The Wife wanted to take us to a special service at Rodef Shalom last night. This particular service is short on the praying, long on the singing: the entire service consists of songs. The boys have been doing a lot of Jewish song singing around the house for the past couple of weeks, so she figured that that would be a perfect way to spend an hour. I got home from work at 5:15, had some dinner, did the potty visits with boys, wrestled them into shoes, and got ready to throw them in the car. Little Bear needed a change of pants - a poo accident, the third in two days - which delayed us. We arrive at temple around 5 after 6, after they had already begun.
Strike against us: no other children there at all. I noticed that immediately, but what are you going to do? You're there. You're not going to throw them back in the car and head home because you've got the only kids.
The first half hour went perfectly fine. I held The Baby, and he and The Boy were quite content to sit on my lap and listen or sing occasionally. Little Bear was a little squirrelly, as per usual, but he was happy to be with Mom. At the half hour mark, things started to disintegrate.
Potty trip for Little Bear, followed by The Boy running away from us in the sanctuary. The Baby started to cry - needed milk - and The Wife took him inside the baby room to nurse. Little Bear started a screaming fit, so he was deposited into the baby room three minutes later. The Boy was uncooperative when back in the sanctuary, talking loudly and complaining. The Wife came back with the other two boys, and The Boy took off and ran into the hallway. While I was gone chasing after him, Little Bear threw another screaming fit. To make matters better (sarcasm), I had just calmed The Boy down by allowing him to promise, "I'll cooperate, Daddy. I want cookies and lemonade." When I got back to the rest of the family, The Wife was dragging them out of the sanctuary and towards the car. She was done.
My issue: we did not put the children in a position to succeed last night. We left the door wide open for them to choose misbehavior, instead of putting them in a position to choose positive behaviors. Basically, by handling things the way that we did, we left a high probability for a negative outcome and next to no chance for a positive one. The question is, what could we have changed?
Here's the bottom line: when the kids outnumber us, there is essentially no chance for us to do something like this as a whole family. In a situation that requires attention and behavior from each child equally, one of two things must happen: 1) they must be at an age where they can either control themselves or supervise themselves for that time period, or 2) they must have a caretaker (adult or sibling) that is capable of meeting their needs on an individual basis. We were trying to play zone defense on small children with no self-control in an environment where people need to be quiet and attentive.
We didn't have a chance.
Thinking about it, it probably would have been smarter to have sent The Wife with only one of the boys. Or, we should have done something like leave one of the boys with a friend for an hour, to make the ratio somewhat more acceptable. Failing that, we should have removed The Baby and one of the boys from the sanctuary when they started to fuss. If we needed to switch boys somewhat after that, that's a different story. I mean, for the Purim reading, Little Bear was active for five minutes and sat quietly for the rest. The Boy was quiet for five minutes and ran around for the rest.
That failure kind of set the tone for the rest of the evening, although we had a very pleasant half hour or so of outside play when we got home. Bath and bedtime went relatively smoothly, although it's very difficult to manage The Baby at bedtime. He's forgotten how to suck his thumb, so his pacifier is - you guessed it - Mom. Or milk in a bottle. I know that this will pass and that he will develop some of his own soothing habits, but it makes it challenging right now. I'm looking forwards to the time when we can put him down and have a reasonable expectation of a couple of hours' sleep in his own bed.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone