Monday, November 4, 2013

TIme Change in the Nursery

Two points to make up front: One, if you've never volunteered in the church nursery, you really should, especially if you have small children in your life who spend time there; and two, don't make the Sunday of time change your first time.

If you do, it could well be your last.

The Sunday that time changes is always tough on everyone. Our bodies aren't adjusted to the new schedule and it may take several days for that to happen. We're up at the wrong time, eating at the wrong time, going to bed too late or too early. It just generally makes us out of sorts and potentially cranky for a while.

If you have small children, you may get to take advantage of an extra hour of sleep or find that mealtimes have to be adjusted for a while.

But how about a schedule that doesn't really give? How about when you take them to church?

Oh! My! Gosh!

At it's best, nursery with the babies and toddlers probably doesn't fit the vision a non-nursery person would have. It's not sitting around in a rocking chair comforting a crying child until they go to sleep. It's not reading a Bible story and then discussing it and coloring. It's controlled chaos with a group of tiny tyrants, many of whom may be unaccustomed to sharing, staying with strangers, or sitting in small chairs to eat.

Most Sundays at least one of the little people will have a meltdown over mommy leaving, sharing a toy or falling. So whatever else you do you may wind up doing with 20 pounds on your hip. Those other duties include managing juice and snacks and a host of assorted sippy cups, remembering who drinks water and not juice and who is gluten free, keeping pacifiers with their rightful owners, and sometimes changing a diaper or taking an older child potty. In addition, you have to manage the little ones and their relationships with each other and the toys and furniture in the nursery. No pushing, pulling or grabbing from one another; no standing on the chairs or sitting in the infant swing; don't color on the furniture or walls or feed the little ones the crayons (wait! who got crayons out with this bunch) and wondering if we really need every toy, block and book in the floor just to get through an hour (or slightly more) of worship.

Yes, that's just the negatives of nursery and enough to scare the faint-hearted. The other side of the coin is getting to know all the wonderful little people in the church and their parents. It's watching a tearful toddler learn to play with other children. It's hearing a little person just beginning to talk and express themselves. It's a lot of early steps and developmental changes, more noticeable because you don't see them every week. It's an occasional hug from one of God's miracles and a heartfelt thanks from a parent who was able to enjoy worship because you had their rambunctious child. It's giving back instead of only taking.

On good days, it's a wonderful experience that makes you fantasize about more organized activities, songs and games, etc. Then the reality of children from a few months to a few years sets in and you realize they're never going to be on the same page and you may as well enjoy them where they are instead of trying to get them where you want them to be.

But on the Sunday of time change, when you're dealing with even a few children who don't understand why everything is happening an hour late, nursery is not the place to be handling your own schedule miscues.

It started out simply enough with just one toddler and myself as my daughter, who talked me into the gig because the three Es were nursery bound, was running late (see earlier blog about never getting anywhere on time). But this toddler, who is normally a sunny, easy to get along with child, insisted that the television be on. Not that she wanted to sit down and watch it, she just wanted a movie going and not any movie would do. I finally had her happy just before the other children started arriving. That was probably the high point of the morning.

At its busiest I think there were four adults (two stayed with their little ones) and only seven children but even then we were badly outnumbered.

Snacks were dumped out and then eaten off the floor. Pacifiers wound up in the wrong mouths. One older toddler kept trying to give a younger one her sippy cup with a straw, which was headed for her eye or nose most of the time. That same little toddler thought another cup was hers because she has one like that at home. One little one insisted on emptying the toy boxes and another pulled all the books from the shelf. Crayons appeared from the closet and there were brawls over coloring books, marks on the table, and a constant battle to keep the crayons away from the under 2 group. Shoes and hairbows were lost and found. One climbed into a walker, then fell out on a dollhouse.

No one was really tearfully unhappy (unless you count me and I restrained myself), but I'm not sure it was their most positive nursery experience either. And of course, it was nearly noon before I realized why everyone was off. In their little minds they were supposed to be home having lunch and naps. Why were they at church? What had gone wrong with the world?

I think although I realize I'll be adjusting for a few days, I hadn't thought about the fact that the time change also affects little ones who can't even tell time. I mean in ways beyond what time they go to sleep and what time they wake up. There are all the little parts of their day that slip out of synchronization when we change the time. It's totally not their fault or something they can understand. No wonder they were out of sorts.

So nursery was a little rough Sunday, but I'm not handing in my resignation. Instead I went home and took a nap. Something I almost never do. After some sleeping on the sofa with my four-legged foot warmers, the day didn't look quite so bad.

I'm going to try to remember that the three little ones hanging out at my house are going to be a little off this week as well. If that means I need an extra dose of patience, or another nap on the couch, well, we'll just have to work that out as the time comes.

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