Sunday, 4 October 2015

General Conference

Okay, this is me needing to get something out there.

Twice a year, my church live streams 4 two hour conferences over a Saturday and Sunday.  It's called General Conference.  It is a combination of beautiful music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and inspirational talks from church leaders.  It's a time to be renewed, find direction and purpose, and be uplifted.

As a kid, this conference was only available by satellite broadcast to our local church building.  while some people would go back and forth to view all four sessions, most families simply brought their kids to the Sunday morning session.  We would bring books to read and pictures to colour and maybe, just maybe, we might tune in to a story or two.

Now, the conference is broadcast over the internet, so we can view it on our own TVs, sitting on our couch (and yes, even in our pyjamas.)  This has made watching all four sessions a whole lot easier for parents with young kids.  Traditionally we let the kids just go about their business while we listen in, still able to change a diaper or get a snack while hearing everything.

Over the past five years or so, there has been a huge shift in Mormon culture to create a slew of activities that help your kids watch not just one two hour session, but all four.  Pinterest exploded with activity packets.  Two current favourites are "colour the speaker's tie" or eat a certain candy whenever the speaker says a certain word.  And over the past few years, I have faithfully prepared elaborate picnics, printed out hundreds of activity pages, provided glue and markers and scissors, and plied my kids with candy.

None of it works.

To colouring ties: "That's not the right shade of green for his tie! I think it has dots.  No, it's diamonds. Dots are easier to draw.  Diamonds are right. Those stripes are too thick. I don't like colouring. That woman isn't wearing a tie."  For two straight hours.

To candy rewards: "Did they just say the word? I think they did. No they didn't. That was the other word. Yes they did! I'm going to eat one. Don't you dare because it wasn't the word!"  For two straight hours.

To clever crafts: "Pass the glue.  He threw the glue at me. Can you clean up the glue that spilled? I cut my shirt with the scissors.  I cut my hair with the scissors. I can't cut the paper with the scissors. She's colouring her arms instead of the paper." For two straight hours.

So I sat myself down one day to figure out why on earth I was doing what I was doing.  I'm not opposed to hard work, but sometimes I forget why I'm doing something.  The goal was to create a love of conference in my children, a desire as they grow to listen to these inspiring words.  But what I was doing was not doing that.  Not at all.  The result of what I was doing was four kids pumped up on sugar, frustrated from the crafts, and nobody hearing a single word.

I realized that I love watching conference, and I did not grow up being made to watch it.  the love came as a grew to an appropriate age for the kind of activity it is.  I was getting caught up in Pinterest and Facebook land, and by a style of learning that, while seems to work for others, was clearly not working for us.

So this weekend we simply had the conference on.  James and I watched what we could, and listened to the rest if we had to step out of the room.  The kids came in and out, watching pieces here and there. Somehow all three boys heard the story about young boys digging a huge hole in a field and creating a mud puddle in which to swim.  Juliette fell asleep next to me for a bit.  There were no tricks or gimmicks.  And I have to trust that one day my children will love it like I do.

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