Sunday, October 01, 2006

lay aside all earthly cares . . . right!

So, during the most solemn parts of DL this morning, I was wrestling Ian to keep him from climbing into a chair. I'm not sure how I was supposed to focus on the mystical transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ--maybe it's just as well that I don't have to worry right now about being mentally and spiritually prepared when the moment arrives, since I can't take communion anyway. I suppose some are wondering why I wouldn't let him sit in a chair anyway, and is it really worth all that struggle? Honestly, it's not that I object to him sitting in a chair. The problem is, once he gets in a chair, he starts moving the chairs around him. Not only is he not paying attention to the service (which is the least of my worries by that point--what three-year-old can concentrate that long anyway?), but he's disturbing other people in the process. It tends to snowball once he's got in a chair, because inevitably he'll cause a disturbance, and I'll have to retrieve him, and then the fight will be that much worse. Last night, he got so squirmy that I took him out for the last 10 min. or so. I didn't want to repeat that if it could be avoided, especially since it would mean dragging an upset kid through half the people during the most important part of the service. So since he was being relatively quiet (he whispered his protests), I just spent the time proving that I'm still big enough to hold him down (barely).

It's a frustrating business. You don't want to "reward" misbehavior by predictably removing them from the service when they're being disruptive (essentially what they want you to do), but at the same time you don't want to disturb other people. I suppose some would say that I should take him out and give him a good thrashing, so he knows it's better to stay in and behave. It's not that I'm opposed to spanking; I'm in favor of it when it works. The problem with Ian is, it doesn't generally accomplish much. When you ask him if he wants a spanking, he says "yes" and laughs, and the laughter generally continues during and after the spanking. He seems to have high tolerance for pain, and I don't feel particularly comfortable beating on him repeatedly until it finally produces some negative reaction. (Plus, it's very difficult to avoid getting angry in a bad way when he's just laughing at your feeble attempts to evoke some remorse.) So I normally consider spanking an absolute last and not very good resort. I find it much more effective to deny him something that he wants. Normally, when the three of us are together, this denial has something to do with separating him from Mommy. The threat that Mommy won't put him to bed, for instance, is usually enough to stop most problems that arise in the evening. In this case, however, Mommy wasn't around to begin with.

Normally, he's better behaved with me. That's probably still the case here, but it's just such an easy target. He knows better than I do that options for discipline are limited. I don't want to make the service seem like its own punishment, or to disturb others, or to give him what he wants by taking him out without some other consequence. Last night, I tried various idle threats. (Yes, I did invoke spanking--and regretted doing so as soon as the words left my mouth.) I said Mommy wouldn't bring him a present from her trip, as she'd promised. I said he couldn't go to the playground after the service. Eventually, I had to take him out, and the only other thing I could think of was to keep him in the narthex, where we continued to stand facing in the direction of the altar, and I followed along with what I could hear of the rest of the service until it was over. Then, after the service ended, we continued to stand there. He observed that the service was over, but I explained that, even though it was all done in there, what we were doing out here was still going on--and pointed out that if we had stayed in there, we would also be done by now. (I doubt that he got what I was trying to communicate, but it made me feel better anyway.) He didn't care much about missing the playground, but we did stay longer than he wanted to, while I talked to other adults about things that didn't interest him. He smelled the food downstairs and said he was hungry, but I made him wait until we got home to eat a piece of toast (the only option I gave him, but I doubt that he noticed or made the connection).

This morning, as I said, I didn't want to take him out of the service again if it could be avoided. I tried picking a position in front, so he could see more of what was going on. We also weren't terribly close to any other kids his age, which probably helped. Last night it all started with him making faces at a little girl nearby. He did fine through the liturgy of the word. Actually, both last night and this morning, he participated more than usual. I've been talking to him about participating, and he seemed to catch on. He doesn't know most of the words, but he tries to sing along anyway, and he sometimes follows what others are doing in the way of crossing and bowing. He's even started to venerate stuff--icons when we come in, and the cross at the end. (Fr. Gregory's offered it to him before, but this morning was the first time he did anything with it.) Then he wanted to sit in a chair, and it was a fairly continuous struggle from that point on. I restrained him for a while, which wasn't working very well. He's very stubborn when he gets something in his head, and he probably would have kept trying to get in the chair until the end of time.

It finally dawned on me, though, that there was one thing I could do to him--I took his pants. That probably sounds weird--even downright embarrassing--but it's not what you think. He has a pair of pajama bottoms that he's carried around with him for the past couple of years. I guess a normal kid would carry a blanket. We're not so fortunate. You've got to hand it to him for originality, but the bad part is, there's no way we can ever replace the darn things. We don't even know where to find another pair, let alone reproduce the various holes they've acquired over time. His worst trauma right now is on the rare occasions that we wash them--the dryer can never work fast enough. (Speaking of which, they're starting to stink again.) Anyway, I took them away from him and said he could have them back when he was ready to settle down and obey. For a while, he tried to get them back on his own, but eventually he figured out it wasn't going to happen and agreed to behave. A while later, he went for the chair again, and we had to start over. So it doesn't seem to have eliminated the problem, but at least I have some kind of weapon that works.

I guess everyone has to go through this kind of thing. I feel like it's probably worse because he's gone this long without being in services for the most part, but who knows? Someone relayed last night a comparison made by the Khouria regarding this kind of thing. She says DL is like Christmas dinner at Grandma's house. You dress up and use the best china, but the house is full of screaming kids, and it's to be expected. I guess. It's still frustrating. I am glad to see him participating more, though. It also seems like it helped to explain some things to him. I never quite know how much he gets of what I say, but between last night and this morning, I explained to him that it was important for all of us to do things together in church, and that's why I tell him to stand up at certain times, or not to lie down on the floor. I suspect that had something to do with his obviously following what others were doing around him this morning. Not bad for an unregenerate little sinner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow - can I ever relate to this!

Bring something for him to do - a book or coloring book or legos or blocks or something and then land in the back where he can stay busy but not distract (the balcony at our church is where alot of adults take their kids who are bored).

It's not the Ian won't learn about church if he's looking at a book or coloring - he will. As he matures, more stuff will engage him.

BUT - the important thing is that you bring him and he is eventually able to see that this is what we do - we worship.

While the kids are little it is a struggle - but a worthwhile one.

Jesus said, "let the children come to me", he didn't put a qualifier with it like: "let the children come to me only if they act like respectful adults".

The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.