When you have twin toddlers, you tend to bring a lot of noise and ruckus with you wherever you go. It’s something I’ve gotten used to, more or less, but every so often, the commotion that ensues when I walk in the door with my kids starts to make me self-conscious. And despite the fact that I happen to belong to an extremely warm, inviting synagogue, that self-consciousness tends to come to a head when my kids get restless during services.
Don’t get me wrong—I love taking all of my kids to synagogue, and I know it’s important to go as a family. But sometimes, it would just be so much easier if I were to go alone with my 5-year-old son and have my husband stay home with our twin 2-year-old daughters. In fact, there’s an upcoming Friday night kid service at my synagogue followed by a family dinner, and I’m contemplating that very arrangement for it. And of course, I feel guilty about it.
Now I’m super fortunate to belong to Temple Beth Ahm of Aberdeen where young children are welcomed. The people there understand that small kids inevitably make noise and run around, and I’ve never been told to keep them away. Quite the contrary—those of us with young kids are encouraged to integrate them, no matter the service. But my girls are more rambunctious than your typical newly turned 2-year-old.
I’m saying this not just from a place of self-consciousness, but from a place of reality. Friends with kids around my girls’ age won’t deny it, either. Whereas some kids that age cling to their parents in new situations, mine have no problem running all over the place even in a less-than-familiar environment.
And so sometimes the idea of taking them to synagogue becomes stressful, and that makes me want to leave them at home—especially when it comes to evening services that happen to coincide with the witching hour. Of course, I’m sure I’m not the only parent who dreads taking small children out in the hour leading up or coinciding with dinnertime. But to think that my girls will sit through an hour-long service, kid-friendly as it may be, and then wait patiently for food to be served is downright laughable.
Now if we all go, and they act up, I’m sure everyone will understand. And offer to help. And I appreciate all of that. But at the end of the day, I’m the one responsible for controlling my kids in a public setting, and when they get out of hand, I’m the one who’s going to feel bad about disrupting the service for the other attendees.
And so I’m thinking of leaving my twins out this time around—for my sake just as much as theirs. While I do think they’d enjoy the service and dinner, I know they won’t enjoy eating dinner 30 minutes or more later than usual and being corralled in a stroller when they inevitably won’t stop running around. And I know I won’t enjoy having to deal with what meltdowns ensue in public. (Incidentally, my husband is far less bothered by these things. He figures kids will be kids.)
Maybe I need to get over my self-consciousness so that my family can experience an important program together. And maybe I will. But right now, the idea of sitting next to my son and watching him take in a lively service without distraction is far more appealing than the alternative.