I am not a religious woman.
Out of the Ten Commandments, I’ve broken eight. I have never and will never cheat on my husband and I haven’t committed murder. (Only because I’d never get away with it. If my mother ever turned up dead, everyone I know would provide so many alibis that I’d be jailed for sure). But coveting, taking the Lord’s name, idolatry, not honoring (others and the Sabbath), and theft (college was a hazy time) are definitely in my wheelhouse. I am, at best, a lapsed Catholic, and at worst, almost Lutheran. I haven’t been to mass in years, haven’t been to confession in decades, and am way more comfortable talking about the Elf on the Shelf than the Nativity.
So, how did I wind up volunteering at not one, but two different vacation bible schools? It all started way back, such a long, long time back . . . when I felt guilty. See, one of my friends belonged to a church that was hosting a vacation bible school. Twenty bucks for three hours, five days, was a bargain I was not willing to pass up, but I felt like I was taking advantage of them, so I volunteered to help out. There would be a nursery for my infant son and other people taking care of my daughter. My (flawed) reasoning was thus: why take care of my own two when I can keep watch over 200 others?
I wound up outside, in 100+ degree heat, under a tent, teaching kids “science”. First, let’s appreciate for a moment the woman who took chemistry twice in college (and technically failed both times), has never taken physics even once, and had to memorize a mnemonic for the planets. Science is not my thing. Second, I have never, ever taught anything to anyone. I took a few English education classes in my day, but always chose to write a paper instead of a lesson plan. Third and most importantly, I feel faintly goofy using the word Jesus ardently in anything other than the throes of passion. Building a bible story around a science experiment is absolutely beyond my ability. Thankfully, the woman with whom I was paired was actually religious and she handled the godliness while I managed to avoid all hints of cleanliness while showering the kids in a mix of Mentos and Coke. I don’t remember how that tied into the bible story of the day, but it sure was fun. As it turned out, I had a blast, my daughter was thrilled to see me one “class” per day and I felt like I had earned some nice karma points.
The second year, the same reasoning applied. Giving away my two for a few hours still seemed like a deal. Plus, the little guy was too young to go and rather than cart him around like luggage every morning while I used my “free” time to run errands, I thought it would be more beneficial if he got to play in a nursery with other kids. My new partner was an actual friend, I was no longer terrified of the gaggle of teenagers who wandered around in packs, and fun was indeed had by all.
This year, my reasoning was much more selfish. If I volunteered, I could get my son into the program (he’s a month younger than the required age). Woohoo! Now the poor bastard can actually attend something of his own instead of spend his life dropping off and picking up his sister like some sort of midget valet service. Plus, if he freaks out, I won’t exactly have to cancel my massage and skip my pedicure. I’ll already be at the school, so he’ll just be another child underfoot, except he’ll call me Mommy instead of the random noises and such little kids use to get your attention when they don’t know your (almost unpronounceable) last name.
As to the second VBS (though it was first on the calendar), I was hoodwinked! A friend told me to volunteer for crafts with her so we could have a fun week, while, once again, someone else watched my kids. (Are you sensing a theme here? Truly, I love my little teacup-sized humans, but a little separation is a good thing.) Once again, the older would go into the program, the younger into the nursery. Alas, this was not to be as she bailed entirely. Boo! Hiss! And instead of getting put into crafts, I was a classroom aid. See above about my classroom skills. Not good. Not good at all.
It actually turned out to be a fun week. Once again, the real teacher was good and kind and religious, taking over all actual teaching duties, leaving me the random fun stuff. I made the kids act like different animals as we walked the halls. I did constant headcounts, kept track of who was in the bathroom, who was leaving early, and who had food allergies, and generally spent my days singing along to the disturbingly chirpy music. My son wound up the only child in the nursery and spent the week surrounded by doting teenagers, or as he called them, “his girls.” My daughter woke up two hours early every day in anticipation, so I think it is safe to say that she liked it as well.
And me, well, I’m a SAHM for a reason, right? If I don’t take the opportunity to do as much with my kids as I can, then why the hell am I at home? My mother claims she didn’t go back to work until I was in third grade, but I have no memory of her at school functions, outings, etc. Was she there and I don’t remember? It’s possible. Her outfits were probably traumatic enough to trigger memory loss. But I want to be able to say that I was there. I saw you dance. I saw you sing. I hugged you every time I passed you in the halls and I knew your teachers by their first names. And if I took the Lord’s name in vain a few times under my breath, I think He understood. Points for trying, right?