Monday, July 26, 2010

In Loco Parentis

In the summer, our church combines services with another nearby church, alternating locations each week. So yesterday we went to St. John’s and when we arrived we asked the usher if they had a staffed nursery. She brought us down a hallway to a nursery filled with toys and staffed by three grandmotherly ladies who were sitting at a low table enjoying muffins, munchkins, and iced coffee. They jumped up as soon as we walked in and were absolutely delighted by Ryan’s arrival. They immediately asked how old he was, if we had a bottle or a sippy cup for him, if he preferred to be held while he had his bottle, could he crawl or walk, was he comfortable with strangers, even if he could have a bit of munchkin as a snack. He, of course, was just as delighted to be cooed over by these lovely ladies, and was already busy with a toy so he hardly even noticed when we left.

Shortly before the service started, one of the ladies sat in the pew behind us and told us (sounding a bit disappointed) that Ryan was the only baby in the nursery so the other two ladies were watching him and she would be at the service. After the service, we went to pick him up, and he was happily sitting in the lap of one of the ladies, rocking in a rocking chair. He gave us a brilliant smile when he saw us, but was in no hurry to be hugged or picked up. He was obviously very contented where he was. The ladies assured us that he had been very well behaved and had kept very busy playing with the various toys, having his bottle, and keeping them entertained.

I am so thankful for people like this who are not only competent but delighted to watch over a stranger’s child. Of course, I love that Ryan’s grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins are always happy to take care of him, and even the occasional babysitter and the young woman who mans the nursery at our church. But they know our family and they know Ryan. For a complete stranger to be willing to give an hour (or more) of their time to keep a child safe and happy is truly a gift. And particularly someone who can immediately put parents at ease that their little one is in good hands. So to all the good folks out there who have ever manned a church nursery, and anyone else who has ever served in loco parentis, this parentis says “Thanks!”

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