I have this fantasy that halos perfect behavior will descend on my children the minute they enter any house of worship, board an airplane, or sit down to dinner with my in-laws.
While we’ve had some respectable plane trips and a few nice grandparent dinners, at church, at least, a full hour of angelic behavior has yet to happen (yes, I know an entire hour of focus and quiet is highly unlikely with two kids under four, but a girl can dream). Instead, my children coo over the stained glass and the choir for five minutes, cruise through my bagful of distractions and snacks in the next five, and eventually hit a little old lady in the back with a flying plastic choo choo train.
Yes, my son smacked a poor unsuspecting church goer with a train on Palm Sunday – and that sort of behavior didn’t bode well for Easter especially since, this Easter, my beloved husband went on a trip to Iowa for a marathon bike race and springtime mudfest, leaving me alone with two spirited boys.
For the first part of the weekend, we headed to the zoo and hunted Easter eggs three different times with my niece Elsa. Jonas liked the picking up part of egg hunting so much that he started putting rocks in his basket – if only I could capture that clean up energy at home.
We had a fantastic, if exhausting, time, full of cousin giggle fests – toddler humor is a wonderful and mysterious thing – and all those early visits by the Easter bunny left us with jelly bean overload.
Then, Sunday came around, and I stocked the diaper bag to prepare for church. Bribes seem a bit inappropriate in a place of worship, though I did make liberal use of Cheddar Bunnies (very Easter appropriate), Cheerios, coloring books and stickers. When those ran out though, there wasn’t much left to do other than briskly walk out the back, clutching a screeching child who doesn’t understand why hymnals can’t be used as building blocks. Other (ineffective) behavior modification techniques aren’t really an option – like, say, take threats. WWJD doesn’t cover hissing out that Baby Jesus wants you sit still and zip the lip, buddy.
There’s always the nursery, of course, but, even if we’re only going to be inside for the first 15 minutes of the service, I’d rather that we were all together on Sunday, and that the boys get at least a small dose of faith, hope, and charity.
Luckily, I’m not alone in this attempt to speed up the church-appropriate behavior learning curve. In the row ahead of us, a few elementary school-aged girls made faces at each other and rolled around the pews. A handful of preschoolers crouched next to the window, exclaiming over the bounty of eggs being spread out for the post-service egg hunt. Crying babies and their parents flooded in and out of the narthex.
Jesus loves the little children, even the little children who never quite make it all the way through the service.