I recently discovered I’ve been fomenting rebellion in the Junior Sunday School.
Our family has a “no snacks at church” policy. I could say it’s due to a deeply held personal belief in training maturity, self-denial, and preparation for worship, but really, it’s that I don’t like to haul a rolling suitcase to amuse my kids at church. I’m just not that nice.
Instead, I rebel against the notion that kids need to be amused during church. I don’t bring toys, or little books, or coloring crayons. My kids are expected to make do with the same distractions I allow myself during particularly dull sermons: notebook paper, mechanical pencil, the ever-exciting concordance in my scriptures, the maps at the back, and the hymnal. Once they hit five, they’re in charge of remembering and hauling their own paper and pencil, too.
I realize that not everyone has this same habit. I try really hard to not be annoyed at the parents who pack what amounts to a picnic lunch for their kids, then spread it out in a pew for a mid-service snack. And I really have a problem with Sunday School teachers who hand out sugary treats every Sunday. Yes, let’s hype them up with a sugar rush just before a 70-minute worship service! Good plan!
Treat-dispersal had calmed down over the summer, but then my Spicy Child’s new teachers started things back up, and Spicy was coming out of class each week with suckers, or chocolates, or other little sugar treats, and then getting really put out when I wouldn’t let her eat them in church. Tired of the combat, I finally told her I didn’t want her to have any more treats at church, the end.
Cue several weeks of no treat battles, in which I assumed we had reached a bliss point.
Two weeks ago, dear little Spicy Child was in the car with me, and said, very seriously, “Mom, it’s a problem.”
“What’s a problem, baby?”
“You say I should be a good girl in class. And you say I can’t eat treats in church. But my teacher gives me treats when I’m a good girl, and only the bad kids don’t get treats. But you want me to be a good girl, and then they give me treats. It’s not fair. I don’t want to be a bad girl.”
(Not so big a cringe as when the Sunday School ladies stop me in the hall with a crooning, “Oh, Your Child had some… interesting… things to share in class today!” Then, it’s an immediate cringe followed by “Were you discussing Things Families Do, or Inappropriate Language?” because my children are being raised by the son of a drill sergeant, and while his vocabulary is a pale remnant of a once-vast litany of profanities and vulgarisms, it’s still pretty rich by church-going standards.
Add in the ways children interpret things (said Spicy Child considers anything she doesn’t particularly want to listen to as “F Words”), and my Tall, Dark, & Slightly Neanderthal husband’s kilt wearing habits combined with a desire to actually parent and correct his daughter gets shared in the Sunday School lesson on “Things Families Do as “My daddy doesn’t like to wear pants, and he says F Words at me.” Oh, I love Sunday School.)
So my daughter and I had a clarifying moment: she is allowed to be a good girl, and the teachers can give her a treat. But, she needs to put it in my bag and save it for eating after lunch at home. Crisis narrowly averted.