When I was a kid and my parents took us to church, there were certain expectations for behavior. My brother and I were to sit quietly, follow along with the service, say the prayers with the congregation, and pay attention to the sermons. If we did not sit quietly, we got a glare from my dad. If we continued our shenanigans, we would be escorted out of church and get a spanking. It was a simpler time.
As a parent, I don't resort to threats of physical harm to get my son to behave in church. Zane is wiggly, but he usually tries to be quiet, and usually a glare will make him refocus. After all, if he wants to make his First Communion, he has to demonstrate the appropriate behavior. Sit quietly, follow along with the service, say the prayers with the congregation, and pay attention to the sermon. Larry and I have drilled this into Zane's head repeatedly, and I'm happy to say that our efforts appear to be working. Mostly.
Last Sunday, at the evening service, we sat across the aisle from one of Zane's classmates. This excited my son, who is always happy to find someone he knows. The boy practically did cartwheels trying to get the little girl's attention, while we glared and pointed to the pew. Zane leaned over and whispered loudly that the little girl was in his class, and I patted his hand and handed him the hymnal so he could find the song they were about to sing.
I watched the little girl out of the corner of my eye, out of habit: I always want to know how my son's behavior compares to other kids his age. She was standing quietly next to her mother, just like Zane was standing quietly next to me. Cool. I was about to refocus my attention on the service, when the girl's mother handed her daughter a bag of chocolate chip cookies.
Cookies? At Mass? I was shocked. My parents had had a firm "no food in church" rule; it was considered disrespectful, and the faithful are supposed to fast the hour before Mass. I shook my head. They were kids. Maybe the family hadn't eaten dinner before the service, and this was to tide the girl over until supper. I should be less judgmental, I told myself, especially in the House of God. But Zane was eyeing those cookies, completely distracted, his hand twitching. I put my hand on his shoulder, the service was about to begin. The children's choir started to sing.
That was when the woman pulled Funyons out of her purse.
Funyons?!!! No. That can't be Funyons. I looked again. Yes. Yes, they were Funyons. The bright yellow bag crinkled loudly in my mind, but nobody else seemed to notice. She opened the bag and handed it to her son. I couldn't help staring, but I had no idea that my mouth was hanging open until Larry touched my shoulder and looked at me.
"What's wrong?" he mouthed. I just stared at him a moment, before leaning close.
"THAT. WOMAN. HAS. FUNYONS. IN. CHURCH." I whispered in outrage. Larry looked across the aisle, and then rolled his eyes. It didn't bother him. He's Methodist. My normally tolerant self, however, was scandalized. It must have been all the nuns in my family history, surfacing in my consciousness, rulers and rosaries at the ready. I fully expected lightning to strike. Fortunately God is not that much of a stickler about eating in church. Maybe he likes Funyons.
I decided that I was tired, and perhaps not thinking clearly. I was okay with chocolate chip cookies, but I drew the line at Funyons? I was probably more upset that Zane saw the food exchange; now he would want to know why HE wasn't allowed to eat cookies during Mass, or bring toys. What parent likes having all their hard work erased by another parent? But repetition is part of learning, and definitely part of parenting. I'm sure that Larry and I will be repeating our behavior expectations for church, and other events, right up until Zane graduates from high school.
I plan to bring Funyons.