Jesus wants me for the Primary?

A couple months ago, I was asked to see the bishop, with my husband. I knew what was going to happen. I was a Relief Society teacher, and the Education Counselor had recently moved. In my eight years of being married, I have been in Young Women’s for five and Relief Society for three. Knowing that Young Womens had recently been fully “re-staffed,” it was easy to guess what I was going in for.

4) I love the women I work with. They are great examples of people I might not have sought out as friends because we don’t seem to have a lot in common, but because of Church service, I’ve gotten to know them and really enjoy them.

But, I forgot that that the Primary was getting a new presidency.

I don’t think I hid my shock when the bishop said I was being called to the Primary presidency.

Primary? Isn’t that for young stay-at-home moms? Oh wait…that’s me now.

I wasn’t looking forward to being in Primary. I live with a toddler and a newborn; they aren’t the most stimulating conversationalists. So, I looked forward to being in Relief Society. I loved teaching once a month, I loved meeting people in there, and I loved being away from children.

I went into Primary the first week and was completely overwhelmed. The previous primary presidency was fabulous: kind, yet firm, and full of clever, innovative ways to teach the kids the Gospel. The kids loved them. Oh, and I must mention the immaculate, fully-stocked Primary closet!

What could I add to this? I’d never even taught a Primary class much less a sharing time. I don’t do crafts, and I can’t draw. Frankly, I figured long ago that I wasn’t Primary material.

But, now, I really love it.

Here’s why:

1) Primary has forced me to go back to basics of the Gospel. When I’m teaching Sunbeams about faith, they’re not interested in my esoteric ideas about when faith doesn’t seem to be enough. They need core definitions, and when I prepare these lessons, I realize that sometimes, I gain much myself by going back to core definitions.

2) Primary kids never get offended. I can call someone by their sibling’s name, and I’m immediately forgiven. When they whisper in the back, I can tell them to knock it off (sometimes, I really want to say that in RS!), and they do.

3) We spend half of the time singing. Now, if someone could only work on getting those songs in lower keys—as I try to squeak up to a D yesterday during “Picture a Christmas,” I’d be perfectly happy. But, another benefit in Primary is that no one cares about my squeaky D’s.

(The first counselor is really patient with me when I ask her pretty much every week, “So, how do you (blank) with ten kids?”)

5) I don’t do crafts with the kids, I don’t have cool pictures, but I realize that I can add a thing or two to this Primary. Every sharing time, I make sure to have a story about a woman or girl, and I’m working on using pictures that show Mormons from various cultures.

Some weeks, it doesn’t feel like much of a contribution. But, every so often, I see one of those Primary kids paying attention to a story about a woman, and I remember how important those stories were to me when I was in Primary.

Have you had a calling you dreaded and ended up loving? (Or that you thought you’d love and ended up praying for a release?)

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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  1. FoxyJ says:

    Primary president was also the calling I dreaded and thought I was going to hate, for many of the same reasons. I’d never served in a presidency before my calling and I didn’t have much experience with kids besides my one-year-old. Plus I was starting grad school. But I came to be fond of it for many of the same reasons. I worked with great people and being in a presidency can be a good way to really get to know people (many of the women in my ward were a bit older than me and had 5-6 kids). It was also a challenge and helped me grow in many ways. I’m also terrible at drawing and crafty type stuff, but I found that the kids don’t care. Get them participating, sing a lot (even during sharing time), and use the Friend online for ideas and extras (that’s what I always told my teachers–there are 30 years worth of coloring pages, games, etc online for you to use).

  2. Vada says:

    I was recently called into Primary for the first time as well, and it was a long way from the top of the list of callings I would choose. I’m now the 7-8yo teacher, and the cub scout leader for the 8yos. I haven’t fallen in love with it, but I don’t hate it, either. The kids in my class are really nice, and generally well-behaved. And like you said, when they’re acting up I can just ask them to stop or tell them to move or put things away, and they listen.

    I love your comment about how Primary is the place for young stay-at-home moms. It’s been that way in pretty much every ward I’ve lived in, and I’ve never been able to figure out why. Aren’t these the people who need adult interaction, rather than more time with kids? But I have to say, I volunteered for the cub scouts, because I thought spending an evening with 8yo boys was better than my husband spending an evening with 8yo boys while I spent yet another evening at home alone with my two toddlers.

    So, I like the kids in my class, I really like the singing, and I’ve gotten to know some really great ladies who also work in Primary better, and that’s all great. I’d still rather be in Relief Society talking to adults, though. Or YW, or Sunday School. But as long as they don’t try to call me into nursery, I won’t complain too much.

    (Not that nursery is bad. When I first got married I was in nursery and I loved it. But since starting in a couple of weeks that’s where both of my boys are going to be for the next year, I’d rather be somewhere else. I already get to go to nursery way too much.)

  3. Caroline says:

    Emily, I love it that you’re being careful to insert stories about women and girls. That is fantastic.

    When I first moved into my ward, I was called to be a primary teacher. I was terrified and forced Mike to come in and teach with me every week.

    It was a hard calling for me. I had never interacted with 7 year olds before, and I missed going to RS and SS. I think people must have gotten wind of my unhappiness, because I only had the calling for a year and a half.

