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.