It’s Sunday, which to me is a day of traditions.
There are a lot of traditions with which I was raised that I have since let go of. For example, I don’t force my kids to pray in public or out loud at family meals, for reasons I’m not going to go into here.
Another example: Growing up in the 1970s & ’80s, the adults in my life frowned upon the idea of shopping or eating in restaurants on Sunday because by spending our money, we were “causing workers to break the Sabbath.” (Never mind that these workers might hold other beliefs.) That one did not stick with me into adulthood.
Third example: Big Sunday Dinners. There always seemed to be a chicken or a roast beef or pork chops in the oven on Sunday afternoons. Those things are yummy and I’m grateful we had those meals at our house. But as a very tired adult, Big Sunday Dinners are most definitely right out the window for me. All that cooking is a lot of work on a day we’re not supposed to be WORKING, so … here kids, have a ham & cheese sandwich.
But the Sunday traditions that did stick include going to church and closely-guarded family time. On Sunday afternoons, I don’t care how behind I am on cleaning or work, it ain’t happening. That’s an easy pass for me.
I also don’t care if David Sedaris is somehow coming to my little town to do a reading and all of my book-y friends are going. If it’s a Sunday night, I’m probably gonna stay home in my pajama pants.
This unwavering attitude about Sundays could also be filed under the “lazy” and “homebody” columns of my personal attributes. But, I am the one with the Expo marker in my hand today so I’m going to mark this in the “tradition” column and the “we should enjoy life, like Europeans do” column, so just deal with it.
We both work so hard all week. We have activities almost every night. Saturdays are quickly getting annexed by more and more child birthday parties or one work crisis or another. On top of all that, my fella and I try to tease out — if we’re lucky — one date night a month.
So, Sunday is the only day when all four of us are together with no expectations placed on us from the outside world. We go to church, we go home. Occasionally, on Sunday evenings there will be special events, but as they are typically church-related, we all go together. I am tempted to go to our fall festival or meetings with the pastor in the Star Wars pajama pants just because I get crabby when I have to re-dress my body for the public. But not *that* tempted. You’re welcome, everyone!
Another thing I don’t do, that I was made to do on Sundays, is try to get my kids to sit still and listen during church.
If I did not listen, if I goofed around with my cousins, got the church-giggles, or in any other way was caught behaving like a kid, I got pinched. Hard.
I’m not saying it was right or wrong. I’m not saying that was the thing that made me dislike church. But… I really disliked church.
I was also an extremely compliant child, so I went along and didn’t complain too much. (I think.)
When I was feeling audacious, I would finagle a way to sit by my Grandma. This was usually at “night church.” (Yes, we also went to church on Sunday nights, did I forget to mention that?) Night Church was a little more cazh. Meaning, sometimes I could wear corduroys instead of a dress, and maybe I could sit by Grandma. I don’t remember if she ever pinched me. She probably did. But I do remember she let me draw pictures on the backs of the offering envelopes, using those little golf pencils they keep in the pews. I’m also told I used to give wet willies to my cousins, but I have no recollection of this. Zero memory of any such nonsense 😉
This is a no-brainer for me: I’m not going to pinch anybody for wiggling or giggling in church.
I might be strict. I might make my kid go to Sunday School when he doesn’t feel like it. I *generally* have both our kids trained to not act like complete soccer hooligans in public. I might even sometimes tell my littlest that I will take him to the nursery if he doesn’t stop whining about being hungry or wanting to go home.
(Really, kids? Lutheran services are an hour, TOPS. And we even manage to have communion every week. Child, you do not EVEN want to go down that road with me.)
But even though I’m strict about bedtimes and traditions and hands-to-yourself-ness, I don’t want these boys to dislike coming to church.
I do try to keep a leash on the behavior.
It’s a long leash.
You might see the little one laying on the floor. He might make some noise. He might have a silent toy, books to look at, and pencils & paper to draw.
I might give them candy.
I *might* even let my kids see me stifle a laugh when they start what they call a “baby fistfight.” I cannot describe a baby fistfight to you, other than to say it’s a game that makes me laugh to the point of tears EVERY TIME.
I will separate them at some point — I do not want baby fist-fight spilling into the center aisle during the recessional and knocking over a lightweight acolyte and setting something ablaze.
My primary motivation: I do not want these boys to associate church and fellowship with stillness, uncomfortable clothes (BOYS, YOU ARE SO LUCKY TO BE BOYS), compliance, extremely long and dry sermons, or ideas that the only reason our stomachs are rumbling and our butts hurt is because we have been chock full of wickedness since birth.
Because what I really want, more than holding on to traditions for their own sake, is for them to want to come back.
Which is why I was so pleased to hear my kids retain today’s message. It centered on the passage in Mark about Jesus blessing the children.
My littlest had this takeaway: “the kids kept interrupting and the disciples kept trying to send them away, and Jesus said to let them stay and he blesses them. What does bless mean?”
I said, “Well it says Jesus took them up in his arms, so he might have hugged them. He might have put his hand on their heads and said words — kind of like when the pastor tries to bless you during communion and you duck under the railing.”
Him: (doing a headstand on the sofa) “Look at me, I’m upside down now!”
So that ended that discussion.
And that’s OK. Just knowing my kid paid attention and remembered that Jesus let kids be PRESENT during his talks — kids who were no doubt barefoot and filthy and probably begging all the disciples for loose change for the crane game for which they have ZERO skills even though they’ve wasted a collective trillion shekels on it in their young lives — and let them belong, and be loved as they were, might be the thing that keeps them willingly coming back.