by Molly Ruch
I know some of you are looking at the four days of services beginning tonight and wondering how on earth you will do them with children in tow. Well, as someone who has been there and made it through (and, I might add, with a husband who had all sorts of excuses for not being able to help me), I thought I’d share some Holy Week survival tips and suggestions from a mom who has enjoyed holy week with children every year since…well, I cannot even bear to say.
Tip #1 – Except for maybe Easter Sunday picture clothes, do not dress your children to impress. Dress them for bedtime. Even their PJ’s don’t need to be cute (does anyone own kids’ pajamas that aren’t covered in banana stains?). Have your children come prepared for bed. Kids think going to school for pajama day is just the coolest thing – so just let them know that church is having that same special day (the clergy are wearing robes after all). You can tell them crazy hair day will be some other time, or maybe you can all come to the 7:30am Easter service and have it be both pajama day and crazy hair day (and then go home for a nice leisurely morning of French toast and Easter bacon).
Tip #2 – Bring an arsenal of food (and water!) – Food is your best friend for helping kids enjoy an entire service. Cheerios are great, but consider splurging and bringing some special snacks that you don’t normally buy—I found dried fruit was always a big hit. Avoid food with loud wrappers or anything that can be smooshed into the seat cushions. Sadly, I learned one year that string cheese fits into the “smooshable” category. Who knew?
Tip #3 – Bring blankets. As long as they are in their PJ’s, why not add a cozy blanket? We used to bring a child size sleeping bag for Aidan and have him sleep under a pew. (To clarify, this was a number of years ago). Children really do enter in and enjoy these services but we also know young children can get weary and its OK if they sometimes need a nap.
Tip #4 – Think of creative activities. One family we know would give their child a penny for every vowel combination (oi, ae, oa, ai, etc) that they circled in their bulletins. For younger kids, this mom would assign a vowel and have her children find as many as they could in the bulletin. I often provided color wonder markers for my kids –they could only be used at special services, so they became a treat. Here are some items not to bring: paper airplane making kit, silly putty, or anything that rolls. Also please note, even while doing an activity, children are still soaking things in, probably more than you even realize. It might not show now, but it will later.
Tip #5 – Come with the full recognition that even if you pull it together to make it to a service, you still might just be there in spirit only. The Easter Vigil service starts with a loud bang on the sanctuary door. One year that was enough to make Cyrus, an infant at the time, burst into an ear-splitting wail that did not subside until at least the Dry Bones reading. But when he did stop crying he had exhausted himself and fallen asleep, which allowed me to come back into the sanctuary and enjoy the rest of the service— while, of course, having a pen woven through the weave of my sweater by my four-year old who was pretending it was a train. Fine, he was being quiet.
Just come. We are a family. It is a joy for us to all celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus together.