Sitting on the Front Pew

Whenever my family is at Church, I feel like perhaps we are a bit of a freak show. Lord have mercy, but those are my feelings. We like to sit down front, so that the kids aren't as distracted by the mayhem around them, and can see the icons and hear the prayers better. Yes, the nave is that large.

But I've always been a front row kind of gal. I was the kid in school who sat up front right under the teacher's nose, and at our old parish we had our spot, close to the front on the left hand side, right under the Theotokos' nose.

At. St. Michael's we are on the right hand side. Right smack dab in front of Jesus (well, his icon at any rate).

But for the past several weeks I've not managed to stay there the entire service. Any parent of young children knows what it's like to have to take a child out during the service.

My kids aren't young, but I often still have to take a child out during the service. Week after week after week. And so we are in the narthex, in a parish that is still largely filled with people who are strangers to me. I feel like they know who I am because I'm the lady with the special needs daughter who has to go out of Church every Sunday and sit on the bench outside by the Incarnation icon and settle her down and then go to the bathroom for tissues and a face wash. We get sympathic looks and head nods. The same anonymous parents who are taking the same toddlers for a potty trip and the same older guys out for a mid-liturgy smoke (I don't judge). Sympathetic looks from teenagers whose names I don't know and whose names my own teenagers don't know.

I feel like we are, mostly, the untouchables.

Not that it's true. I have plenty of friends at Church. I am known and I know people. Just not everyone. And that's hard.

Part of the asceticism of my situation, then, is for me not to assume that I know what is in people's hearts. In a large parish it is impossible to know everyone within the span of two years. Having special needs kids that keeps them and me out of the normal loop of normal youth group activities and Church activities makes it all the more difficult.

But just because I don't know people doesn't mean they are mean, or that they are thinking bad things about us. Perhaps (and I will assume this to be true) people I don't even know are praying for us. And perhaps I can get beyond my own little word, and learn to pray for them, too. At any rate, I am learning to assume the best of people, even when all my vulnerabilites are out there for the world to see. And that is a good lesson.


Oh Alana, what a thoughtful post, we are in a tiny parish and I often feel the same way. Its hard that feeling of oddness, of being on display. And frankly sometimes reaching out to make those connections even with those you do know and who understand your situation is hard because well you are so TIRED. I promise some weeks the kids are just fine but who is that lady who keeps nodding off while standing hhmm? :) I certainly don't feel like chatting when one the kids just wants to GET AWAY and I just want a nap! I try to remember like you said they are probably not thinking mean things, they might just be thinking about their pillow.
elizabeth said…
This is very good; yes; it is good to think of all in love and as loving; then we are surrounded by love instead of fear. Love to you.
carmen said…
We sit down front as well, because you can't expect little ones to behave when they can't see anything except adults backsides. :)

Keep on keepin on. I often think that those who are staring at me for taking a kid out are judging me, but then I force myself to think about what I'm thinking when I observe another parent removing a kid. There's no judgment.

Be gentle with yourself.
Trish said…
Thank you for this post Alana! Your kids are beautiful!
Matushka Anna said…

My own blog is called "praying with my feet" because that's what I've done for the last coming on 12 years. The subtitle is "mostly in the narthex". So I do know a little of what you are talking about. When we were at seminary at St. Tikhon's, my kids were LITTLE. When the third was born, I had a not-quite-three year old, a 15 month old and a newborn. We mostly lived in the narthex. I wanted to be in church more but I kept having to go out. The mothers would look sympathetic but the older women would shoot us very ugly looks. I struggled with this for most of the time we were there. It's rough.

(On a funny note: once, when I was pregnant with one of them (I lost count), I wasn't very far along and not showing, but I was in the very dizzy stage. Standing still in church would tend to make me want to pass out. One evening during vigil I started feeling faint and looked backward to see if there was a clear path to the narthex (and thus the door and fresh air). There wasn't and I didn't think I could pick up the children and carry them out through a crowd without all of us falling in a heap. I looked around and there were no chairs free. At the last possible moment, when I was developing tunnel vision, I yanked the chair out from behind a nearby older woman and collapsed into it. She wasn't sitting in it at the time, but was "saving it". If looks could kill! I don't know what they were all thinking but I was past caring. After a few minutes with my head between my knees, I got up and took the children and spent the rest of vigil in the narthex. At least the memory makes me laugh now!)

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