Last Sunday I woke the kids up from their naps, piled them into the stroller, and took them to an evening carol service at a child-friendly church in town. A couple of hiccups in our preparations made us run a bit late, so we arrived at the church just before things were to start. When I asked about how best to put the stroller out of the way, a very kind gentleman sized up my situation and told me he would be happy to help us find seats. Our rambunctious trio followed him up, up, up the sanctuary–to the front row. When I tried to protest, he said he would love for the kids to really be able to see, and he assured me that it would not be a problem at all if we had to leave early or stand up to soothe Nathaniel. Having attended playgroups and other events at that church, I know it’s a fairly baby-friendly place, but, still, this was a rather grand affair.
But both kids loved it. Well, Katherine sat, frozen to her seat, and only later could I ask enough questions to be sure it was interest, rather than fear, that had her so rapt. There was a gigantic Christmas tree on our left, all decked out, an orchestra and choir were in front, and members of the church regularly ascended the pulpit to read parts of the Christmas story. To my surprise, Katherine recognized the story from the Biblical passages that were read (I’d only been reading a kids’-book version to her), and she enjoyed the instruments and singers arrayed in front of her even if she didn’t know the songs to join in.
Nathaniel, for his part, kept me busy, but I was armed with a box full of carrot muffins, so he ate his way into contentment and enjoyed the parts when we all stood to sing, since he could eat, watch, and listen from his spot in my arms. As we neared the end of the service, though, he made more attempts to wiggle free and run to the Christmas tree, so I decided it was time to leave. As we joined other parents and wiggly children in the foyer, I saw the man who had ushered us to the front row stand up to give the sermon, and I realized that we’d been given our spots by the vicar, and we’d likely been sitting in his seat. I was grateful for his generosity and also his tolerance of such a riotous crowd, and for the chance to share something special with Katherine without being held back by her younger brother.
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Yesterday morning my parents arrived for a two-week visit. They apparently left the States just before the gigantic storm came through, so we’re all very relieved that they didn’t get stuck in Chicago. Grandchildren were admired, we’ve done our first rounds of food ribbing (“What do you put in that soup?” “Really, guys, you can’t stock this tiny English fridge like it’s the gigantic one in your house”), and they’re finding their own ways to stay entertained with a daughter and son-in-law in the middle of a busy work time–and daylight ending around 3:30pm. Mom and Dad gamely took on babysitting duties their first night here so Sydney and I could catch a concert together.
It is, honestly, the first concert I can remember both attending and enjoying together since Nathaniel was born. Our date nights have been very limited, and even when the stars align we were generally too sleep-deprived or stressed to really settle into the occasion. This time, though, we enjoyed a beautiful selection of early music in a gorgeous and rather grand church I’d never visited before, and we left knowing that Katherine was more than capable of giving her grandparents instructions for the bedtime routine. Apparently she even supplied the bedtime songs her grandparents didn’t know. She played shy for a minute or two when they first arrived, but then quickly started making the most of so many adult admirers. Nathaniel, for his part, cried, clearly overwhelmed by having new and strange people in his house, but then ran to my parents to be cuddled and comforted as he sorted out this strangeness. Sydney and I were left with empty hands, and we have been enjoying it ever since.