Monday, July 18, 2011

Part-time Parent

As I so often mention, I often teach preschool children's church.  And what's so exciting about it, is nothing is ever routine.  I don't always have the same group of kids, and even "regulars", kids I've taught for months, can still surprise me.

I just plain, love toddlers, too.  I get to be around kids ages 2-5, when the world is still new and they're still excited to be learning about it.  And, although I normally don't know them as well as I'd like, I feel such appreciation for the parents who trust me with their little ones on a regular basis.  For a couple of hours a week, they let me take on their role.  I feed their kids, help them to the potty, and instruct them.  And it's a responsibility I appreciate being entrusted with.

I knew this past Sunday was going to be a great lesson days in advance, when I saw the schedule.  I enjoy all the volunteers with whom I serve, but some combinations just work better than others, and I was very happy when I saw who the other two volunteers for this week were.  I ended up letting one of them lead the lesson, because it was one I wasn't sure how to teach dynamically.  (I'm better with puppets and funny voices, and there were no puppets.)

Though there were mishaps, as always, we ended up having such a great day.  Two things in particular happened that just melted my heart.

The first involved one of the little girls who, though she's older, is a bit more shy and quiet.  I always try to make a special effort to talk and play with her because her natural introvertedness sometimes keeps the other kids at bay.  When her grandma came to pick her up, she was mentioning how she would be moving up with the other 5-year-olds to the elementary class in September.

Her eyes got wide, when she realized what we were saying.  She grabbed me around the neck and wailed, "No!  I want to stay with her!"

I promised her that she'd have a lot more fun in the big kid class, and she could still see me every week at church.  Plus, it was still months before she was moving up to the other class.  She nodded and gave me one more big hug, then left with her grandma.

As much as I hate to see a kid sad, it felt so good to know that I'd succeeded in bonding with this sweet, shy little girl.

The second occurence involved one of the youngest kids in the class.  Being the baby, she is, by necessity, one of the more high-maintenance children.  Not that she's a bad kid; not in the least.  But, being younger, she often requires more redirection.

And we were having one of those days when I was having to remind her of the rules a lot.  It always makes me feel bad because, while I don't get frustrated with the child in these situations, I get frustrated with myself for having to be the bad guy who's always saying "no".  I like kids, I want them to like me, and I never feel very well-liked when I'm being the disciplinarian.

So, it came as a big surprise to me when her parents came to pick her up and she informed her mom that she wanted to give me a hug and a kiss bye.  I thought, "Me?  The lady who resorted to using the full name/strict voice combo on you no less than twice in one hour?"  But she gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, and waved bye.

I guess it should come as no surprise that I miss the kids so much during the week.  I may not have any blood ties with them; I may not even have more than a passing acquaintance with their parents.  But for about two hours once a week or so, I look after them like they're my own.

And in a way, if only spiritually, they are.

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