Large groups of people are always interesting to me; I’m a people-watcher. Observing others and how they react with loved ones can be really fun. It can also be a little sad, and sometimes a little confusing. I had an experience today that was all of those things.

Each year, our classroom at religious school has a family program. The kids bring one or both parents (or in some cases, a grandparent) for a special craft project. The idea is to create something together, and to spend quality time together. I’ve been doing this project for years (and years) (and years), and I am not sure I’ve ever really taken the time to really pay much attention to the interactions within each family unit, until today.

Because large groups can be seen as microcosms of society sometimes, I would never expect for everyone to be the same, but while some families put a huge smile on my face, some of them left me wondering what was going on in some of the parents’ heads.

Here are some scenes from today, good and not-so-good:

~I saw a mom and son who, after being asked to write the child’s name on the craft project, wrote his name AND “Mom” on it. They actively worked on the craft together, discussing which colors should go where, and generally made it a true cooperative project. I loved watching them paint and talk, paint and talk, paint and talk. So cute.

~I saw that one of the kids was not interested in writing his name on his project (this control issue manifests in the classroom on other days too), and his exasperated mom didn’t seem to be dealing with it very well. When I approached his table, his mom looked at me, shrugged, and said, “Tell him he HAS to write his name!” I explained to him in a matter-of-fact tone why he had to write his name (and, truthfully, if he hadn’t written it, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but part of the classroom experience is following directions, so…), all the while wondering why this mom couldn’t make her son do something so simple.

~I saw a mom and daughter (who also wrote both names on the craft) working together and when I circled around later, I discovered that the daughter wrote “I love you” before the word “Mom”. I exclaimed, “Oh, that’s great! You’re making memories right now, at Sunday School!”

~I saw a mom saying to her son, “I wouldn’t paint it that way if I were you; why not do THIS?” and then she went over what he had done with her own brush. Whaaa?? Don’t get me started.

~I saw a dad who was checking his Blackberry nearly the entire time his kid was working on the craft, alone. Disconnected to the nth degree.

~I saw two moms who chatted each other up more than they helped their kids with what they were supposed to be doing. Why bother being there?

After everyone completed their project, my co-teacher called parents and kids over to an empty area in the room, where he read a story while I cleaned up after everybody. Here are a few observations from that part of the day:

~I saw a mom cuddling her son on her lap during the story.

~I saw a mom sitting patiently while her daughter (who was indeed listening to the story at the same time) braided her hair for her. The little girl was running her hands through her mom’s hair as she braided, and it was just so cute to watch.

~I saw parents who stayed back from the story area, still seated at the tables, while their kids were over on the floor listening to the story.

While I was overjoyed about the families who made the most of the day, I was sad about the others. I found myself wondering what it was like at home; if some of these parents couldn’t sit and try to bond with their child over a one hour craft and storytime session, did they at least attempt to be together over other activities at home? Or was it the same no matter where they were? Do these kids wish their parents would have relaxed enough to enjoy the morning, or are they even aware of what they are missing?

Of course, on my behalf, this can all sound very judgmental. It was, after all, only one hour. It was just a snapshot, really. In the end, it doesn’t matter what I think. I wouldn’t want a parent to change how they do things for my sake.

The real judge in the end is going to be the child.