Yesterday at church the chapel was fairly crowded. Since it was Fast Sunday, two families were blessing children. My family didn't arrive late, but when we got there, the only bench with enough room for all of us was the very front row. Ugh! Sometimes that's the worst row for a family with young kids to sit on, because you know the kids' irreverent behavior will be on public display for at least half of the room.
And that's what happened. After the deacons had passed the sacrament and sat down with their families, my two boys started bench-hopping all across the front of the room. One daughter was splayed all over our bench, moaning over her fate of having to come to church when she was so tired, and my other daughter was trying to play with her and crack jokes.
Needless to say, my husband and I have had it! No matter what we do or say, or things we allow to be smuggled into the chapel to keep the kids' attention, it was obvious to us we needed a new plan.
So last night at dinner, I announced that the entire family was going to take this week to practice sitting reverently in the chapel. Lucky for us, my husband's ward calling comes with a key to the building, so after dinner we all piled into the car, sans comic books and dinosaur toys, drove to the church, and sat quietly for 10 minutes in the chapel. I did bring scripture story books and Friend magazines, but that was it.
Tonight, for our FHE activity, we did this exercise again for 20 minutes. My goal is to increase our time by 10 minutes every evening until we can sit for a full 70 minutes. (Yes, you are fully within your rights to consider me mentally unstable!)
Before we left for the church, we had a short lesson about reverence in the chapel. We started by reading Leviticus 19:30, then I talked about how our meetinghouses have been dedicated to be sacred buildings, just like the temple. On special occasions, the chapel is even treated as a literal extension of the temple during temple dedication broadcasts. Next I read a story I found on Sugardoodle called Michael. This is a story originally published in the Friend magazine in 1974. My 6 year old particularly related to this story, which is about a boy who loves to run, climb, shout, wrestle, and be 100% boy. But when this boy goes to church, he knows how to sit quietly, keep his feet still, and not talk or even sing unless directed to (!) There are pictures for the story you can print out as well (click here.)
So far, this exercise/experiment in reverence is going well for us. I know it's not something any child can do, but I thank my God in heaven for helping me find a solution that actually seems to work for us!