A while ago I was asked to relieve teach the 3-4 year olds at church. Including my son and his cousin, who can be explosive together. It's a big class for my standards (7-10 children), many of whom are first children of my friends and continue to teach their parents how things go.
"Don't worry, [the assistant] will be there, but is too busy to prepare a lesson during the week. That's why we need you." Well ok then. It will be fun.
That week, Thursday, I learned that my neighbour Rosie was deathly sick with a potent flu. What could I do to help? I could look after her kids.
I also had two friends scheduled to visit. And Theo at kindy. So.
Sadie sleeping, check. Theo home from kindy, check. Friends arrive, check. Pick up my neighbours daughter, check. Three adults watching three children - easy. Pick up Rosie's son, check. Three adults watching four children - easy.
Friday I took Rosie's daughter, who is around 18 months old, with my two to playgroup. Then I watched both her kids again in the afternoon. One adult watching three children at playgroup - easy. One adult watching four children under five at home - not easy, but pleasant.
Saturday I wanted to go to the gym, because I'd missed the day before and I knew I wouldn't go Sunday. But my husband was working. I know! My sister Erika's husband is working too. Maybe we can take turns watching the kids for each other so that we can both make it to the gym? Great idea. One adult watching five children, including a 4 month old baby can't be too hard right? Especially when two of them will be sleeping.
I arrived at Erika's. She went to the gym. The baby woke up. Yay (clucky much?)! My neice wouldn't sleep. Oh well, she can stay in the bedroom anyway, maybe she'll knock off eventually. The boys can play outside. Easy. Oh wait, Theo spat in the neighbour kid's face. The boys can play inside.
We made "Sorry" cards for Ruby, the neighbour child in whose face Theo spat. We took them to her door. At four years old, she managed a mature "Thanks guys", then promptly made a card for us and asked if she could come over to play. Sure, why not?
So. In case you lost count, that's one adult, six children. Inside becaues it's raining. In one room. FUN. It helped that I wasn't the mother to the 4 month old baby, needing to sit down and breastfeed while the others ran amok, and not needing to make dinner or worry about my house becoming a mess. I could just play (with the baby. The kids can look after themselves). Erika, I think, must have had a harder time than me when she came home and let me go off for my turn. But she had a brave face*.
Sunday came. The big day. My first ever time teaching in this ward, 5 years ago, was with the 3 year olds and it was a disaster. I did not yet understand that 3 year olds just don't sit down. This day I was prepared for that though.
Time for class, the assistant doesn't show up. Ok. I can do this. As I said to Erika on Saturday when she questioned my willingness to look after five children under five years old (which became six): "Bring it on."
On it was brung. That's one adult, teaching (or trying) seven 3-4 year olds. Not easy, but made easier by the fact that the regular teacher had instituted a firm infrastructure**. They sat in their chairs (!) and we had a nice time. I'm not sure how much they learned, but there was only one time out and no one cried.
I felt like superwoman. And then as I thought back on my week, I knew that this was not a series of unrelated events. It was a week specifically designed to train me to manage this class, one extra child at a time. Providence, if you will. And I gave thanks.
So if you need a day off these school holidays, drop me a line. I've recently aquired a new skill set that I'm determined to keep finely tuned.
Bring it on.
*The real superwoman of the story. Because I'm bad at alluding (and sarcasm) I'll spell it out for you: Erika watched all those kids AND fed the baby AND made dinner while I was out.
**Everyone sits on their chair, the class leader gets a cushion and a neck tie, you must be holding Florence the Flower to talk and good behaviour is rewarded by being allowed a turn to hold Happy Harry. (All of this was relayed to me by the kids.)