Saturday, January 15, 2011

Afternoon Delight

Relating with small children, other than those I've actually birthed, is not one of my natural talents.

While I've done plenty of outside-the-box, adventurous and even (dare I say) courageous things in my life, a room full of Kindergarteners strikes fear into my soul. The very thought of a troop of Brownie Scouts and their mothers gathered for a meeting gives me heart palpitations.

Needless to say, I've never been among the first to volunteer for "classroom mom" duty.

Having said that, I love my daughters (and being their mom), love to read to them and love books. (My husband will verify the last statement with a copy of the credit card bill, the Amazon and Barnes & Noble purchases highlighted in pink).  So, when the opportunity arose to help out in my youngest daughter's Kindergarten classroom for a few hours on a Friday afternoon by reading stories for their "Winter Literature Day", I felt it would be a good opportunity to do my part, spend a bit of special time with my daughter, and face my personal demons (or one of them, anyway).

Yes, I was nervous.  Seriously, all I had to do was read a couple books to some little kids and help with a craft project, but it felt like I was heading for a court appearance or something.  Thank goodness for the "reading" part; it was my crutch, shield and security blanket.  I did not know ahead of time that I would also be helping with crafts, which is good considering crafts are only slightly less terrifying to me than other peoples' small children.

Another mom went first... it didn't help my confidence any to learn she was a trained teacher and had even substituted in that very classroom before.  She donned the microphone (since when do they use pyrotechnics... er, I mean electronics... to that degree in Kindergarten?) and read her book, turning the pages and showing them to the class like an elementary school version of Vanna White.

When it was my turn, I shunned the microphone; anyone who knows me, knows I don't need one in a room housing fewer than 50 people.  Stepping to the front of the room,  I picked up Jan Brett's Daisy Comes Home, and related the tale of a little hen in China.

So, two counts were in my favor... reading, and the fact I was reading about a chicken.

I know chickens.

Boldly, I made the leap of faith that chickens in China behave very much like American chickens.

I'm not sure if the children are used to ad-libbers reading to them while also making comments about geography, chicken flock dynamics, or fishermen who claim "finders keepers"; they were, however, either extraordinarily well trained or really enjoyed the story.  They sat quietly and attentively while I read to them and responded with great enthusiasm to my questions and comments.  I had great fun with it, and totally enjoyed the experience.

So much, in fact, that I wasn't even all that scared when it came to making crafts with them (though I did offer up a prayer of thanks that my craft station used adhesive-backed peel-and-stick foam shapes as the only ingredient).  The children were divided into four groups and each group sat at a different table, heard a story, and then did a craft related to the story.

The lovely book at "my" table was The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen, about a little old lady who misses her grown-up children and begins to knit mittens for the children she sees gathering every day at the bus stop near her home.  I would read the story, we would decorate foam cut-outs of mittens with the peel-and-stick foam shapes, the children would rotate to the next table and I would do it all over again with the next group.  I have to say it was great fun to spend a little time with each child in my daughter's class, putting faces to the names she mentions every day and getting a taste of each unique personality.

The best, best, very best part of the whole experience, however?

The smile on my little girl's face when I showed up... and the whole time I was there.  

It didn't matter to her how well I read the book, my page-turning skills or whether I am all thumbs with glue and Popsicle sticks.  All that mattered to her was that  her Mommy was there.  She was radiant, and overjoyed, and proud to have her mom visit her classroom.  Just for her.

I wish I had a picture of her smile that day, though really don't need one as I doubt I'll ever forget it.

And besides... I'll see it again, very soon, the next time I volunteer to read to her class.


The Improbable Farmer said...

Very brave, Amy :)

I just bought Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo for my nephew for Christmas. Check it out if you want another good chicken book!

Amy M. Dagen said...

Thank you... and I will do that! One can never own enough chicken books... ;)