What were those people thinking? Why do so many parents give so little thought to toting their Snap N’ Go along to a simcha, or taking a three-year-old child to shul on Shabbos? As harsh as this may sound, I believe it stems from selfishness. Unfortunately, many young parents have trouble coming to terms with how parenthood changes their lifestyle – the sacrifices, the reduced social calendar.
The thinking goes something like this: “I really want to attend _________. If I don’t take my little princess along, that means I won’t be able to go either. Lots of other people bring their kids; why shouldn’t I? Besides, my precious bundle is so cute and well-behaved, everyone will get a kick out of seeing her.”
To that last point I say, if the baby is smiling and cooing rather than crying, it’s still distracting.
When it comes to bringing kids to shul, some claim another rationale for the practice: that the spiritual environment is great chinuch, and even a child too young to daven can soak in the kedushah. Now, that argument makes a lot of sense if you’re talking about a six year old who has the temperament to spend an hour sitting quietly next to Daddy in shul. For children still in Pull-Ups, I say get real. By keeping them out of the sanctuary (with rare exceptions), parents impart the lesson that shul is a holy place that requires grown-up behavior. Shul attendance is a rite to work toward and look forward to as they grow older.
The bottom line is that children should be seen as well as heard. Just not in places where they absolutely don’t belong.