Last week we received a letter from “Tired of Tagalongs,” who was dismayed because her visiting teacher insisted on bringing her joined-at-the-hip five-year-old with her every month to visit teach, even though there were several adults at home who could have taken care of the child. “Tired” said that this particular tagalong went everywhere with Mom, even shunning Primary to sit with her in Relief Society.
The responses we received were impassioned ones. Nobody sat on the fence. Half the readers had horror stories of their own, and the other half believed “Tired of Tagalongs” was lacking in spirituality and compassion.
As usual, I’m running the letters as I opened them so you’ll be volleying from one extreme to the other. I hope you enjoy the ride.
I agree with the writer of the letter. The child is too old to be a 100% tagalong. It is a breach of privacy to expect someone you visit teach to open up in front of the girl. I would be asking for a new visiting teacher.
What is this family going to do when the child is old enough to start public school? They are doing this child a huge injustice by not teaching her how to interact with others and to venture off to Primary on her own. This child is missing out on the blessings of Primary.
I agree with you, Grandpa, that a child is going to get a whole lot more out of Primary than she will out of a Relief Society lesson. Let’s see what the other readers have to say.
This is a serious issue, and I think this occurs more often than our leaders realize. I have had visiting teachers who have come with children, and frankly, it was more stressful to have them visit with a child they turned loose in my house than if they hadn't visited at all.
One suggestion would be to ask the sister if she could come alone with her companion so you could talk together in confidence – that you really need the "adult time" away from parenting responsibilities and the ears of little children. It is stressful for children to hear conversations about problems and struggles that they can't understand. They often imagine much worse than what is said, so ask from the viewpoint of the best interest of her child.
I think this is something that the Relief Society presidency should be made aware of so they can discuss it in their presidency meeting. It might be wise to pass it on to ward council, if it is an issue that exists across all church-related settings. Although we don't want to offend/ alienate members, they do need to be taught.
That sister's visiting teacher or home teacher or bishop might be able to discuss this issue in the presence of her husband (the child's father), and ask him to support her by making sure she has childcare for church assignments like visiting teaching, to have that time to interact with her Relief Society sisters uninterrupted.
Please handle this situation with love and respect – with an attitude of teaching and encouraging rather than complaining or criticizing. Find someone else to vent your frustrations to, so they don't just slip out in an impulsive moment.
I am so sorry this happens. We should all try to be more sensitive to the needs of those we are trying to serve. This question has caused me to pause and consider my service and whether I am being as sensitive as I should! Best wishes to you as you try to sort this out.
Becky from Indiana
I really liked your letter, Becky. I especially liked your admonition to “liken all letters to ourselves” – in other words, to look at a situation that may not apply directly to us and to let it serve as an inspiration to examine our behavior in other areas. That’s something I especially need.
Children find adults plain boring and can't remember what they hear during normal conversations. They can't even remember instructions five minutes after they heard them, let alone what a lady said when venting about something.
Kids should not be present at adults' activities unless there is an emergency, i.e. lack of Primary teachers on Sunday, illness, or something else that is out of the ordinary. This lady should know better, and those around her, including the bishop, should make the point of what is not appropriate.
As a child who loved to eavesdrop on adult conversations, Franz, I can attest that even though I didn’t remember instructions five minutes after I heard them, I definitely remembered the good stuff. I didn’t have any inhibitions about repeating what I heard, either. (Hmm. Maybe this is why I was a child only a mother could love.)
From my own experience, I believe that nobody should ever underestimate a child’s ability to understand what adults are talking about or the child’s interest in what the adults have to say. Maybe this doesn’t apply to all children, but it applies to enough of them that I would never say something in confidence when a child was in earshot.
Of course we've all done it, but I agree that children should not be brought along on visiting teaching appointments. It's really not appropriate to have little ears soaking up all that is being said. Children don't always have the ability or maturity to filter and understand adult conversations in a way that makes sense to them. They also take things quite literally and may have concerns about what they have heard. They are also walking tape recorders and you never know when they might ask questions or disclose information in a public setting that was meant to be private.
This isn't the only reason why we shouldn't take our children with us to visit teach. It only took one incident where one of my little darlings knocked over a glass candlestick onto a glass table top before I resolved that he would never accompany me again! Fortunately nothing shattered, but once children are mobile it's time to begin making other arrangements for their care so you can make your visits distraction-free, stay open to the whisperings of the spirit, and give your complete attention and focus to the needs of your sisters.
As in my experience it's just not safe to bring your children into the homes of sisters who either don't have children, or who no longer have young children and their homes are not baby-proofed.