When Doug Brown first told me that he directs a choir for 3-5 year olds, I figured he was either intrepid or insane. Take, for example, one of his Facebook posts in which he hinted that he’d need to bring helmets the next time he uses rain sticks with the preschoolers. A better mother might have been alarmed, but I was totally charmed.
For several years now, I’ve wanted to cook more, exercise more, and attend church more regularly. I stalled completely in all three of these areas when my twins were born almost four years ago. Well, to be honest, I’ve never cooked much, but I used to exercise regularly, and putting my faith into action has always been important to me. With the typical demands of full time work and family life, it felt like there just wasn’t enough time, and no extra energy either. But when Doug told me about the Wednesday night choir schedule, it seemed manageable — 30 minutes of choir practice from 5-5:30, dinner at 6:00, done by 7:00 at the latest. At first I was concerned that my boys would be too rowdy (that little guy who ran up into the pulpit during the Las Posadas Christmas eve service is one of mine), but Doug assured me that being rambunctious just meant that we would fit in nicely, so I decided to try it.
Even the first day was great. We were greeted by a terrific group of folks — warm, welcoming, humble, accomplished, interesting adults with equally likeable children. I was initially nervous about keeping track of my boys in GPPC’s spacious building with so many rooms that could be used as hiding places, but it worked just fine. The kids tend to travel in packs, and although big, the spaces are contained (i.e., there is no escape). Perfect. The children run, skip, hop, and jump with abandon (and later they sleep reallywell). When practice is over at 5:30, the older kids (who practiced earlier) play with the younger set while the grown-ups prepare for dinner. The multi-talented Doug cooks a main dish that is both kid and adult friendly, and the rest of us bring sides when and if we can. Given my limited culinary abilities and aspirations, I usually bring fruit or ice cream sandwiches because it is hard to mess those up. After dinner, we all clean up and step in as needed to keep tabs on the kids — refereeing the occasional squabble, helping with homework, suggesting that jumping off the piano might not be a good idea, etc. We laugh and have fun, and there is absolutely no judgment when someone’s child fails to be charming or cute.
As we all know, there has been a lot of snow this winter, and much of it has fallen on Wednesdays. While the snow usually means that adult choir is cancelled, it doesn’t deter the kid choirs at all. Nothing stops us, partly because we’re eager to get the kids out of the house on those long snow days. My kids always look forward to choir. Kai seems magnetically drawn to the older girls in the group, and as far as I can tell, they are happy to take him under their collective wing. Often, the only way I can get both of my boys out the door at the end of the evening is with the girls’ help. The grownups are also willing to help, but we’re generally less effective. Carla once pointed out to Micah that it would get really cold if he stayed overnight, as he was insisting he wanted to do. Eleanor tried a similar tact when she started turning out the lights, which gave him slight pause, but it is only the girls who can get my guys to go willingly.
One particularly idyllic, snowy evening, Eleanor and I looked around and decided that it just doesn’t get any better — this is the very best stuff of life. I love hearing Kai or Micah sing at random times during the week (“Who’s that running up the street? Wings of joy upon their feet …”). My church was an integral, formative part of my childhood, so it warms my heart to hear my children talk about “their church” and “their church friends.” I want them to learn what it means to have faith and be part of a church community. I want them to experience the warmth and sustained love that emanates from Ginter Park, and to learn how to be generous while serving others under God. My husband and stepdaughter are Jewish, and we haven’t worked out exactly how we’ll go forward with our interfaith family, but choir is helping us get started.
As their new friendships developed, and as they became more familiar with the physical spaces of the church, Micah and Kai also became more comfortable staying in the nursery on Sundays, which enables me to worship kid-free with no mommy guilt. So, I’ve finally made progress on one of my three goals! I might be able to argue I’ve made progress on two of the goals if you count the fact that we enjoy a home/church-cooked meal every Wednesday, but I’m not going to push that.
Kristen is mom to Kai and Micah, who will be four years old in May, and stepmom to Hannah, who is 14. She and her family live in Ashland where she and her husband, Scott, both teach at Randolph-Macon College (Psychology and Anthropology, respectively). Originally a Congregationalist (UCC) from Connecticut, she joined Ginter Park after several years of searching for the right church home. Her first day at GPPC happened to be Carla’s first day as well, and she joined shortly thereafter.