Friday, 4 March 2011

"Please make mythical button creatures while I am away."

This quote was so great I had to use it, with thanks to creekgal57 who coined it in a comment!

Comments! There are comments! It's so unbelievably good to know I'm writing not just into a void but as part of an ongoing conversation between folks online making their own way through this parenting and/or Quaking stuff! Thank you so much, all of you! There's some really reassuring points and interesting ideas in those comments and I really enjoyed reading them all.

Some of the comments talked about being the only child in a Meeting Vs. seeking a larger Meeting for the child/ren to have a same age community and I want to think about how we balance that today.  We might be cheating on this front with Duckling. We're attending a variety of Meetings at the moment and we gain something from each of them, though it's possible we do lose out on the feeling of having a 'home' Meeting. We go to the big central Meeting, which is wonderfully large at a level I had only experienced at gatherings before I moved to Scotland. We were married there. It's active and buzzing and exciting. We also attend a small Meeting that's been running a little over a year on the outskirts of the city, currently in a Friend's home, though we're experimenting soon with a new location. This one's important to me as it feels like my own Meeting at 'home' when I was growing up. Thirdly we have an even smaller gathering that isn't exactly a Meeting as such but is a few of us getting together for a little silence together once a month-ish with tea. This is important to me as Duckling's welcome to play with us or around us or sleep or join in the silence (Ha!) as she wishes. And I get to join in the worship as to date Duckling's only managed a few minutes without either me or Mr. Purpleduck being with her at Meeting - we usually hang out together in children's meeting or creche, depending on the Meeting.

I grew up in a small Meeting in Wotton-under-Edge. There were a few of us kids when we were little but as people got older, moved away, drifted away and so on it was often the case that I was the youngest, followed by my mum. We did go to other Meetings too and experienced different atmospheres and ways of doing things, which was great - Nailsworth is particularly gorgeous by the way, if you're ever in Gloucestershire! So I did go to children's Meeting sometimes, and very often I didn't. I can't say I was GOOD at silence but I would play quietly or read and listen to any ministry (I remember pleading with God for someone to SAY SOMETHING when I was maybe eleven and no one had ministered for weeks).

Last weekend in our small Meeting (number 2 in my list) we were talking about how the potential move might impact us as a Meeting and someone suggested that the space available may not be suitable for the children. Honestly we just won't know until we try it, but I did contribute that having grown up in a variety of meetings, some with better small-quaker provisions than others, it just didn't matter what our space was like, to us. It mattered that we felt included and valued as part of the Meeting and part of its life It mattered that our thoughts - and even occasional ministries- were taken as seriously as the adults'. If we had a room, great, but I've 'Met' in corridors, in small draughty rooms, in an old disused cinema (which we loved!), on stairways, in fields and of course wherever the adults happened to be. It mattered more that we were meeting, not the location - though the outdoor ones will always be special to me. What rankled was being set apart or treated as 'lesser' because of our age.

When Meeting talks about the children's meeting as if it were a separate entity - which is easy to slip into -  I'm always reminded that it was the children who kept the Meetings going way back in the society's history when the adults were being imprisoned for not conforming. The image of those children, all those centuries ago, solemnly attending their Meetings and keeping the spirit of the society alive when it would have been easier and less scary to stay at home is always with me when I'm hanging out with Duckling in the creche or the children's room. This is part of the story of our way of life, and part of her heritage. She matters, whichever Meeting we're at and whatever approach it takes to the smaller attenders. I hope, like me, she'll gain something from attending a variety. I know she contributes already.

Time will tell I suppose!


  1. As a non-parent, I feel tremendously lucky that so many children are part of my Meeting (about 40 children listed as 'associated with' the Meeting; usually about 20 on any given Sunday morning, and an active teenagers' group). I love the ten or fifteen minutes at the end of Meeting when all of us, of all ages, are together: that's when my Meeting feels whole.

  2. I agree so much. I love the energy the children bring to a Meeting.

  3. I was shocked to find that at least one person in our Meeting objected to children being in the main meeting, especially small children. Normally all the children are there for 15 minutes, then they leave and go to the creche. I think it might work better for them to come in at the end, but I'm not sure.

  4. I think a lot of Meetings run into problems with people objecting to the younger ones being in Meeting, forgetting that equality runs along age lines too or not liking the stillness disturbed (though I find snoring and shuffling more disturbing - and yes I have been the snorer on occasion!).

    I've been in Meetings that do it both ways - beginning or end I mean - and there's advantages and disadvantages to each. Beginning - kids get freedom after a few minutes, the meeting gathers together before splitting into groups. End - the kids are de-bounced a bit, bring a new energy to the gathered silence.

    I do get quite grumpy with the people who don't want to share 'their' meeting with the kids. I need to work on how cross I get about it. Their viewpoint is valid - even though they're clearly wrong (heh heh!) - but maybe an evening meeting or an earlier one where kids are less likely to attend might suit people who like a quieter silence better. Though of course that may not suit their timetable as well as the main meeting.