24 April 2013
And then I cried in front of all of the children at church.
Background info: Primary is for kids ages 4-11. Sharing Time is when an adult teaches the kiddos a lesson during an hour of the three hours that make up a Mormon Sunday. It's followed by Singing Time. Singing Time is exactly what it sounds like.
A couple of weeks after we moved to Des Moines, I was asked to be the first counselor of the Primary. I was terrified, but I said yes.
Since then, Primary has been a little rough for me. Not because of the kids, the kids are great. Not really because of the adults, although I'm not certain I will ever outgrow being intimidated by my female peers. But because of Sharing Time. Every few weeks I have to teach a 20-30 minute lesson to a group of kids ranging from ages 4-11. Four to ELEVEN. How are you ever supposed to appeal to a group that spans those ages? I have no idea how to keep the kids interested while still remaining in charge of the situation.
This Sunday we were supposed to read the story of the First Vision. I made word strips with some of the phrases and put them up on the board. They were supposed to raise their hand when they heard a phrase that was up on the board. I tried to combine words and pictures to help the ones who couldn't read, but let's get real. No four year old is going to understand that activity.
I asked one of the adults to pick the kid who raised their hand first. The kids just raised their hands for everything. One of the adults said that I should emphasize the phrases that were on the board when I read them. If only I was that prepared. I didn't mark in my scriptures which phrases were on the board. So it was kind of anarchy. Why did they ask me to do this? I don't know how to teach kids. I keep trying to be better at it, but I keep failing. Then the same adult suggested I read all of the phrases on the board so the little kids would know what to listen for. I was obviously not in control of the situation. There were 12 phrases on the board. They wouldn't remember any of them even if I read them, but I did it anyway. Mostly because I was feeling my face get red and my throat get tight and my eyes get really full of tears like they do when I'm anxious and embarrassed, and continually talking helps combat from totally breaking down.
We made it through the entire activity. We missed a word strip (whoops), but one of the eleven year-old boys figured out where it went. They are really smart, those eleven year-olds. There were still ten minutes left of Sharing Time. Of course this was the one Sunday when Opening Exercises only lasted five minutes instead of fifteen. I decided to bear my testimony about the 14 year-old boy who had a question, prayed, and was answered by God the Father and Jesus Christ themselves. While this is something that I feel very strongly about, it was not the reason I cried while telling about it. All the adults probably knew that since my face was like lobster red by then. Still seven minutes left. I asked the kids if they would like to bear their testimonies of the First Vision (as was suggested by the manual). Crickets. So I asked our sweet Singing Time leader if she could. She was caught off guard, but since she is one of the kindest people to ever walk the earth, she did. We ended Sharing Time five minutes early.
Even though I really, really wanted to walk out of the Primary room and never return, I gathered up a runaway Sunbeam (a four year old) and sat next to her for Singing Time. She is one of the quietest kids. She always has a Web Kinz with her. Even though I silently cried and wiped away my tears for the entire last half hour of church, she didn't notice or just didn't care. She would whisper to me about how she liked the song or didn't want to do the activity that went along with it or that my shoes matched her teachers shoes because they were both black.
Noon came and closing prayer preceded the mad dash to find parents. I was wanting to sprint to Jeff, but was stopped by one of our teachers who asked a weird question. This sister was always asking me weird questions when my anxiety was at maximum. Maybe she recognized I was off and wanted to say something but didn't know what, or maybe she was completely oblivious, but I answered the question as quickly as possible and probably came off as a little rude. I grabbed my bag. Found the boys on my first lap around the chapel (tender mercies), and got in the Jetta Wagon to return to my fortress of solitude.
And, bonus, I get to do Sharing Time next week, too. I was actually substituting this past Sunday.
Now, children (if anyone has made it this far), what can we learn from this?
First, adults do not have it all together. They may not even be very good at hiding the fact that they are breaking apart. However, the good news is that you can get better at dealing with your demons. I used to refuse to talk in front of people. I used to get so nervous that I would make myself sick. But here I am today. Still feeling completely anxious and sick, still crying from nervousness, BUT completing the task at hand and not running out of the room when I am finished. Progress.
Second, angels come in all forms. Sometimes they are wide-eyed four year old girls with bobbed haircuts and pink Crocs that won't let go of their bunny Web Kinz, but will whisper secrets to you if you sit next to them and care to listen.
Two steps forward, one step back.
But a little bit forward, nonetheless.
"Except ye be converted, and become as
little children, ye shall not enter into the
kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore
shall humble himself as this little child, the
same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."