Monday, January 04, 2010

I have a program for that

My voice is swallowed up in my chest and throat making my resolution to move in slow motion something I cannot avoid. Until about 10am every morning I cannot speak above a whisper and have to gesture to the children to make them do what they ought. Getting ready for church yesterday morning was blissfully quiet if slightly more complicated than usual.

As I was trying to wrestle Gladys into her pink tights it occurred to me that having a largish family is akin, probably, to having a program size church. We are making the transition this very moment from a pastoral size to a program size church and there many changes that we have undergone as a family and in the way that we pastor. If you're interested in reading about the various sizes of churches I'm sure you could google and find out far more than I know (bleh), but very basically, as a church grows, the role of the pastor changes. More programs and institutions are required to keep things functioning peacefully and orderly. It doesn't mean that the pastor stops doing his pastorly job, but that things that might have been informal before because everybody knew about them, have to be formally articulated.

A good example of this is the soup kitchen. Whilst we were a small church, everyone just knew all the inner workings of the soup kitchen. It was just known which boxes of food in the kitchen were for Shepherd's Bowl, even though they were unmarked. You can see the potential for disaster when someone who doesn't know comes in and uses Shepherd's Bowl food for coffee hour or some other such horror. Making a 'program' of the Shepherd's Bowl means doing things like marking the boxes, or explicitly saying who pays for what etc. etc.

Having a large family, I think, is just like that.

Whereas with one child, you don't really have to say anything out loud or formalize anything, its just you and the kid, what could possibly go wrong (heh), but with FIVE children one needs institutions to keep oneself afloat. These institutions further allow one to impress the world.

"How" someone said to me, "do you manage to have your children so beautifully dressed for church week after week?" Well, I have a program for that. Its called Saturday Afternoon and its a very orderly very formalized time. Everyone that needs a haircut gets one. Everyone gets a bath (even this is broken down--Alouicious gets towels for everyone, Elphine gets pjs. Girls go in first, then boys. Hair is washed blah blah etc.) Elphine and Alouicious pick out Sunday clothes for themselves and the little ones. We find all necessary socks, shoes, tights, hairbows, diapers everything and its all laid out on the dining room table. Supper is simple and easily cleaned up. And the house is cleaned. That's one institution.

Another institution is story time in the evening. After the children are all ready for bed, the sit on the floor and they basically have to sit still and Matt reads a long chapter of Genesis and they discuss it.

Less and less of life is sort of haphazardly determined and more and more is said allowed (or laminated onto little cards). What makes a programed life so peaceable and lovely is that it comes on incrementally. Who, of course, is not overwhelmed with a first child? Show me a person with their first child, and I will show you a person who needs a shower and a cup of coffee with a friend. But you gain a capacity to cope and do more work so that as the second, third, forth....children arrive, you can handle more and you have more systems to keep things going.

Probably everybody reading this has already figured this out and is bemusedly amused that I am only just figuring it out. In this realm of life, I've been so busy making programs for myself that I didn't notice what I was doing. But I needed to sit down and sort it out because I've been finding myself frustrated with those blessed suckers who only have one child. They also don't have all the programs that I have with my five. When it was me by myself with Elphine I was ALWAYS late, for everything. I never ever factored in enough time to account for both her and me. Now I am often early because I well know all the little things that could hang us up and factor in time to deal with them. When they don't occur, we arrive early.

And now, the time for our school "program" has arrived and I will not have my whole day thrown off just because I couldn't force myself to stop blogging. See you later.


Jessica said...

Anne, this is awesome. You always crack me up and make me think and all at the same time.

And you're right about having just one. It was just as overwhelming, but looks so laughably easy from my current perspective . . . not that the shower and coffee sound bad now either.

Meredith said...

Found you via Jessica. I really enjoyed the way you broke this down! I fear I am the one in our new parish who keeps putting things in the wrong box. Our size has grown from purely pastoral, but the rest of the church may not realize it yet.