Making the Sabbath a Delight….with a Toddler

 
Most of you who read this blog probably know that I am a member of the LDS church. We believe in the commandment that the Lord gave in the Old Testament to keep the Sabbath day holy (as many religions do), and set Sunday aside as a day of worship and rest, and a day dedicated to doing activities that will bring us closer to God. In return, we are promised that we will be blessed:
 
I believe He wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal. God gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty, with physical and spiritual relief.–Elder Russel M. Nelson
 
But to be totally honest, in spite of how they should be, Sundays have not exactly been my favorite day of the week since I had Ella. It just didn’t really fully sink until she was born that, when you’re a parent, there aren’t any days off! While the Sabbath used to truly be a break–from school, work, and other activities that I was participating in–with time for learning at church, personal study, contemplation, spending time with loved ones, resting, etc., now it’s a little nuts.
 
What I wish was a reflective, peaceful day is usually comprised of: trying to get to church on time (when Dave and I both sometimes have assignments for our callings that take us away from home before our meetings), wrangling Ella and trying to get her to be somewhat reverent at church (aka shoving fruit snacks at her and hissing empty threats),  missing naptime (we have church from 1-4 this year–LDS congregations rotate meeting at different times annually), and trying to keep Ella happy and entertained all morning when we aren’t really doing our normal routine. Needless to say, we are all a little frazzled and out of sorts by the time the day is over. If you have young kids, I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, because I’m sure it’s similar for you too (if not way harder depending on your circumstances–I mean, we only have one kid!)!
 
If I sound like a big fat whiner, it’s because I have been. I’ve truly had a terrible attitude toward Sunday for the past little while, and sadly, I’ve sort of just accepted that it would be a stressful, frustrating, chaotic day while I have young kids, and I’ve been going through the motions rather than really consciously dedicating my day to the Lord.  In the talk that I quoted above (read the whole thing, it’s really good!), Elder Nelson quoted this scripture:
 
“And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, … the fulness of the earth is yours.”–D&C 59:9-16
 
What an amazing blessing we are promised if we use our Sunday to rededicate ourselves to our Father in Heaven–and view it with gratitude instead of as just a day where our baby’s routines get thrown off. 🙂 So, like President Hinckley once said, I’m going to try a little harder to be a little better.
 
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
 
1. Prepare
 
What’s the old saying? If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail? While that’s usually reserved for those pseudo-inspiring posters in school hallways I think it has some application here. If I really want Sunday to go smoothly and be a day of rest and renewal, I need to work harder to get ready for it. Things like planning dinner, making sure church assignments like lessons and talks are taken care of before Sunday morning, and even getting the diaper bag packed so Dave doesn’t have to get it pulled together if I’m gone in the morning. Plus, then we will have more time in the morning for constructive family activities, rather than scrambling to get out the door in one piece. Getting enough sleep is a huge one too! Since we started having church at one, I am totally guilty of thinking, “Oh, we can stay up late tonight because we can sleep in tomorrow.” Well, with alarm-clock Ella that doesn’t really happen, so then I’m tried and grumpy, and not really in a good frame of mind to get a lot out of church!
 
2. Communicate
 
This kind of goes along with preparing. If Dave and I both have responsibilities for our calling, home or visiting teaching appointments, and family plans (his parents Facetime from their mission and my sisters come over for dinner quite often) we need to talk that through and make sure we know who needs the car at what time and where Ella is going to be. Just talking through our plans and responsibilities for the day goes a long way.
 
3. Learn to say no
 
Reading through this, I’m realizing that I sometimes overextend ourselves on Sunday. Therefore, I don’t really make it a day for strengthening my relationship with Heavenly Father, as much as a day to get any church-related responsibility accomplished, or making plans with loved ones.  While there definitely is room for those things on Sundays, I think I could be better at saying no sometimes. Often home and visiting teachers want to come by, or people want to schedule presidency meetings, and I always feel bad saying that another day would work better for us because I want to be accommodating. But I am realizing that crowding Sunday with too much is the fastest way for me to resent it instead of it being a day I look forward to, and pretty soon there is no time for the quiet time that I think should take place.
 
4. Embrace reality
 
Like I said above, before we had Ella, there used to be a lot more time on the Sabbath for relaxing, reading General Conference talks, writing in our journals, etc. As nice as those things are, and while I think we can still find time for them, the reality of our lives right now is that we have a toddler and she doesn’t really care what day of the week it is, and she needs to be fed, entertained, and cleaned up after–that’s just life 🙂 And, we need to think about how we can use this day off from school and work to teach her about the gospel too. So, here are a few things we are going to try, to make Sunday a special day for everyone in our family:
 
-Family drives
-Walk around the temple grounds (we are lucky that we live close to two!)
-Have special toys/books/movies that are Sunday only (my mom gave us some of her Living Scriptures videos because….let’s be honest Ella would freak if she couldn’t watch a show after waking up in the morning. It’s just the truth of the matter).
-Family home evening (Dave usually works Monday nights so Sunday works better)
-Just having pretty hymns on in the background as we get ready
-Visit extended family/members of the ward who might like company
-Trade off Ella duty with Dave so we can each have some personal time (that should probably be communicated early in the day, though, if it’s going to happen).
 
5. Change your attitude
 
Admittedly, there have been a few Sundays where I’ve wondered what the point was of even bringing Ella to church.  But when I started to think about what I was teaching Ella by showing her that we attend church even when its inconvenient, things got a lot better. And when we were at our peak of hall–pacing (probably from months 10-18), I would just try to think of ONE thing I had learned or felt at church that week. Dave and I would usually trade off having Ella so there was at least a little time that I could sit quietly and listen or learn (I know that’s not possible in some people’s situations and I commend you!). And there’s always light at the end of the tunnel….she’s in nursery now and it’s awesome!!!
 
Elder Nelson also said that we should think about what sign we want to give God, in relation to our activities on the Sabbath. I think just carrying that thought in our hearts as we go about our day makes our priorities and what we are doing fall into place naturally.
 
So there you have it. These are a few things we are going to try to do better at in our family. I really hope that in a few months I can honestly say that Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I’d love to hear any ideas for Sunday activities with little kids or how you keep them happy at church!
  • Great post Claire! I just gave a talk on this subject and I wish I would have had this to quote from!

  • WAIT!!! I thought I was the first one the ever say "the Sabbath a delight"