A quick update to followup on our progress--second week of Sunday school was a big success!
Not perfect of course--there were a few tricky moments and a lack of focus on the teacher overall, but Merry participated in the art project, stayed with the class and loved the sing-along at the end.
It's looking like key will be to break up mass and Sunday school, provide some incentives, and talk Merry through the process so he knows what to expect.
I ended up taking Merry to mass on Saturday evening, which went really well. Two solid hours of sit still be quiet is a lot to ask of any 3 year old, and this breaks it up into more manageable chunks. I'm not crazy about making two trips every weekend, but its a small price to pay for avoiding meltdowns. Not only is the drive to and from church fairly relaxing and beautiful all by itself, our weekends aren't usually super-productive anyway. An extra dose of Jesus is a good use of time and some added structure (yay structure!).
Merry and I talked about Sunday school a bit during the week, especially on Saturday when I talked him through the schedule for Sunday: "tonight we'll go to mass, then go home for dinner and bed. In the morning we'll go to the park, then back to church for sunday school, then you can play outside and we'll go home for lunch". He really likes going through a schedule and knowing what's coming next in the day.
We did stop by the park for a few minutes before class; I was thinking that it'd be a good way for him to burn off energy. But the playground was wet and Merry was unimpressed. Probably not worth it going forward, especially since the weather is unlikely to cooperate 80% of the time.
The big kicker was the W mat. The church has a set of alphabet mats for the kids to sit on, and my alphabet-loving boy wanted his favorite letter something fierce. I had a hard time our first weekend explaining that the W mat wasn't his just because he liked it, but that it belonged to his teacher and he would have to behave if he wanted to have it. This apparently sunk in, because when we talked about it during the week, Merry's main input and biggest concern was: "Maybe I can sit on Ms. J's W mat?"
So I emailed Ms. J to check that it would be ok if I made sure the mat was reserved, and also checked to see if the structure of the class would be the same most weeks: art project followed by circle time for the lesson and maybe a song if there was time. I promised Merry that if he could behave during art project, then he could sit on the W mat during circle time.
Oh man, that did it. He even weathered an unexpected 'field trip' into the sanctuary, as long as he knew the W mat was waiting for him when we finished. I am so proud of my boy!