    But if I ever do get called into a primary presidency, it’s good to know that there are some real upsides.

  4. madhousewife says:

    I was a Primary teacher and Primary chorister when my oldest child was a baby/toddler. I. Hated. It. Moreover, I felt horrible because I hated it. When they decided to release me–because I was obviously suffering–the Primary president was very charitable. She said it was easier to deal with children after you’ve experienced children of your own at that age/stage. And in the intervening years, I’ve found that to be true for me. As my children have gotten older and gone through the various stages, I am much better at interacting with children of those ages. After going through baby and toddlerhood four times, I am much more comfortable serving in nursery (as a substitute–no one’s actually called me yet, but I’d be perfectly fine and non-traumatized if I was called). I also do fine with children up to age 8 or 9 (the age of my oldest). The thought of serving in YW, however, terrifies me.

  5. Janna says:

    Emily – My experience as a primary teacher was similar to yours. I felt that I was given the opportunity to re-learn the gospel, and teach it in ways that resonated with me. I learned that most of us just want attention and acceptance at church. My Sunbeams demanded it, and reveled in those demands. They taught me that it was okay to want that, too.

    The singing/lesson time with the rest of primary made me reflective about how primary damaged and/or hindered my spiritual development as a child. As a child, I experienced a lot of manipulation and invalidation of emotions(turn that frown upside down, if you follow these steps, then you will be “happy” and get married in the temple, it shouldn’t be hard to sit very still when jesus, he died, his cross on the hill, etc., etc.). I also heard a lot of telling children what they “should want” — to be good, to be a wife, to go on a mission (yes, as early as 7 years old). Not that these things are bad, it’s just…well, I think this audience gets what I mean. It seems disrespectful to tell anyone what they should want.

    I think times of changed somewhat from when I was in primary, and there is more of a focus on Jesus, compassion, love, forgiveness. Although, that “Follow the Prophet” song is spooky.

  6. Susan says:

    The first time I was called to serve in the nursery, I had nursery-age children myself, and it was hard, but I enjoyed it. The second time, my kids were all mostly older than primary, and I LOVED it. (I still think nursery is the best calling in the church, hands down.)

    When I was set apart the first time for nursery, the primary president told me that when she’d previously been set apart for a nursery calling, she was told in her blessing that if Christ were to walk into the church that moment, He’d head to the nursery first.

    All that said, I wouldn’t want to be in the Primary Presidency. What a difficult job! I now have the second best calling in the church—teaching the oldest primary girls. 🙂

  7. JennyW says:

    When I was called into the YW presidency I came home and cried. My experiences up until that point with teenage girls had not been, well, positive. A year later, my first child was 2 months old and I was 1 month away from defending my thesis when the president moved. When they called me in and asked me to be the president I went home and cried harder. After a year with the girls, whom I did love, I was ready for a break. And being president meant I would be working with the Laurels, who used to be my Mia Maids (I was that counselor), and who, frankly, did nothing to quell my concerns with teenage girls.

    Now, in my third year as president, those Laurels have graduated. One even went to college (unusual in our ward). The air has cleared a bit, and I feel like I know what I’m supposed to be doing here: showing the girls that sometimes less is more (and that it’s ok to say no to things—like the girl who called me sobbing because she’d said she would play YW volleyball but then felt overwhelmed with work, school, and tending her siblings while her parents worked), encouraging them to pursue their education, and, most importantly, teaching them the gospel I wish I had heard when I was their age.

    Primary still worries me a bit … 🙂

  8. Ana says:

    I was just moved from the YW presidency into Sunbeams! It’s a big transition, and I confess I have been little-kidded out by the end of the church block the last couple of Sundays. But I am looking forward to those basics you mention … to serving without fanfare (YW is kind of high-profile IMO) … to staying home on Tuesday nights.

    I have two rambunctious little boys in my class. I remember how grateful I was, when my oldest child was a Sunbeam 5 years ago, for a teacher who really cared and was patient and kind with him. I want to be that for someone else now.

  9. Sally says:

    I love teaching RS – I don’t do kids as well. My kids were 6, 4 and 2 when I was called to Primary President. Our primary went from 120 to 250 kids in a year. I also worked 20 hours a week. I was so stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted – looking back, that is one calling I wish I had turned down.
    Now I am YW president. My kids are nearly grown so I am not so stressed. I love the girls and enjoy working with them, but I would be so much happier as counselor – I am a much better Indian than chief.

  10. Wild Horses says:

    I’m the primary chorister, and I love being in primary. I use the songs to teach the children how to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ to their everyday lives. I don’t do anything cutesy. Instead, I focus on connecting with the children. Sometimes I catch the end of RS, and I am usually disappointed. The core of the gospel of Jesus Christ is sorely lacking. Instead, the focus is on looking good and making sure you are doing all of the many things the church requires of you. Primary is much more nourishing to me because I am able to connect with the children and share messages of love and mercy, and they are very receptive to it.

  11. madhousewife says:

    she was told in her blessing that if Christ were to walk into the church that moment, He’d head to the nursery first.

    See, even Jesus would steer clear of Sunday School.

    Seriously, though, it’s true. (About nursery, not Sunday School. Although the thing about Sunday School might also be true.)

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