Happy Mormon Monday!
Due to some stake boundaries changes, my husband was released as the 2nd Counselor in the Stake Presidency last week. Our house is still in the same spot, but we are now in a different stake.
That is a lot of Mormon mumbo jumbo, but all you need to know is that my husband now has 20 hours a week freed up that he used to put into church responsibilities. He might actually have time for hobbies or friends now. This is exciting. But maybe even more exciting is that now he is back on the bench with me and our four kids on Sunday. Let me repeat: He can sit with us at church! (Before he had to sit up front on the stand.)
It has been a long time coming.
Chad was called as a Bishop when Elle was 1 year old, so I have been single on the pew for almost 10 years except for a few weeks here and there. Elle and I started out our alone time on the bench with high hopes of quiet books, Cheerios, and Bible coloring pictures. But over the years, with more and more kids, I have slowly been losing control, energy, and expectations. Church had become a “hold it together — do whatever you want — eat pizzas and drink margaritas for all I care — just be quiet– don’t make a scene — I’ve got to take care of the baby.”
Many times I left the other 3 kids by themselves on the bench because I had to take Locke out because he was too noisy. I didn’t even know what they did when I was gone. I often came back to paper airplanes, scattered crayons, and shoes and socks off. One time when I returned to the bench, Crew was gone. I looked around to find him and saw him sitting on the stand with Chad. Apparently Crew was goofing off and Chad came down off the stand to get him.
But now that Chad is back on the bench with us, we have a renewed energy and purpose. And I feel like it is a time to regroup. To be together as a family. To fix some bad habits.
We had a Family Meeting last week and discussed what it would be like to have dad sit with us. Afterall, this was going to be a first for all of them. We made some ground rules for our new Sunday bench experience:
1. Mom and dad sit by each other on the pew. My kids argued with me on this one because they all want to sit by me (I’ll never understand why I am so fascinating), but I explained to them that I haven’t sat by dad for 10 years and I am not going to take this opportunity for granted now. I ain’t going to waste one week apart from him. (We scared them that we might even start kissing right in the middle of the meeting.) But in all seriousness, we explained that Chad and I are our own eternal unit. The kids are all going to go off and get married and leave us and have their own spouses and families. Then life will be just be me and him. So our relationship is the most important. My kids will understand one day that a strong marital relationship is the best thing their parents could have given them. But for now they can whine and trade off who sits on the other side of me.
2. We sing the hymns. We don’t have to sing on tune, but we do have to put away papers and open our books. And sing! Our family motto is “If you can’t sing well; sing loud.” Hymns bring the spirit and teach truth in ways words can’t.
3. We don’t need food or drink. Food was a staple at church when my kids were little; I used food as a way to keep them quiet. I didn’t even question whether it was necessary or not. But now that they are a bit older, I am realizing they don’t need food. Sacrament meeting is only 1 hour and 10 minutes for goodness sake. We can make it that long without eating something. Plus we don’t need the mess and the distraction. We usually eat a string cheese or a quick lunch on the way out the door to tide us over.
4. The sacrament is sacred. The main reason we go to church every week is to partake of the sacrament. This is the time that we think about Jesus and remember his Atonement. The sacrament is not a time to color or draw or play. I don’t want my kids to get any activities out until after the sacrament is over.
5. Bring less to do. I used to bring a bag full of tricks. But again, I realized that sacrament is only 1 hour and 10 minutes. I underestimated that my kids could pay attention for that long. They don’t need the whole craft closet or game cupboard; they need maybe a pen and a piece of paper. My younger kids get a few crayons too. Chad and I are still in negotiations about this. He would like Elle and Crew to bring nothing. They made the mistake of sitting on the stand with Chad reverently, with no activities, many times, so he knows they can do it. We will see where our expectations land.
Now if you go to church with me and you are reading this, you may see something different happening on Sundays. Our bench still may be a bit noisy and I might have to put a hymn book in their face. But just know that these are our goals and our standards and what we are striving for. It doesn’t mean we are perfect or that our kids are perfect. But it does mean that we expect more from ourselves and from our kids then I did a few weeks ago.
Yesterday was our first run at being a whole family again on the bench and it went pretty well. A few nudgings and reminders were still needed, but at least there are two of us to do it now. I am so excited to have my husband back on the bench with me and for us to raise our reverence expectations with our children again. I am hopeful they will rise to meet us.