Matt Evans and I went a few rounds at one of those other blogs over the reason behind falling LDS birthrates. Turns out we were both wrong.
This, from Robert Kirby’s 11/19/05 column, explains the real reason the Saints are stopping before their quivers are full:
Ward houses from the 50s had those special rooms in the back and above the chapel where fractious children could be taken and throttled without disturbing the congregation. Cry rooms were necessary because the average LDS ward back then consisted of 65 percent children younger than age 8. Sacrament meeting sounded like a knife fight between cats and monkeys. A long window and a speaker allowed the occupants to see and hear what was going on down in the congregation, but no noise escaped the soundproof room. It was surreal to look up and see some kid howling as if caught in a leg hold trap. The kid’s uvula could be sticking out on its stem, his face the color of an eggplant, and yet you wouldn’t hear a peep.
So there you have it. (Heck, I’d probably aim for four times four instead of just four if our ward had a cry room. ) At this point, I’m woozy with the possible directions that this post can go, so I’ll proceed choose-your-own-adventure style:
The Deep Feminist Reading
For a Church that’s so big on families, we sure don’t do much on the ground to make sure that church meetings are inviting or even appropriate for children and the (usually) women who are taking care of them. From the lack of cry rooms to the zombie-eyed parents wandering the halls with distraught children to the stinky-to-nonexistent mother’s rooms to the nursery staffed by an ever-revolving group of (usually) underqualified people, we act as if we think that the needs of children and their caretakers should take last place to every other consideration.
The ‘I Hate Correlation’ Reading
Kirby blames the disappeared cry rooms on correlation. Why not?
The ‘Endure to the End’ Reading
Taking little kids to church stinks (sometimes literally, but that’s really something for FMH or Mormon Mommy Wars to tackle . . .). So did crossing the plains on bare, bleeding feet. Get over it.
The ‘Helpful Hints from Molly Mormon’ Reading
So what do you do with your kids during sacrament meeting? My husband often takes off his wedding ring, ties it to the back part of his tie, and lets our baby suck on it. For some reason, the baby loves this. Try it! Our older kids get fruit snacks after the sacrament if they have maintained a vaguely civilized veneer up to that point in the meeting. We also bring picture books from the public library about bible stories each week. They love these. My four year old is also going through a huge pipe cleaner phase and loves to play with these (but the ends can be sharp so be careful). There’s also a book (I haven’t read it, but it comes highly recommended) called Parenting in the Pew.
The ‘Let’s Send a Letter to Salt Lake’ Reading
I want those cry rooms back. I’ll sign if you will.