Last year we were asked to help out with the kids in Sunday School. My initial reaction was to laugh in the face of the asker and say no freaking way. I don't understand kids and kids don't understand me. Karl's family had foster kids growing up so he's been around them most of his life. Me? Not so much.
After a little thought I felt like maybe we were actually being led to help out with the Sunday School. The decision was mine, since I was the one who was leaving her comfort zone far far behind, so I reluctantly agreed that it was something we could try. That's how we wound up hanging out with the preschoolers Sunday mornings every other month.
Last year our class had a couple kids that challenged us. By that I mean that they weren't perfect little angels that meekly obeyed my every command. I'm not sure what was wrong with them, but it's true. They challenged me to learn how to deal with the occasional temper tantrum, burst of energy, and inability to sit still. It didn't take me long to figure out how best to communicate with them and get them to understand how it was. Sharing is a must, screaming is not okay, you have to listen, and the rest we can work on. I learned how to communicate with preschoolers last year. No big thing. (HUGE thing. I win at life.)
Last week was our first Sunday with the kids since summer started and there were quite a few fresh faces. Seven of them showed up (more than we'd had the year before) but everything went swimmingly. Yesterday when only four kids showed up and we'd had them all before we thought we were in for a treat. Oh heck no.
It was the second most draining Sunday School class of my life. I didn't leave upset like I did after the most trying Sunday School class we had last year, but I was exhausted by the time the parents came.
One of the boys in our class, who is adorable for the record, had a whole other kind of attitude. I thought I could handle anything after last year, but I can't handle the three year old who makes excuses. Nothing was ever his fault. He never did anything. He couldn't do anything. It was maddening.
Me: Can you help everyone else clean up, please? [Not mentioning the fact that this kid threw things all over during play time.]
Him: I caaaaaan't.
Me: Can we all sit cross legged and on our bums?
Him: I caaaaaan't.
Me: Did all your elastics fall on the floor? Can you pick them up, please?
Him: It wasn't me. It was her! [Points to girl on other side of the table.]
We also played musical chairs. If you haven't played musical chairs with preschoolers you're missing out on one of the finer things in life. The kids are too little to really appreciate the concept of removing chairs, so basically they just run around the circle that's taped on the floor until the music stops then everyone sits down in a chair. Who needs competition to have fun?
Well, even with our challenging kids last year musical chairs ran relatively smoothly. Yesterday it was chaos. It got so bad that I had to tell the kids how it was. Repeatedly. No, you cannot throw chairs. You see this circle? That is the only place you should be running otherwise people will get hurt. You can't lie down on the circle otherwise you'll get hurt. You have to go the same direction. The sad thing was that it was the one kid causing all the mayhem. He did it and everyone else got a little carried away. And my superior preschooler reasoning tactics (because you totally reason with a preschooler, just on a different level than an adult) had absolutely no sway on this kid. He wouldn't listen to anything.
My threats of taking away snack, counting to that ominous number 3, or telling his parents that he was misbehaving weren't having any big impact. I survived the class, and managed to keep order by ruling with an iron "please", but was so drained by the end of the 90 minutes that I wanted to crawl into bed and stay there until it was time for work today. (Okay, that's not true, because I never want to get out of bed for work.)
I checked in with Karl afterwards to make sure I was doing a good job. He likes to let me take charge of the teaching. That's fine, except that I'm just starting to understand children. It's a journey. My trick to dealing with them is just remembering that they're really just tiny people with different vocabularies and interests. And I am so much older and cooler than them that pretty much everything I say they'll be in awe of.
The most traumatic part about yesterday's class actually happened in the beginning play time. The little boy had both of his hands down the back of his pants and was moving them around. A lot. When I asked him what the heck he was doing (in child friendly vocabulary) he said something that sounded an awful lot like "I have a pile of piss in my pants!"
I was horrified so I made him repeat what he'd just said, for clarity's sake.
"I have a puzzle piece in my pants!"
It was all I could do to maintain my cool. I told him to get that thing out of there ASAP and informed him how uncool it is to put things in your pants. And by uncool I meant SO NOT OKAY!
He then asked for help with a puzzle, so I made Karl give him a hand. I am never touching the Sunday School puzzles again.