I have to admit, whining drives me nuts. Beyond nuts. I’m not sure there’s a word that satisfactorily describes the particular kind of psychosis I suffer on Fast and Testimony Sundays when my children are attempting to fast.
“Can I have water?”
“Can I chew gum?”
“Can I suck a mint?”
“Does fruit count?” (Hello?)
“How much longer do we have to wait?”
“I’m starving to death.”
“I’m dying over here.”
“Bury me next to grandma.”
“I can’t STAND it anymore.”
Well, NEITHER CAN I! The temptation to shout “If you can’t handle fasting, then don’t do it!” is almost too great to resist. I want to throw open every cabinet in the kitchen and let them have at it. “Take what you want. Eat it. Eat ALL of it! But please–PLEASE– for the love of all that is sacred, PLEASE stop whining about it!”
Despite many Family Home Evenings and in-the-moment discussions over the years about fasting, the whys, the how-to’s, the what-NOT-to do’s, the various ways people sometimes wear the contemporary equivalent of sackcloth and ashes, etc., we kept having the same problems. And it’s not like we force them to fast, nor have we been unreasonable about it.
We’ve always told our children that once they’re baptized, we expect them to fast. It’s nothing forced or coerced. They know it’s a personal choice and something between them and the Lord; there’s no punishment for not fasting. But just like we expect them to say their personal prayers, keep the commandments and tithe, we expect them to fast on Fast Sundays. We started out slowly of course, encouraging them to skip one meal and eventually working up to the full fast. But it’s amazing how they can skip meals on other days with seemingly no hint of starvation on the brink, but on Fast Sundays the Grim Reaper is in every room of the house and serving as the usher at church.
I was printing out handouts listing different LDS pop bands for a workshop on music I was teaching, when one of the groups’ names suddenly gave me an epiphany– “Fast Sundae”– clever name. I’d seen it and mentioned it several times, but it struck me as an IDEA that time.
After scripture study one evening, I explained the new family tradition I wanted to implement. Fast Sundaes. And I worked it up. “Normally when we have ice cream, it’s just ice cream. Sometimes we happen to have chocolate syrup around. But this is going to be ‘the works’: marschino cherries, that squirty whip cream you’re always asking for and I never buy, caramel, strawberries, hot fudge, toasted coconut, M&M’s, sprinkles, chopped nuts; pretty much anything you want.” They loved it!
I didn’t want this to be interpreted as a bribe in order to get them to fast; they usually do it on their own anyway. The point was to encourage them to think POSTIVELY about fasting– something to which they could look FORWARD, and an incentive to do away with the whinefest. But, I REALLY didn’t want the sundaes to be considered a “prize”. So just like I wouldn’t take away dinner as a “consequence” for not fasting, I didn’t want to take away dessert either, just because a kid caved into the natural response to hunger by complaining about it. So I found a middle ground.
My kids LOVE to have a “backwards” meal, where they get to eat dessert first. I’ve hardly ever done that. I’m not even sure I could use all the fingers on one hand to count the times we’ve done it. But they sure remember the times we have. So there it was! Everyone gets dessert; however, those who fast and emerge at the end without having fussed and practically planned their own funeral get to break their fast with Fast Sundaes. No chicken and broccoli first. Just that cold and creamy confection drowned in sugar in enough of it’s various forms to nearly put them in a diabetic coma.
Well, it worked, and in more ways than one! Unfortunately, I don’t always remember that it’s Fast Sunday. The truth is, there have been plenty of times when I’ve woken up on a Sunday morning, made breakfast and arrived at church only to realize during the welcome to Fast and Testimony meeting, that I’d forgotten to start my fast the day before. But now? HA! I CAN’T forget. They remind me too often! My youngest keeps thinking of new toppings and putting them on the shopping list I keep on my fridge. When we’re at the store, they see something and say “That would good on a sundae!” Last week as we were heading out the door for church, my son said, “Mom, next Sunday’s fast Sunday, right?”
Oh yeah– this one’s in the bag!