worked hard to try and create a relationship with said angel). The little sweet spirit proceeded to disrespect my wife, at top voice, with creative abandon, in front of me. Now I am no saint, and the vessels on the side of my head were already pulsing, but this literally made me see red and but for her intervention there might have been red liberally splashed on the sides of the walls. I spent the rest of the night standing next to this young man as the rest of the ward party proceeded. It should probably be stated that, for my sins, I am once again ensconced in the bishopric. Other children had complained about their violence, they had disrupted the Christ-centered program, and my daughter came to me in tears as these sweet spirits had not only made fun of her when she went through the hall to get a drink, but had made fun of the Savior to her face. Try to comfort your 11 year old daughter who could turn her own cheek, but was hurt to the core when asked to turn the Savior’s.

I spent the rest of the night standing in the foyer next to this angel until his mother came to pick him up. She was busy and had things to do.

A couple of years ago, a similar scenario played out on a Sunday morning. When the offenders were brought to their parents for rectification, the parents in question answered, “Oh no, this is our time at church, they’re your problem now”.

Increasingly, there seems to be a trend toward placing boundaries on the responsibilities of parents, whether by parents or by society. When we had a problem at school with a teacher issue, we were treated like we were idiots and the school knew what was best for our children. I know for some people, it may “take a village”. But in the end they are my responsibility.

Many enter into parenthood without understanding the responsibilities involved. Every 16-year-old Tom, Dierdre, and Helen can jump into the back seat and create children who will never have a chance in the world because the parents will take no responsibility. And the upshot is that there is increased crime, poverty, abuse…and running in the halls.


  1. Well I am glad that I am not the only one with a similar rant. I have a hard enough time with letting children walk the halls during church even when they are ‘behaving’ (as my belief is that they should be attending church). For a time, we had members who would drop off their children regularly for mutual and then return when it was over. Note that I said children and not then young men/women. Primary age children were being dropped off as if it was a babysitting service. I’ve heard about families becoming inactive because they were told that they couldn’t use the church as a babysitting service. Or possibly better yet, the parent that nods their head, and then turns around and does it again the next week.

    My last ward was a similar winner. During ward activities, the adults would congregate in the gym (does anyone call them cultural halls anymore?) while their children ran wild in the halls. Then I would get yelled at (literally) by the bishop if I 1) asked the children to calm down, 2) told the parents that their children were acting improperly (like jumping out the windows) or 3) required that my children stayed with me during the activity and not run off. (at the time my kids and most of the ward were aged

    Comment by Alexander — 1/25/2007 @ 11:52 am

  2. less than 6 years.

    Apparently there is a limit to what I can write in a post so let me finish my last and add a few more words that I thought on.

    This is the “lack of responsibility” syndrome seen in the U.S. in general where no one is willing to take personal responsibility for their (or their children’s) actions. Its not Johny’s fault he can’t sit still, its biological and he needs drugs. It’s not my fault Jane won’t sit with me in sacrament meeting, ….

    Comment by Alexander — 1/25/2007 @ 11:57 am

  3. Ah, yes. Hall runners. You know, I had good parents and ended out running through my fair share of hallways. That said, and despite their volition to act likewise, we do our best to keep our boys from doing so.

    I think you are correct that there is systemic abdication of responsibility. Fortunately, in most the wards in which I have lived, it hasn’t been much of a problem.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 1/25/2007 @ 12:35 pm

  4. Hall runners are one thing, but over the top rudeness and meanness are what really get me. Just last week my poor young women saw a side of me that I had hitherto successfully kept secret for the past two years: a group of (unknown) young men entered the church during our basketball practise and proceeded to make mean, disparging remarks about my young women when they discovered that the gym was, indeed, occupied by a legitimate activity. I lost it, handed my toddler to one of the girls, and proceeded to throw the boys out, complete with controlled angry voice, glaring eyes, one slammed door, and clear (but clean) gestures …

    Comment by JennyW — 1/25/2007 @ 4:07 pm

  5. The problem is, there seems to be a growing feeling that parents responsibilities end at the door.

    Do you REALLY think this, Craig? Come on, there are free-loading parents in every institution in America- kind of like the Thernardiers but less villainous. But my perception at church has been that most parents are very involved with their children, and don’t just check that responsibility at the door.

    Your horrible experience with that very bratty young man (and his unconcerned mother) made my blood boil because I CANNOT STAND young men like this, or parents who don’t give a damn. But can you really claim that this rotten experience is symptomatic of a “growing feeling that parents’ responsibilities end at the door”?

    Methinks you judge too quickly here based on too little evidence. Every ward has its rotten kids or its free-loading parents, but that does not indicate some sort of a trend to me. Only that people are people, and in any organization they stratify into the Craigs or the Thernardiers of society, and everything in between.

    Comment by Jordan — 1/26/2007 @ 11:40 am

  6. Mea culpa

    I must admit that my conclusions were based on anecdotal evidence, but society does seem to be headed that way. People ARE becoming less responsible for their own actions and heaping the responsibility upon society. Whether for health care or education, discipline or work.

    I guess it kindof goes back to the free-rider discussion we have had here in the past. There are those people (and I think an increasing number of them) who wish to gain the benefits from society without contributing to the costs.

    Comment by Craig — 1/26/2007 @ 2:18 pm

  7. I think parents in general are much more overprotective of their kids than they used to be. Or maybe I should say, many parents are way more overprotective of their kids than I am of mine.

    Comment by Susan M — 1/26/2007 @ 2:43 pm

  8. This sounds a lot like what may be causing the idea among many young parents that they can’t wait until their child goes to Nursery.

    Comment by Kim Siever — 2/14/2007 @ 2:37 pm

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