Last night was our “First Wednesday” service, a service designed for deeper worship than the average Sunday morning. I have to trust that this is the case because, just like Sunday mornings, I am with the kids. And I have to tell you, last night was rough. I have a few guesses as to the reason why, but the kids are just 20 times more unruly on First Wednesdays than they ever are on Sunday mornings. Maybe it’s because they’ve already been at school all day, and they’re tired of behaving. Maybe it’s because First Wednesday usually keeps them up past their normal bedtime. Whatever it is, I had a lot of trouble getting control. I kept threatening that if I could not get their attention, they would have to write the KidsPointe rules (my version of “writing sentences” – my punishment of choice). Finally I had threatened it so many times that I thought to myself, “Okay, I’m going to have to do it.” After a chaotic game, a frequently-interrupted story and a messy snack, it was time to set up for craft time. I gave one final plea; “If you cannot sit quietly for three minutes while we set up the craft, you will be writing the rules.” They couldn’t do it. I grabbed a tablet of paper and a box of pencils, and I slowly passed out a paper and a pencil to each child. As I went around, some would ask questions.
Child: “Are we going to draw something?”
Me: “No, you’re going to write.”
Child: “What about me? I didn’t do anything!”
Me: “Everybody has to write. ”
As I continued around the tables, I could hear whispering.
“She’s not really going to make us write the rules.”
“She’s just trying to scare us.”
Once everyone had a piece of paper and a pencil, I pointed to the big poster of the rules on the wall. “There’s the rules. Start writing.”
With disbelief they all started pushing those pencils. There were some that are very young and have probably never written a complete sentence in their life. For these little ones I offered the option of drawing pictures to represent the rules, but they all opted to give the writing a shot. Some tried to buck the system, postponing the inevitable by asking questions.
“Does this have to be cursive?”
“If I get to the bottom of the page, what do I do?”
“Can I get a drink of water? Can I go to the bathroom? Can I make a paper airplane?”
Finally, for a moment, all I heard was the scratching of pencils against paper. I took the opportunity to give a speech – you know the drill. Disobeying the rules hurts everyone, we could have more fun if I don’t have to waste time getting everyone’s attention, et cetera, et cetera. I decided that I would let them write for about ten minutes, or until I felt some sense of calm in the room, whichever came first. So it was about ten minutes. Then we moved on to the craft.
Then there’s the ones that are actually excited about the prospect of writing sentences for the rest of the evening. Their eagerness almost negates the idea that this is a punishment. But since these are the ones that were the best-behaved anyway, I let it slide. “Sure, you can keep writing the rules instead of doing the craft.” Whatever.
The rest of the evening was a little better, but there were a few that still did not get the message. Thank God for Veggie Tales. I’m hoping that typing this all out will help me to let go and move on. Maybe next month will be better.