In Which Stepper Unintentionally Tortures a Bunch of 5 Year Olds at Church...

*Names in the following account have been changed to protect the identities of the clearly very innocent.

Bill and Wyatt were sick yesterday, and so Bill opted to be responsible and keep the kids home with him from church; which meant I was on my own for Primary.

We have one child in particular who can be...problematic. All our kids are cute, well intentioned, and likable - but one of our boys has a pretty convincing case of ADHD, and usually spends the entire singing/sharing time hour poking, mussing, jabbing and climbing all over Bill.

Bill was concerned about me going it alone mostly because of this one boy. What if he karate kicked me in the stomach? The thought admittedly made me cringe - I'm at that point in my pregnancy when I can't tolerate much physical abuse without it causing repercussions for me that last longer than they should. For example - I took the kids grocery shopping a week ago on an afternoon when neither of them was too pleased to be confined to a cart, and as a result of the physical wrangling of my tiny one-year-old and her not-much-heavier brother, I was sore and nauseated for two days following.

But go it alone I would. I was excited to teach the lesson - on Joseph Smith's childhood! - and knew that if I needed it, the Primary Presidency would step in quick as wit and help me out. Our class was one of the bigger ones, and they seemed to always have a helpful eye on our group.

After Sacrament Meeting, I moved into the primary room (without kids, a husband, or the usual three bags of gear needed to survive the three hour block. I kept looking around, feeling that I had somehow misplaced something!) where two rows of chairs were reserved for my class of ten children.

Yes, ten 5 year olds.

8 of them boys.

I geared myself up mentally for a challenge - but as I looked around my class, every single one of the kids was sitting on their chair, swinging a leg or tugging a tie, staring quietly ahead. I counted 10 - but there was a girl there I didn't recognize. New student. I turned to Peter, sitting next to me. "Who are we missing?"

He looked around with the responsibility of all of his five years, and named the ADHD boy as the one missing.

I sat back in my chair - not only was the one problem I had any real concern about not an issue, but every single one of my kids was sitting quietly in their seat. Nobody was poking their neighbor. Nobody was sucking on a silly-bandz. Nobody was using their chair as a rocking-horse.

And they stayed that way for the ENTIRE SECOND HOUR!

As we left the primary room to go to class and my students lined themselves up on the wall across from our room (waiting for the previous class to let out) and stood there with arms folded - I was feeling pretty good about life! The lesson I was about to give was awesome. The kids were all behaving. I had stickers and treats to offer. Situation: perfection!

We moved into the classroom and the kids took their seats as I set up. I pulled out the stickers, and invited each of them to come up and choose one. "You were all so reverent in singing time, I was so proud!"

First mistake.

Immediately, all the sticker dinosaurs started eating fingers, noses, shirt buttons, each other.

I jumped right into the lesson, walking back and forth in front of them, showing pictures and gesturing animatedly - determined to keep their attention.

When we talked about the difference between soap we use now ("I have strawberry soap!") and the animal fat and burnt ash soap they used back then ("you mean, everyone smelled bad when they were CLEAN?") I had moments of regained control. They were genuinely interested in what I was talking about - couldn't believe that Joseph's family either used candles when it got dark or just went to bed, and that he shared a bed with his siblings - but they were also so interested that every thing I said sparked a memory that each of them had to share or risk explosion.

"I used to share a room with my brother!"
"My bed has dinosaurs on it!"
"I have a brand new video game!"

I kept putting my foot down, reminding them of the First Rule of our class (stay in your seat!) and the Third Rule (no talking without a raised hand!) - but things were just so darn EXCITING that they couldn't remember for more than a few minutes before I had kids jumping up and down and shouting random story-bits at me from all angles.

Finally, I pulled my chair right up in front of theirs, sat down, and said with a very earnest expression, "Now I'm going to tell you a sad story about Joseph."

Immediately, Anne's hand shot into the air and she said with big eyes, "He got shot!"

(Anne had just returned from a trip to Carthage Jail with her family, so she was the local expert on Joseph Smith's final hours.)

"Well, yes," I said, "but we'll get to that next week. Right now we're talking about his life when he was a kid! And when he was a kid, Joseph got really, really sick."

And I proceeded to tell them about Joseph's leg injury. And what happens when something gets an infection. I showed them the band-aid I had on my hand.

"You guys know what this is, right?"

"Yeah! A Band-Aid!"

"Right! And when you guys get a cut, your Mom sometimes puts medicine on it and covers it with a band-aid, right?"

"Yeah!"
"I touched the pan and my burn got SO BIG!"

"Yes, that's right - cuts and burns can get infected - but we have medicine that we can use to help keep our hurts clean so they don't get infected before they heal."

