Sunday, August 26, 2007


At the church we attend here in Wilmore, children stay in the service until the sermon time, then children under school age go to "Extended Session," a more child friendly sermon experience for them. For the past year we have been brining a few toys and coloring for Elijah and sometimes Micah to play with during the first part of the service. (Isaiah is in nursery and Micah has been sometimes joining us, sometimes staying in nursery.) One of the hardest things about parenting for me is knowing how much to expect from a child at a certain time in his life. What is a reasonable expectations for a ____ year old when it comes to ____. You could fill in these blanks with a thousand different things. And, where do our expectations for these things come from? Other parents? Our own families? Media? What would God expect from my 5 year old in church? I thought about this a lot last Sunday and realized that I had higher expectations for Elijah's behavior at school than I do at church. I don't send him to school with toys to entertain himself during his teachers' lessons. I don't put off his homework because I'm having trouble getting his other brothers to bed like I might put off his nightly Bible story and prayer time. And, I spend a good bit of time preparing him- helping him know what is expected of him at school- not just good behavior but that I expect him to learn every day.

With my newfound revelation, I decided that we needed to take a little field trip. So this morning, Elijah and I left home 30 minutes before the rest of the family and walked to church. It wasn't too hot yet and he actually told me twice on our walk, "Mommy, I needed some time alone with you." We talked about all kinds of things, but as we approached the church I told him that I had a special reason for inviting him on our walk today. I explained that he was growing so much that I wanted him to understand more about how special Sunday is for our family. I asked him if he knew why we go to church and what we were doing during the music and prayer times. We talked about what he thought and I tried to deepen his understanding of how blessed we are to be able to worship God freely together with other people, and that because he was getting so big, I think he is ready to start participating with us. This means no more toys in church. It means no more laying on the floor under the bench or crawling back and forth on top of it while we're standing. It means sitting on the bench, or standing next to us, and it means having nothing to distract him from listening and watching, and of course asking questions about the things he doesn't understand. I realize completely that he won't understand a fraction of what happens on the average Sunday morning, but I also realize that by encouraging him to stay distracted, I am preventing him from soaking in his surroundings.

So, how did it go? He was upset at first, as he is with all changes however small, but by the time we got to church his tears were dry, and it actually went really well. Micah was with us today, and he sat just as well and just as quietly (if not more so) than Elijah. They did take full advantage of a bathroom break during worship, but aside from that, Elijah adjusted wonderfully because he knew exactly what was expected of him. Learning to parent well is such a process. I think about all of the times I have developed my expectations on the spot- while we're in the church service, while we're at the restaurant... and how correcting behaviors at that point is like putting out a forest fire with a bucket. The older Elijah gets the more I understand the effect of prevention- especially with him. If all three of them understand exactly what Mommy and Daddy are expecting them to look, sound and act like, the forest fires barely have a chance to start.


The Maxeys said...

That is great wisdom! I pray that I will remember that with Katherine.

Robin said...

You are so smart! Your boys are very blessed!

Simile Metaphor Collection

Elijah after running: My heart is beating like a coconut rolling down a hill.
Elijah on urination: Pee is like horses galloping out of the gate. Once they get started you just can't stop them.
Elijah: If school were a human I'd give it a wedgie.
Elijah: I am like a hot rod and I just want to be a plain old Ford
Elijah on the fruits of the spirit: I've got them all covered except self-control. Its like a tiny green tomato and the rest are all big ripe ones. Especially love. Its like the biggest tomato we saw in the garden tonight.