A couple of weeks ago I was innocently trying to sneak out of church early when a woman in the Primary Presidency caught me and asked if I could fill in last minute for a sick teacher. I didn't have a great way to make, "I was going to go home and watch Baby Mama and take a nap," sound legitimate so I said of course.
Let me just say that although I have been a Mormon since birth, I have never, ever taught a Primary class. I think the last time I was even IN a Primary room was maybe college? And probably to watch my little sister give a talk or say a prayer. I'll confess, I was a little nervous. Kidlets generally like me but I had no idea how many I was dealing with and how many of the remaining two hours I would be alone with them. It's a funny thing to be an adult whose nephews and friends with children all live far away-I'm just never around little people. I am an oldest child and was a superstar babysitter all during the late eighties and early nineties. I nannied for a family with 8 children for crying out loud but these days, I'm more of the wind-them-up-and-give-them-back style of adult.
I went in and found my class of four year olds sitting very, very reverently at the front. I took my seat and immediately, this adorable little blonde with big blue eyes and bows in her hair looked up at me and asked if I was the teacher. You could just tell that this was the kind of child who loves teachers. And probably baby-sitters and crossing guards too. She was very clearly a well-mannered little thing and I was instantly charmed. Her name was Lucy which she whispered to me before going back to folding her arms and trying to pay attention. I was wearing red heels, a big sparkly ring and flashy earrings and I could feel her stealing little glances at me but the desire to be good was strong enough to keep her mostly paying attention. Simon, the fellow next to her, was also terribly well behaved. And not terribly interested in me. At the end of the row was Anaya. She had long, thick black hair, big brown eyes and beautiful olive skin. She didn't even attempt to pay attention, just played with her hair, stared at me, and smiled shyly every time I looked over.
I think I've mentioned before that my baby-hunger gene must have malfunctioned because even though I think kids are pretty great, and having nephews has opened my eyes even more to the joys of children, I don't have this overwhelming desire to actually have one yet (for the record, there have been a couple of guys over the last few years that have made me think-we'll if HE was the dad then yes...so maybe I'm not totally broken). But these three were KILLING ME that day. I kept getting all weepy and I'm sure I broke some kind of rule when I took every single one of them to the bathroom when they asked-don't underestimate even a well behaved four year old, if she catches on that the adult doesn't really seem to know how things go, she will take FULL advantage.
For the second hour we were combined with another group of four year olds since I didn't have a chance to prepare a lesson. We got into the classroom and the regular teacher taught a quick lesson on how to tell when you are feeling the spirit. It was a good lesson that held their attention for the most part, although I spent half the class with one sort of uncontrollable little girl who only stopped laying on the back of her chair when I gave her my ring to play with. Which made all the other little girls want to play with my jewelry. Frankly, if big chunky jewelry can count as toys, maybe I'm more ready for this than I think.
The whole experience was terribly interesting. True confession: it's not super easy to be a single lady in a family congregation. In some ways I think they are just glad we're still showing up and they'll deal with us for real when we have a spouse. And some of that is on me as well, I'm sure I could engage more, but with a busy job and social life, it can be easier to just log my three Sunday hours and go back to my role as token Mormon in my regular life. But being with the kids was so. much. fun. An adult is an adult to them so don't care about marital status. They listen! Even when they aren't going to do what you asked them to do, they are totally listening and observing-it's disconcerting at the same time as being kind of awesome. They are very small so I felt very tall. Do you know that a four year old has no trouble telling you that you are "very pretty"? Other people's kids are the single greatest self-esteem boost ever, better than a cat.
I told the Primary President to for sure put me on the substitute list-I mean, I don't need to commit full-time right?