"Yeah!"
"Yeah, like, my Mom used some stuff and it made it not hurt anymore."

"Well, when Joseph was a little boy, they didn't have stuff like that to help them. So when Joseph got an infection it was a big deal."

Ten still-eager-but-slightly-confused eyes on mine.

So I began to elaborate. I told them about how they didn't have hospitals where Joseph lived like we have, and they didn't have doctors' offices for when they got sick. So doctors had to come from far away - hours and sometimes days of travel. I told them how they didn't have medicine for infections...

"So what do you think they had to do to help get Joseph's infection out of his leg?"

They all thought on this for a moment before Isaac's eyes got really big and he loudly whispered, "cut it open?"

"That's right," I said. "That's what they did, and they cleaned it out the best they could, and the doctor told Joseph's mom to watch it and to let him know if the infection came back. Well...guess what happened?"

"IT CAME BACK!" they all gasped.

I looked around the room, noting that they were ALL staring at me with huge eyes. Success! I thought. They're really listening!

And they were. They were totally enthralled.

So I talked about how back then they used alcohol to try to dull the pain, but Joseph wouldn't take any. And how he wouldn't be bound to the bed, but just wanted his Dad to hold him. He was SO VERY BRAVE!

10 nodding, incredulous heads.

Then guess what he told his mom?

What? What?

That she had to LEAVE!

Confused looks.

Yes, that's right! Joseph said, "Mom - you have to leave the room and wait outside the door because I don't want you to see me in pain, I know it would upset you too much." So there Joseph was, about to have his leg cut open again - knowing that if it didn't work this time, he could lose his leg! - and he was concerned about his Mom's feelings! Wasn't he incredibly thoughtful and brave?

9 nodding, enthusiastic heads.

...and 1 Brenton, who was still looking at me dubiously, clearly thinking, You don't tell your Mom to leave the room!

So then we moved on to the actual operation - and I was very straight with them. I told them that it had gone into the bone, so they had to cut it out - because this explains why ever after, Joseph walked with a limp.

I was completely energized by the entire room of 5 year old attention spans that I was in complete control of. This lesson was going really well.

Then - a small voice - "I feel sick."

Anne looked up at me with a frown. I have to admit, at first I thought she was probably being dramatic. She had been just as enthusiastic as the boys - sometimes moreso, because she knew about Carthage Jail. But she said it again, "I feel sick," and her voice began to wimper, her chin began to quiver, her eyes began to water, and I began to panic!

I quickly concluded the story, "And the miracle was that this time, the infection healed completely! And Joseph was totally fine!"

"I feel sick!" Anne insisted.

"Do you need a drink?" I offered.

"I feel sick." She said.

"Do you want to lie down?"

She just stared at me.

"Okay, we'll go find your mom."

She whimpered.

My brain went into overdrive - what would I do with a class full of 5 year olds while I went to find Anne's mom? Bring them with me? My brain calculated - what were the chances they'd all remain quiet and together while we walked the halls after the kind of story I just told them? Now that the story-telling spell had been broken, half the boys were pinging off their chairs with the awesomeness of it all - and the other half were telling anyone who'd listen stories of their own injuries.

What do I do, what do I do, what do I do...

And just then - oh, tender mercy! - the bell rang indicating class time was over. The commotion was just beginning in the hall outside.

"I want to say the closing prayer!" Katie insisted.

"Great!" I said. "Be sure to remember to bless Anne that she'll feel better soon."

We prayed, I opened the door and grown ups came and picked up their kids one by one.

Except for Anne's mom. I stood in the doorway, casting my eyes down this side of the hallway, down that. No sign of anyone in her family.


Soon she was the only one left in the room, sitting in quiet misery until I couldn't take it any more and I threw my arm around her shoulder and said, "'c'mon! Let's go find your mom!" I wanted to tell her what had happened, anyway - unsure if it was my plucky rendition of the story or something else that was causing Anne's misery.

Please be something else!

We wandered the church. No mom. No mom. Finally, we found one of her brothers and without another word to me, she happily skipped off.

I told myself I'd call her mom and let her know what happened - but then of course I never did, because as soon as I got home from church life happened (including my own sick little family) and I forgot. Sigh.

The end.

3 comments:

MikkSolo said...

Great Story! Could picture it perfectly. I have the same thing happen all the time with my Gospel Doctorine class.

Nae said...

I was waiting for her to throw up in someone's lap. :) But I'm glad that she didn't! You're a great storyteller!

Hel said...

Boy howdy do I know the problem of junior primary children and their eagerness to tell their entire life story during the 40 minutes you have to give a lesson!

I was jealous you held their attention for so long. You must be a REALLY good story teller! Hang on... I know you are... that's why I love your blog!