Friday, August 24, 2018

Keeping Kids Contained at Church

When The Wife and I first got married, I really liked going to church with her.

We would sit close to each other. We were shappy. ("Shappy" is a combination of the words "happy" and "sappy.") Usually we would be holding hands, or one of us would have an arm around the other. Sometimes one of us would use a finger to "write" a message on the other one's back, and the person being written upon would guess what the writer had written. Usually it would be something shappy like "I love you," or "You are so wonderful."

It was so nice sitting next to The Wife at church. She would even gently nudge me if I started to fall asleep, and if that's not true love, I don't know what is. (Or maybe she just didn't want to be embarrassed by my loud snoring.)

Those were happy, wonderful days. But, over time, things have changed.

We now have four children; we never sit together at church anymore. I sit at one end of the pew, and The Wife sits at the other end, with the kids in between us. We do this for containment reasons. With an adult on each end, we can (hopefully) contain the children in the middle.

Of course, that's assuming we actually get to church on time in order to get a pew to sit in. Quite often we are late getting to church, and end up sitting in the folding chairs in the overflow area. Why are we late for church? Well, each additional child brings his or her own supply of reasons to be late, from, "Mom, can you help me do my hair?" to "Wait, the baby just pooped through his diaper, down his pants leg, and into his socks."

When we get there, we set up our containment walls, me on the one end and The Wife on the other. Of course, just because there is a wall, it doesn't mean it can't be breached. Our youngest (a two year-old boy) regularly escapes over, under, and around our walls. And, he is at an age where reasoning doesn't work, and threats hold no sway. (Reasoning and threats are two of the "go to" tricks for most parents, but they are generally ineffective on young toddlers.)

So, we often resort to another tried and tested parental method: bribery. I used to look down with condescending disdain at those parents who brought treats to church for their kids. Couldn't they just teach their children to behave without resorting to plying them Cheerios and fruit snacks? Well, no more. Now I am that Cheerio plyer.

Some bribery snacks, featuring: Cheerios, Goldfish, Life cereal, and a Frozen graham snack. (Because it's never too soon to get your kids indoctrinated into the Cult of Elsa and Anna.)

When he gets past my personal containment wall (usually by going under the bench in front of us), I am left with two choices: A) waving snacks in attempt to bribe him back to me; or 2) getting up out of my chair and physically retrieving him. Because objects at rest tend to stay at rest, getting up out of my chair is not the preferred option. So, snack bribery it is. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. (Sometimes we just let him roam. He usually comes back.)

There is a light at the end of the containment wall tunnel. My two oldest children can usually often occasionally behave in such a way that they don't need constant adult supervision. I can see a time in the not-so-distant future when The Wife and I might actually be able to sit next to each other at church again!

And when we do, I'll put my arm around her, and with my finger I'll write a secret message on her back. It will be, "Did you bring any snacks?"

Edited from a post originally published on 6/28/2016.

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