I have a two-year-old. And he’s terrible. Well, not all the time. But this past Sunday in church (where we’re supposed to be on our best behavior), he was the poster child of the terrible twos.
I knew things were going to be rough the minute they asked my husband to help with the passing of the sacrament. Great. Me and my four kids, including the aforementioned “terrible two-year-old,” alone in our pew.
Things got bad before we even made it to the sacrament hymn. First, the baby was pulling out the hymnbooks and throwing them down. After I took care of that, a fight over fruit snacks had my four-year-old in tears, and while I was trying to cover his mouth and console him, my two-year-old was almost successful in pushing past his big sister to break free and run down the aisle. Yep, today I was “that mom who can’t control her kids.” I immediately set down the crying four-year-old, rushed to grab the two-year-old, and out we went into the foyer.
He didn’t calm down once we got there. In the foyer, my son was running down the hall trying to get away from me, he was trying to write all over a sign-up sheet that had been left on a chair, and when he successfully pushed open the glass doors to make a break for the parking lot, I almost let him go. Almost.
By now, three other moms, trying to control their unruly children, had joined me in the foyer. The sacrament prayer had been said, and a priesthood holder politely came out to the foyer to give us all the opportunity to participate in this sacred ordinance. The only thing was, I wasn’t feeling like I was participating in anything sacred. There was no quiet moment for reflection. There was no time to ponder its significance. There was no fortifying spiritual experience. It felt very much like I was just eating a piece of bread, drinking a cup of water, and trying my hardest to make sure my son only took one.
I wasn’t handling this well, especially since just a few days earlier I had read the dozens of wonderful responses that people gave on social media about how they make the sacrament special. I thought, “I can’t do any of those things, especially with this son of mine. It’s impossible for a mom like me to have a spiritual experience during the passing of the sacrament.”
I thought Sunday was ruined. I went back into the chapel after the sacrament was done and testimony meeting had started. The first testimony I heard changed my whole perspective on the day.
A sister shared how she was reading in her scriptures in the book of Mosiah and came across a verse that talked about having a “bright testimony.” She loved the thought of having a bright testimony like prophets and apostles in the scriptures and wanted to make changes in her life to enjoy that blessing. She has four young kids, just like me, and she talked about how hectic it can be on Sundays. To combat that craziness, she shared how she had started praying fervently for spiritual experiences every Sunday that would help to make her testimony brighter. She got emotional as she said that every time she prayed in faith for a testimony-strengthening experience to come on Sunday, it came. Sometimes it happened at church, sometimes it didn’t happen until she got home, and sometimes a tender moment didn’t come until the very end of her day. The point was they came. As she prayed in faith, Heavenly Father answered her prayer to have a testimony-strengthening experience every Sunday.
For these three minutes in sacrament meeting, my kids were all quiet. I was able to listen to her testimony, and it was just what I needed to hear. As I felt the Spirit, my eyes welled with tears too. I needed to pray for help when it came to Sundays. But I also felt like I needed to give myself a break. Spiritual experiences are not limited to the few minutes in which the sacrament is passed. That’s the ideal but not the reality for many. My kids are never going to sit perfectly reverent (at least for a couple of years). My two-year-old may never be entertained by his “sacrament book” filled with pictures of Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that Sunday needs to be a bust. Sometimes all you need is a moment, just a minute of feeling the Spirit to rejuvenate you enough for the coming week. On that Sunday, that testimony, those three minutes, was the rejuvenation I needed.
Yes, Sundays can feel long and hard. But like @denavey, the wife of a bishop and mother of six (three being boys under the age of four), wrote on Instagram, “I have started to realize that Heavenly Father is trying hard to teach me something very important right now, something that will bless my life in amazing ways.”
To every mom struggling with a toddler in sacrament meeting—you’re not alone.
On Instagram @jodeespencer wrote, “With 4 little kids under the age of 6 it takes some work to make sacrament meeting more than just another meeting. But I have found that whenever I diligently search for the spirit … I find it. And when I have the spirit with ME my children see that and they in turn feel it. They sit more reverently, they listen more, and they try their best to at least let Mom and Dad listen and soak in the spirit and learn.”
“I have young children, so reflecting on the Savior and what I need to improve during the week is often difficult during the sacrament,” commented natabc15. “I have found that if I take time on Saturday night to reflect on my week and make a list of things I’m doing well and things I need to improve I am better prepared for the sacrament on Sunday.”
Those comments and the testimony from the sister in my ward helped me come up with three P’s to help me better deal with my toddler in sacrament meeting. Maybe these can help you too.
We can make the sacrament special by better preparing for it during the week or even on Sunday morning. That way, even if you have to go out to the foyer with an unruly child during the sacrament, you will have already reflected on how you can always remember Jesus Christ and how you can better serve Him.
Pray for spiritual experiences to come on Sundays to help strengthen your testimony, and learn to recognize when they come, both at church and at home. Have faith that if you pray for testimony-building experiences, they will come.
And finally, have patience. Bright testimonies don’t develop overnight. Neither do reverent kids.
To every mom struggling with a toddler in sacrament meeting, don’t give up.
“Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment” (D&C 121:7).
I have a two-year-old. And he’s terrible. Well, not all the time. And that’s what I hold on to. Remember the special, tender moments that you have with your kids. Your efforts are working, even if 99 percent of the time it doesn’t seem like it.